Interview Guidelines

1) Finding a veteran

  • The guidelines for who the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project is interested in are located here. [Note that for the purpose of this class, I’d prefer a focus on a veteran from one of the wars we cover in class.]
  • The easiest choice may be a relative or a friend of your family. Ask around. If you can’t find anyone, come see me.

2) The Interview process

  • You should tape (or video-record) the interview. Trying to take notes during the interview will likely result in a bad interview and/or poor notes.
  • You may need to be able to have two meetings with your veteran (initial and follow-up).
    • If you don’t know your subject or his/her life, you should consider an initial interview to get straight the basic biography
  • Plan on as much as a couple of hours (if needed). Try to set aside uninterrupted blocks to conduct the interview.
  • The specific questions or issues you discuss depends on the particular veteran and their service. Some topics that may get you started thinking can be found on page 3 of the VHP Field Kit. Given the focus of this class, make sure to emphasize the topics emphasized in “War’s End, Coming Home” on page 3.
    • A more specific set of questions can be found here. [For these, emphasize parts 5 & 6.]
  • While you can ask specific questions, make sure that you also ask broader questions eliciting longer responses. If the interview goes in ways you didn’t expect, that’s fine. Be ready for it; don’t be afraid follow up on those asides.
    • Remember that some of these topics may be emotionally powerful for your interviewee.  Understand that some questions might not be answered.

3) Tips to remember — See this essential list of guidelines from the LOC.

For extra credit, you can also prepare your interview for submission to the Veterans History Project, something I encourage each of you to do. To do that, you must follow the guidelines described in the VHP Field Kit (which you will want to print out). At a minimum you’ll need to record the interview and complete all the waiver forms (with the veteran). All materials (including waiver forms and the recording) must be turned in by the start of class on the day the paper is due to receive the extra credit.

Previous Posts

Most Recent Posts