Interview Questions and Tips
- Let the person being interviewed choose the time and place. The more comfortable she feels, the more likely she will relax and enjoy the experience.
- Make sure that there are as few extraneous noises (ringing phones, barking dogs, TV, fans) as possible.
- If possible, arrange things so that only you and the person you are interviewing are in the room. The presence of others can dramatically change the dynamics, content, and quality of the interview.
- Don't be afraid of pauses or silences. Sometimes it takes a moment for people to collect their thoughts.
- Follow up with additional questions that probe a topic and allow the interviewee to reflect more deeply on her experience.
- Resist the urge to share your own feelings; keep the focus on the other person.
- Avoid leading questions that make assumptions about what the interviewee thinks or feels.
Adapted from In Our Own Voices: A Guide to Conducting Life History Interviews with American Jewish Women, published by The Jewish Women's Archive (2005). To order, go to jwa.org/discover/oralhistory/guide.html.
- What do you remember about the day Pearl Harbor was bombed?
- What (if anything) did you know about the war in Europe before December 7, 1941?
- What role (if any) did you play in the war effort on the homefront or elsewhere (for ex., collecting tin cans; factory work; military service)?
- How did the war affect your daily life? How did it affect the opportunities that you had and the choices that you made during this period of your life?
- How did the war affect the way you thought about your future (for ex., education, work, marriage)?
- What were your feelings about Franklin Roosevelt? Eleanor Roosevelt? How did other members of your family feel about the Roosevelts?
- How did the war change your ideas about the roles of women and men?
- What is your reaction when you hear World War II called "the good war"? How about "the greatest generation"?
- How did being Jewish affect your feelings about the war?
- When and how did you first become aware of what was happening/had happened to the Jews of Europe? What were your feelings about it? What impact did it have on your life?