Oral History Interview Assignment

How do “ordinary” people fit into the larger historical narrative?

  1. For this assignment, you are going to interview another person of historical interest. This does not mean that the person you interview has to have lived during some marquee historical event, but that the nature of your interview is historical – you will learn about a specific time in their lives and what life was like then. Choosing a topic or event to focus on during which your interviewee lived is acceptable as well (ie Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam) – or you can just interview on what it was like to grow up in the 60s, 70s, etc.

2. You will need to gather enough information in your interview that you can write a 3-4 page paper about the historical eras and/or events through which the interviewee lived. This page count does NOT include the title page and references page. (You do not need an abstract). I suggest going over onto the 4th page to ensure that you have met the full 3 page requirement.

3. You are not going to turn in simply a transcript of your interview. Instead, your assignment is to take the interview material and use it as a major primary source in discussing the historical eras and/or events through which the interviewee lived. You will also be expected to use other sources to flesh out your story, but the interview should serve as the main source of information for this paper.

4. You will be expected to cite your information in APA format. You can cite short phrases/sentences word for word, which need to be indicated with quotes and citations. A summary of information only needs the citation (parenthetical). If you choose to quote a story or longer paragraph from your interview, you must format it in single space and center it apart from the rest of your paper. See examples of short and long quotes and paraphrased citations in APA here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/02/

NOTE: only about 10-15% of your paper should be directly cited so avoid to many long quotes.

To be completed after the interview:

  1. Transcript: A transcript is good to include, but not required. If you choose to include it – please include it at the end of the paper. Transcript is worth 5 BONUS points.
  2. Synthesis Paper: Analyze how your subject shaped history as well as how they were shaped by it.

Format of Synthesis Paper (3-4 pages not counting title page and references. No abstract needed)

Intro and thesis: Provide an overview of your interviewee and the times he/she lived and focus of your interview. Come up with a thesis statement (to end the introduction) that focuses in on the main points of your paper. Be sure to underline your thesis.

Interview Summary: Summarize the major findings of the interview, focusing on what will be helpful in your overall synthesis paper. Include short quotes from your interview and properly cite. Include information that fits with your interview from the additional sources you found.

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