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HIS 4990 Senior Seminar in History

This guide will assist you with HIS 4990 Research Paper. Updated Fall 2020

Conducting Interviews

You might choose to interview someone - which would count as a "primary source."  Here are some things to remember when conducting an interview:

  1. After finding your interviewee provide them with the scope of your research.  Let them know you are interested in their experiences in  ___ (the Civil Rights Movement or how they viewed the Cold War, for example).
  2. Prepare 7 -10 specific questions
    • Don't assume you can conduct the interview "cold"
    • Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no"
  3. Use nuetral phrasing
    • Avoid "don't you think the Civil Rights Movement was the most important social movement of all time?"
    • Instead use "What do you think about the effects of the Civil Rights Movement?" or "What are the long term effects of the Civil Rights Movement?"
  4. Allow for additional questions
    • Prepare 7 to 10 questions but know that you might ask 1 or 2 follow up questions for each one
  5. Don't rely on your memory
    • RECORD your session!
  6. Make arrangements for a follow-up interview. While you are writing you probably will think of an additional question or clarification that you need.  This can often be done via email or phone.
  7. THANK your interviewee with a personal note and be sure to send them a copy of your finished paper!

Interviewing Tips

This video provides useful information on creating interview questions, although it is a bit "campy!"

Smithsonian Interviewing Guide