Though the saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” there is no such thing as a perfect Oral History interview. However, the best preparation is undoubtedly practice, and practice in a safe space. A practice Oral History interview is a place to ensure all technical issues work (sound, noise, space, recorder), to get a sense of the balance between active listening and guided questioning, to gauge the pace and cadence of an interview exchange, and to expect the unexpected in the spontaneity of an interview.  

How does the theory of how to conduct an interview relate to practice? What comes easy to us as Interviewers; what might be hard? What can we learn for our next interview?


  • Gain a deeper understanding of how to conduct an Oral History interview by conducting a practice interview and receiving feedback from fellow participants
  • Gain confidence in conducting a proper Oral History interview

Time and Materials

90 mins 

  • Recorded interviews conducted by participants
  • Speakers/projector to listen or watch interviews together

Participants have completed the assignment in Handout 31: Practice Interview.


Warm-up (5 minutes):

In preparation, the participants have conducted a practice interview, either individually or in small groups. We ask the participants to briefly share the experience of their interviews. 


Working in Pairs (30 minutes):

We distribute Handout 32:Interview Feedback Guide to all participants. We form pairs of people who have not worked together on the interview assignment. 

The pairs exchange interviews with each other, listen and fill out the interview feedback guide. After both have listened, we invite the pairs to share overall  feedback with each other. 


Plenary Discussion (55 minutes): 

Coming all together, we invite participants to share their observations with the larger group. If participants conducted the assignment in groups, and more than one person listened to the same interview, bundle the feedback together. 

After some feedback and observations were shared, we give participants space to reflect on what worked best in the interview experience and what aspects of conducting the interview were most challenging.

Guiding Questions:

  • What did we learn from this practice that helps us prepare for the next interview?
  • What did you find most interesting or surprising in the practice interview?
  • What was the hardest part in the practice interview?

Notes and Tips for the Facilitator

  • The practice interview is using the Lebanese Civil War as an example, if you are working in a different context, feel free to adapt the assignment. 
  • Although this is a practice interview for the participants, it could still be difficult for some participants to share. They may be shy or embarrassed, especially because most people don’t like the sound of their own voice in recordings. So we should be supportive, encouraging, and respectful facilitators, conscious of this matter while dealing with the participants, and as they deal with each other.
  • It is important to remind the participants of the alternatives techniques in feedback that were mentioned before in session Applying Best Practices. 
  • If interviews were done in groups, then you can either work in pairs and have more than one person listen to the interview, or alternatively work in groups.  
  • We encourage participants to give each other constructive criticism/feedback to emphasize the collaborative nature of Oral History and how working as a team, as a group, and through partnerships, we build a peer support system and a research community.
  • We also remind participants that this is a practice interview, and there’s no such thing as a “perfect” interview. We all make mistakes, but if we don’t make mistakes, we don’t improve. Even the most experienced of interviewers make mistakes. It is in this spirit of collaboration that we want to give constructive feedback and help each other improve. Also interviews are not always exactly the same in approach or substance. For example, in Jayce Salloum’s interview with Soha Bechara [Jayce Salloum: Interview with Soha Bechara], typical protocols were not followed. But this interview is a powerful example of the shared authority between narrator and interview that arguably makes up for the lack of protocols.
  • We ask participants to keep their interview recordings for use in the session Analysis of (Oral) Historical Sources as it relates to it.

Sources and Further Reading