Conducting Interviews

1B. Oral History Interview (and Report) about Paid and Unpaid Work Prior to the 1970s/1980s If you elect to do an oral history interview, you will undertake a much different set of assignment activities. Instead of doing secondary research (i.e., reading about research done by others), you will do primary research by gathering first-hand information from the person you interview. In addition to arranging for and conducting the interview, you will need to prepare a written report of the interview. Follow these steps to prepare your interview and written report: To begin, identify a woman, a lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) person, and/or a gender-nonconforming/transgender person who would be able and willing to participate in an interview. They might be someone in your own family, a family friend, or a person suggested by a friend or colleague. Ideally, the person you interview should be able to comfortably talk, in some detail, about their work at home and their work for pay before the 1970s or 1980s. Once you have identified a potential interviewee, contact that person to determine if they would be willing to participate in an interview. Complete the Recruitment Form for Assignment 1B. The recruitment form will help you explain the interview process to your interview subject. Be sure to describe the purpose of the interview and let the subject know that this activity is part of an AU course assignment. Review the ethical obligations you have as a researcher. First, tell the interviewee that you will guarantee their anonymity, which means that you will not write up the interview in any way that would reveal the interviewee’s name or any personal details that would allow them to be identified. Second, assure the interviewee that you will treat all information they provide as confidential, which means that you will not share this information with family members, friends, or coworkers. Finally, tell the interviewee that they have the right to refuse to answer any question asked. Should the subject then agree to an interview, you can arrange for a time and place that is convenient for them. When you begin the interview, reiterate your promises on these three points. Complete three copies of the Consent Form for Assignment 1B. Review the content of the form with your interview subject and, if they agree to the interview, have them sign and date all copies. Leave one copy with them, mail the hard copy or email a scanned copy to your tutor (contact your tutor for a mailing address), and keep a copy for your files. Do not conduct the interview until you have a signed consent form. Before the interview, prepare a list of questions that you intend to ask the subject about their experiences with work in the past. Your questions should be general and open-ended so that your interviewee has plenty of opportunity to respond. Oral history interviews differ from other types of interviews in that they involve less-frequent and less-directed questioning. Prepare a list of broad questions that will encourage the person to talk at length, in their own way, about their own life and work history. In developing your interview questions, reflect on the assigned readings for Unit 1 and on the historical situation of women and marginalized people in Canada. You may want to ask questions that touch on the issues below. Feel free, however, to develop your own questions. Can you tell me about the paid work you have done throughout your life, starting with your first job? What about the work you have done at home? What can you tell me about that, starting from the time you were a young adult? What has been the most satisfying work you have done during your life? What made it so satisfying? What special memories of work do you have? Are there particular stories or events that stand out? Looking back over your lifetime, how has work changed for women, transgender people, LGB people, racialized people, and/or Indigenous people? When you meet for the interview, be sure to thank the subject for participating and for volunteering their time. You should also repeat the assurances you gave earlier concerning confidentiality, anonymity, and the right to refuse to answer questions. If you want to record the interview in any way, you must ask for and obtain permission to do so before you start, and you must respect the interviewee’s wishes in this matter. Note that recording is done primarily for purposes of accuracy and that any recordings made will be deleted once you have completed your report. The interviewee might ask for a copy of the interview recording, and if so, you can offer to send the recording to them once you have completed your written report. You might also offer to provide them with a copy of your written account of the interview. If the participant prefers that the interview not be recorded, you will need to take notes as they talk. Begin by asking easy, conversational questions about the interviewee’s background, such as where they grew up, their family, how they lived, and so on. You can then ask the more general questions that you developed for the interview. Let the subject speak at length as much as possible, and listen carefully for any issues you want to clarify or follow up on. At some points in the interview, you may need to ask brief questions to encourage the interviewee to continue telling their story. For example, as they describe the paid work they did over their life, you may need to prompt them to continue by asking about the type of job they did next. At other points, you may want to ask clarifying or follow-up questions to ensure that you understand what they have said. You can ask these questions at points where natural breaks in the conversation occur, or you can ask them at the end of the interview. It is important to go into the interview with an open mind. Do not assume or expect your interviewee to have certain views or experiences. Listen carefully and learn as much as you can. Ask questions that will help you understand more about their life and point of view. For example, if your subject has a different view than you about a certain issue, ask them why they feel this way. When the interview is completed, sit down as soon as possible and develop more extensive notes based on your recollection of the discussion. It is crucial that you do this immediately; otherwise, important details will be forgotten. Following the interview, be sure to send the interviewee a thank-you note. Remember to send along any promised recordings or notes from the interview as well. Sharing your recording or interview notes also gives your subject an opportunity to correct or expand on anything that they said. Once you have completed the interview and follow-up, begin preparing your written report. Review your interview recording and/or notes while reflecting on the unit’s assigned readings. Your written report should not be a word-for-word transcript of the interview; rather, it should convey a concise story of the interviewee’s working life. Try to identify the key events and/or issues that emerge from the interview. Include direct quotes from your interviewee to illustrate the issues and events that were important to them. Ideally, your report should provide the reader with a sense of who the interviewee is, the types of work they have done, and their feelings and insights about their paid and unpaid work throughout their lifetime. Your report needs to reference and discuss three of the key concepts from Unit 1 in relation to your interview. As an appendix to your report, attach a list of the questions you asked in the interview and a brief summary (one paragraph) of how the interview went. Here you can note what worked well and what you would do differently another time. When you have completed your oral history interview report, ensure that you make or keep a copy for your records. Upload your assignment to the assignment drop box and submit it to your tutor for marking. If for some reason you are unable to do this, contact your tutor about using regular post.

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