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THE
ABBREVIATED
LIFE STORY
INTERVIEW
BROOKE BRYAN, ANTIOCH COLLEGE
ORAL HISTORY IN THE LIBERAL ARTS
A TACTICAL APPROACH TO...
IT BEGINS WITH
INFORMED CONSENT
We cannot possibly interview people in the name of oral
history without going through a ri...
WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE
SAY “INFORMED CONSENT?”
The federal government
requires institutions
receiving federal funds
to be...
WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE
SAY “INFORMED CONSENT?”
Institutional Review
Boards are a mandated
entity at institutions that
rec...
THE ART OF THE
INTERVIEW
• an interview is a conversation between two people on a
pre-established topic/theme
• a willing ...
THINK. PLAN. ACT.
INTERPRET.
Thus, before embarking on a busy
interview schedule one needs to be
oriented to one's questio...
BE TACTICAL.
The ‘abbreviated life story’ interview
model is just one example of how to
structure the interview space,
dev...
LEDE
REFLECTIVE TURN:
TOWARDS IMPLICATIONS
AND MEANING
PURPOSEFUL TURN:
TOWARDS THE TOPIC
DEPTH
QUESTIONS
EARLY
LIFE
FINAL...
THE LEDE
After sound checks, begin recording with a lede that
establishes the identity of interviewer and interviewee, the...
EARLY LIFE
Let’s start at the beginning. Tell me about your family and
where you grew up…
What family values were passed o...
THE PURPOSEFUL TURN
Bring the interview to the topic at hand, towards the
particular theme at hand:
For place-based or eve...
THE PURPOSEFUL TURN
For thematically-oriented projects exploring ideas, broad
themes of social history, or communities of ...
DEPTH QUESTIONS
• An interview project— especially one that has multiple
volunteer or student interviewers— must have a co...
THE REFLECTIVE TURN
Once the topic is explored through structured Depth Questions,
bring the interview to the reflective s...
CONCLUSION & FOLLOW-UP
This is your chance to return to unfinished business in the
interview, open it up to topics you did...
RESOURCES
Oral History in the Liberal Arts
Oral History in the Digital Age
Oral History Association Best Practices
Forms i...
Oral History in the Liberal Arts: A tactical approach to interviewing
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Oral History in the Liberal Arts: A tactical approach to interviewing

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A brief guide to structuring the interview space. Particularly useful for undergraduate students interviewing for coursework, or volunteer interviewers without significant methods training. Includes brainstorming worksheet.

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Oral History in the Liberal Arts: A tactical approach to interviewing

  1. 1. THE ABBREVIATED LIFE STORY INTERVIEW BROOKE BRYAN, ANTIOCH COLLEGE ORAL HISTORY IN THE LIBERAL ARTS A TACTICAL APPROACH TO ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEWING
  2. 2. IT BEGINS WITH INFORMED CONSENT We cannot possibly interview people in the name of oral history without going through a rigorous informed consent process: • go over your project statement/research goals/outcomes • why you sought them out as an interviewee • provide explicit descriptions of how the interviews will be accessed, used, and published. • help your interviewee conceive of potential audiences • how they can decide to opt-out, and when an opt-out is no longer feasible • sharing of release forms which are signed after the interview
  3. 3. WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY “INFORMED CONSENT?” The federal government requires institutions receiving federal funds to be certain that elements of informed consent are in place before their affiliates can commence research involving human subjects. LEGAL Professional organizations, scholars, and public intellectuals recommend protocols for best practices, in keeping with contemporary ethical sensibilities and possibly applicable legal landscapes. ETHICAL
  4. 4. WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY “INFORMED CONSENT?” Institutional Review Boards are a mandated entity at institutions that receive federal funds. They exist to be sure that all projects affiliated with the institution have rigorous informed consent practices in place for projects involving people. The Principal Investigator is the responsible party. LEGAL Practicing oral history in accordance with the standards published by the Oral History Association is a voluntary decision to act in accordance with the professional community of practitioners. However, certain funding agencies will often only fund projects that adopt professional best practices. ETHICAL
  5. 5. THE ART OF THE INTERVIEW • an interview is a conversation between two people on a pre-established topic/theme • a willing interviewee wants to share their experience. don’t overestimate your role as interviewer (who is ‘doing’ what? facilitate the conversation.) • Interviewing LISTENING is an art form that becomes more refined with practice • a refined interview style comes from how you structure the interview time, and how you ask questions/follow-up questions
  6. 6. THINK. PLAN. ACT. INTERPRET. Thus, before embarking on a busy interview schedule one needs to be oriented to one's question or notion in such a strong manner that one does not get easily carried away with interviews that go everywhere and nowhere. ~Max van Manen
  7. 7. BE TACTICAL. The ‘abbreviated life story’ interview model is just one example of how to structure the interview space, developed to be a resource for student and volunteer interviewers with little methodological training.
  8. 8. LEDE REFLECTIVE TURN: TOWARDS IMPLICATIONS AND MEANING PURPOSEFUL TURN: TOWARDS THE TOPIC DEPTH QUESTIONS EARLY LIFE FINAL THOUGHTS
  9. 9. THE LEDE After sound checks, begin recording with a lede that establishes the identity of interviewer and interviewee, the place and date, and implicit consent to participate in the stated project for the stated purpose. Your lede will be directly related to your project statement. “I am Brooke Bryan, here with Juanita Shockey Harris, to talk about her life as a quiltmaker for a project exploring Flow and Conservation Cultures in Oral History in the Liberal Arts. Juanita, thank you for your willingness to speak with me. Can you please state your full name, and your birth date?” … “Thanks. Today is March 13, 2016. Let’s begin with…”
  10. 10. EARLY LIFE Let’s start at the beginning. Tell me about your family and where you grew up… What family values were passed on to you? Who were your key mentors or teachers? • Seek sensory descriptions (visuals/sounds/smells). Family dinner times, neighborhood friends, early learning experiences. • Just be interested! Ease into the conversation and allow yourselves to get comfortable.
  11. 11. THE PURPOSEFUL TURN Bring the interview to the topic at hand, towards the particular theme at hand: For place-based or event-focused projects, you can bring about the ‘purposeful turn’ with questions like: • “You grew up in Idaho. How did you come to find yourself in Yellow Springs?” • “I know you experienced the March ‘64 demonstrations in your home town, but let’s get a sense of the community before those events unfolded. Where did you go for social events, where did people go for fun?”
  12. 12. THE PURPOSEFUL TURN For thematically-oriented projects exploring ideas, broad themes of social history, or communities of practice: • “how did you first become involved with *** organization?” • “when did you first realize you were perceived by others as different?” • “what is your first memory of being ***?” • “when did you know you wanted to be a *** (English major, marine biologist)?” • “how did you come to be involved with *** (person/institution/community)?”
  13. 13. DEPTH QUESTIONS • An interview project— especially one that has multiple volunteer or student interviewers— must have a core set of questions that get at the heart of the project’s intent • Depth questions provide continuity across interviews • Depth questions should be carefully researched and are probably established by the project planners and advisory group • Depth questions were articulated in your IRB application (if applicable) and
  14. 14. THE REFLECTIVE TURN Once the topic is explored through structured Depth Questions, bring the interview to the reflective stage by giving the interviewee space to ponder what it all means, why it matters. • “Bring us to contemporary times. Where did things go from there? Have things changed?” • “Would you do something differently if you could do it all over? Do you have regrets?” • “Were your actions/responses enough?” • “Have your experiences • —changed your perspective?” • —impacted the trajectory of your life?” • —caused you to think differently?” • —brought change to your family?”
  15. 15. CONCLUSION & FOLLOW-UP This is your chance to return to unfinished business in the interview, open it up to topics you didn’t ask about, and thank the interviewer for participating. • Earlier you mentioned… and I’d like to go back to that… • Is there anything we haven’t spoken about that you would like to talk about? • Thank you so much for speaking with me today.
  16. 16. RESOURCES Oral History in the Liberal Arts Oral History in the Digital Age Oral History Association Best Practices Forms in the Community Oral History Toolkit ‘Do History’ Oral History Toolkit Baylor University Intro to Oral History packet Question generator at StoryCorps The American Folklife Center’s Cultural Documentation Resources

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