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Interview Tips & Resources
Questions | Research
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- Complete the Biographical Data Form [ PDF: 183KB / 2 pages ]with the veteran to identify possible interview questions.
- Prepare questions before the interview; write them down.
- Conduct a pre-interview with
the veteran or civilian, if possible.
- Use the highest quality video or audio recorder and microphone(s)
- Become familiar with your recording equipment and test
it before you begin the interview.
- Interview in a quiet, well-lit room and avoid noise from:
- Fluorescent lights
- chiming clocks
- heating and cooling systems
- ringing telephones and televisions
- other conversations
Be sure the questions and answers are recorded.
- On video interviews:
- Mount the camera on a tripod
- Position the camera a few feet from your interviewee
- Focus on the interviewee's face, upper body, and hands
- Avoid using the zoom feature
- On audio interviews:
- Use an external microphone
- Position the microphone 9 inches from the interviewee.
- Use a microphone
- Be sure the tape has started recording
before you start speaking!
Conducting the Interview
- State at the beginning of the interview:
- Date and place of the interview
- Name of the person being interviewed
- Interviewee's birth date
- Names of the people attending the interview (including the interviewer and camera operators)
- The organization you're working with, if any<
- If interviewing a veteran:
- War and branch of service
- What his or her rank was
- Where he or she served
- If interviewing a civilian:
- What type of work he or she performed
- Where he or she served
- What war he or she served during
For example: Today is Friday, June 7, 2003 and we are interviewing John Smith at his home. Mr. Smith is
78 years old, having been born on November 23, 1923. My name
is Jane Doe and I'll be the interviewer. John Smith is
my uncle. He is my mother's brother. Uncle John, could you state
for the recording what war and branch of service you served
in? [pause for answer] What was your rank?
[pause for answer] Where did you serve? [pause
- Other tips for making a great interview:
- Keep the tape recorder or video camera running throughout
the interview, unless you are asked to turn it off by the
interviewee. Never record secretly.
- Keep your questions short. Avoid complicated, multipart
- Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple
"yes" or "no." Ask "how, when,
and why" questions instead.
- Keep your opinions out of the interview, and don't
ask leading questions that suggest answers.
- Encourage the interviewee with nods of the head rather
than audible responses such as "yes" or "uh
huh" that will be recorded.
- Don't begin the interview with questions about painful
or controversial topics.
- Be patient and give the veteran time to reflect before
going on to a new question. Many people take short reflective
breaks in the course of ansering one question.
- Use follow-up questions to elicit more details from
the interviewee. Examples include: When did that happen?
Did that happen to you? What did you think about that? What
are the steps in doing that?
- Consider asking the interviewee to show you photographs,
commendations, and personal letters as a way of enhancing
the interview. Such documents often encourage memories and
provoke interesting stories.
- Be yourself. Don't pretend to know more about a subject
than you do.
- More information from on recording and documentation The American Folklife Center
How to Participate » Interview Tips