Recording Sessions

The ideal oral history recording would be a natural and spontaneous unfolding of all those parts of an informant's life story which have a connection with the research field being studied. Natural and spontaneous they will often be; but it is the rare and treasured exception when interviews unfold. More typically they are drawn out through good preparation and hard work. Interviews most conveniently follow a chronological pattern; start at the beginning and work systematically through the period which the particular project is concerned with. This helps to ensure that most of the informant's relevant experiences are covered and also correlates particular details with specific periods and places.

Do not hurry the interviewing process. The pace of an interview depends mainly on the informant's personal capacity; the length depends entirely on the amount of useful information he has to give. There should be no other personal factors to consider in deciding how much time to devote to each informant.

Keep your questions as short and simple as reasonably possible and only ask one at a time. When you are reaching the end of a reel avoid questions which are likely to elicit a lengthy response, so that the informant does not lose the thread of his answer during a reel change. Do not interrupt the informant while he is speaking or interpolate 'yes', 'I see' and other noises to encourage the speaker and reassure him of your interest and attention. Appropriate facial expressions serve this purpose equally well and do not spoil the recording with extraneous noises.