Oral History Workshop – 6


Shahed Yazdan
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


The oral history website is going to provide the educational materials of some oral history workshops to the audience in written form. The present series has been prepared using the materials of one of these workshops. As you will see, many of the provided contents are not original or less said contents, but we have tried to provide categorized contents so that they can be used more.





As mentioned, the significance of interview in oral history is so great that if there is no purposeful and informed interview in a book, we cannot call it oral history.

Interview is an activity that has three stages: before the interview, during the interview and after the interview.


Before the interview

Before conducting an interview, it is necessary to prepare for this job, which includes dominating over a subject, choosing the subject, preparing and controlling the required tools, preparing a research plan (proposal), posing questions and exploratory interviews.


-Domination over subject

The first thing that a person should do before conducting an interview is to dominate over the subject. If there is going to be an interview about an event, we must first find enough information about it. Also, if we are going to conduct an interview with a person, we must first get to know him and find information about his way of thinking, his sensitivities and his personality.

This is where it is said that the oral history interviewer must be an oral historian, that is, he or she should have collected enough information to dominate over the subject. If someone is involved in an interview without basic information, you can be sure that a good result will not be obtained from this interview.


-Choosing subject

Just as oral history projects are either person-oriented or subject-oriented, so the subject can be a person or a subject.

If we are going to choose a person as a subject, he or she must have the following characteristics:

• should not be notorious for lying and bragging.

• has said less and in some way the words he or she is going to say are new and pristine.

• be available.

• priority is given to those who are at risk of being lost (due to old age or forgetfulness, etc.)

• the person's mind helps and remembers memories.

• have a logical mind and don't say desultory and scattered words.

If we choose the topic as a subject, it should have these characteristics and we should use topics that have been neglected so far, such as topics related to different provinces or the culture of living at borders and similar topics.


- Preparing and controlling the required tools

The interview tools and their proper functioning is one of the most important points that if the interviewer neglects it, all efforts may be wasted. It is emphasized that at least two recording devices must be used to conduct the interview, so that the technical problem during the interview does not cause damage to the work.

Doing this seemingly simple job that many interviewers underestimate can have a huge impact on the interview process.


- Preparing a research plan (proposal)

Oral history is a research project. Thus, before doing anything, it is necessary that a plan is prepared. We must find out what we want from the interviewee; how many stages is he going to be asked? What kind of questions should he be asked; and such cases.

After preparing the research plan, it is necessary to consult with several people in order to proceed with the work based on a well-planned plan.


- Posing questions

It is necessary to answer the questions that we need before starting the interview session and through that we are convinced to pose the questions. If we see the interview as a kind of respectful interrogation, it is necessary to extract information from the mind of the interviewee.


- Exploratory interviews

Before conducting the main interview, a pre-interview should be conducted with the interviewee in order to get to know the generalities of the subject as well as things such as the mood of the other party, limitations, etc., so that we can manage the main interview in the best possible way with the help of this initial interview.

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