Tips for recording oral histories
Audio recording tips
- If you happen to have a digital audio recorder, use that!
- You can use a smartphone to record audio. On an iPhone, use the “Voice Memo” app. On an Android, download the “Easy Voice Recorder” app. More info here: How to Record Audio on a Mobile Phone
- Be aware of where the phone’s microphone is and aim it at the interviewee.
There are many smartphone apps available to record phone calls. Several are listed below.
- You can record incoming calls to your Google Voice number by tapping ‘4’
- Recording a video conference
A variety of video conferencing platforms allow recording of sessions. Instructions for several are linked below.
- Make some test recordings first and listen back to them, to be sure your equipment is working properly
- To the extent possible, try to find a quiet place to record, away from ambient sound like traffic noise or air conditioners.
Tips for the interviewer
- Start the recording by stating the date and location(s) of the interview along with your name and the name of your interviewee. You may use this script:
- My name is [interviewer name] and today is [date including year]. I am in [interviewer location] and I am interviewing [interviewee name] who is in [interviewee location].
- Reflect on what you hear.
- If you are interviewing in person or on video chat, demonstrate that you are paying attention by making eye contact and using open body language.
- Do your best to speak clearly and not talk over each other.
- Be curious.
- You may wish to have a pen and paper ready to keep notes about follow-up questions you’d like to ask.
- Try to use open-ended questions.
- Open-ended questions cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ are answerable by anyone, and presume nothing.
- Leaving a bit of silence is okay, allowing interviewees time to think about their responses.
- Remember that this is about the interviewee, not you. Your job is to listen and ask follow-up questions. It is your job to value the interviewee’s experience and be genuinely interested.
- If you’d like to be interviewed yourself, you may switch roles to create a second interview, or you may sign up here to be paired with an interviewer.
If you have questions or would like to contribute your completed interview to SC&A, please contact Meagan Doyle.