Here are a few tips for developing your questions for the interview and for actually conducting the interview.
- Prepare ahead of time. Try to come up with at least 10 questions to ask.
- Avoid asking yes/no questions. Try to ask more open ended questions that allows the interviewee to go into more detail.
- Avoid leading questions. Leading question that suggests what you want the answer to be. For example, "Could you tell me how wonderful it was to grow up in Ohio?" Instead you want a more neutral question, such as "Could you please tell me about what it was like to grow up in Ohio?"
- Ask more detailed questions. The goal of your interview should not be for the interviewee to tell you everything they know about the topic and have them do work for you. Ask questions that will help your project and fill in gaps in your research.
If you are interviewing someone who witnessed or experienced an event in history, go beyond just the facts. Ask them questions about how they felt during/after event or how it impacted their lives. You can find facts lots of places, if you are lucky enough to interview someone who was there, make it more personal. This will lead to a more interesting interview.
If you are interviewing an expert on your topic, don't forget to ask context questions. Sometimes interviews with historians can be great to help you set the stage for your topic and understand the historical context and what influenced your topic in history. Experts are also great short and long term significance questions. They can provide their interpretations of the event and you can compare that other research you found to see if you agree with their interpretation.
Tips for Conducting the Interview
- Introduce yourself and thank the person for taking time out of their day to do the interview.
- During the interview, let the person speak. Do not interrupt them when they are answering a question.
- Be sure to give the person time to think after you ask a question. Sometimes it may take some time for them to recall the event or they are trying to decide how best to answer.
- Make sure you are a good listener! Use non-verbal cues to show them you are paying attention, for example, eye contact or nodding your head.
- Ask follow up questions. Sometimes their answer will spark another question, ask them! Don't just skip to the next question because that was your plan. Interviews sometimes go new and exciting ways- let them!
- If they say something you do not understand, ask them to explain. Have them spell names and places you are unsure of.
- Leave time at the end. Ask them if there is anything else they want to share. They might think of something important that you didn't even think of or know about. You can also ask them if they have any suggestions for you of where you can find more sources or do research.
- Don't forget to thank them!
Good luck with your interviews!