Making Sense of Oral History

For the most part, folks who write oral histories are generally writing about their own families or people they know. It is often an endeavor done outside of the classroom. However, I think this online text or essay written by Linda Shopes, historian at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, is a great resource for students.

The largest part of writing an oral history isn’t actually the writing – it is the interviewing. In fact, the majority of her text focusses on the interview process. I thought the two different interviews with a former slave in the 1930s showed how the approach and even the appearance of an interviewer can impact the information being shared by the interviewee. My thought on including the work on the Free Textbook List is that it might prove helpful to anyone who is doing research and will be interviewing subject matter experts.

The website on which this writing guide appears is History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web. It was launched in 1998 by the American Social History Project/Center for Media & Learning, City University of New York, and the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University. The site contains over 1,000 primary documents, audio interviews and images. It also includes a directory of over 1,000 Internet sites that house original historical documents.

You can view the text online a section at a time or download the entire work as a PDF file.

Chapter Titles for Making Sense of Oral History Online Textbook

  • Getting Started
    • What is Oral History?
    • How Do Historians Use It?
    • Interpreting Oral History
  • Questions to Ask
    • Who Is Talking?
    • Who Is The Interviewer?
    • What Are They Talking About?
    • Why Are They Talking?
    • What Are the Circumstances of the Interview?
    • Summary
  • Resources to Use
    • Model Interpretation
    • Oral History Online
    • Annotated Bibliography
    • Try It Yourself!

View this Free Online Material at the source:
Making Sense of Oral History

A few other textbooks which may help you with your studies:

Real Time Web Analytics