The Oral History interview is one of the most important parts of the research process, and for it to be fruitful, there needs to be trust between the narrator and the interviewer. So before diving straight into the recorded interview itself, we need to meet potential narrators, to discuss the topic of the interview and the interview process itself, to create a space that allows for each to suss the other out before (and if) the recorded interview takes place. 

Why is the pre-interview a crucial step in the oral History process? What are the key steps needed to establish trust? And what is informed consent?


  • Understand the importance and the purpose of the pre-interview meeting
  • Understand the necessity and importance of informed consent
  • Understand how to plan the outline or roadmap of the interview


Group Work (25 minutes):

We divide the participants into 3 or 4 groups and each group takes a copy of Handout 22: Purposes of the Pre-Interview Meeting for all to read. 

After the groups read the handout, they prepare a scene (sketch) to illustrate  the interview’s purposes as described in the handout. The scene should not exceed 5 minutes.


Group Presentations (20 minutes):

Participants act out their prepared scenes. We clarify any questions of understanding the participants might have and keep bigger issues for the Plenary Discussion.


Working in Pairs (20 minutes):

We divide participants up into pairs. Give each pair Handout 23: Rough Outline of the Interview and Handout 24: Informed Consent.

Each individual in the pair reads one of the handouts and then explains its purpose and function to their partner and vice versa. 


Plenary Discussion (25 minutes): 

We start the discussion by using the index cards we prepared ahead of the session using Handout 25: What-if?. We distribute the six cards randomly amongst the participants. 

We ask one-by-one to read the question to the whole group, and invite other participants to share what they would do in these scenarios. The person who reads the question checks on the card if we missed anything. 

We then open the floor to ask participants if they have any remaining questions about the pre-interview meeting,  especially regarding informed consent. 

To illustrate, we share Handout 26: Informed Consent Form, which gives an example of what a form could look like, and Handout 27: Sample Personal Background Sheet, which is an example of how to keep track of the personal data of the different narrators throughout the research process. 

Guiding Questions:

  • Are there any elements of the pre-interview meeting that are unclear?
  • How comfortable are you with explaining all the aspects of informed consent? How applicable do you find it to the Oral History process?
  • What possible challenges could arise during the preparation for the interview? How can they be addressed?

Notes and Tips for the Facilitator

  • If participants are new to research work in general, consider splitting the session in two. The first session would focus on the purpose of the pre-interview meeting, and the second on informed consent.
  • This session relates to Narrator Selection.

Sources and Further Reading

“Introduction to Oral History.” Workshop on the Web, Baylor University Institute for Oral History, 2016.