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Conducting an Interview

Books, magazines, and the Internet aren't the only sources for research. Conducting an interview can be a great way to learn about a subject, too! An interview can be a lot of fun. You may learn unexpected things, and you'll feel like a reporter.

Before the Interview

  • Make a list of questions you plan to ask. What would you like to learn about? Let's say your subject is the assassination of President Kennedy. You could ask the person you are interviewing where they were when they heard the news. Who were they with? How did they feel? What concerns did they have for the country?
  • Call the person to set up a time and place for the interview. If you don't know the person yet, bring a parent along or do the interview over the phone.
  • Get together everything you will need to do the interview. Items might include a tape recorder, paper, and pens or pencils.

During the Interview

  • If the person gives you permission, tape record the interview. If you tape record it, label the tape with the date and the name of the person. Even if you tape the interview, you should take notes so that you'll remember important points.
  • At the beginning of the interview, ask when and where the person was born. This will save you from having to backtrack and figure out dates later.
  • Don't interrupt or correct the person you are talking to. People sometimes remember things wrong. That's okay-you can check dates and facts later. The important thing is to hear about the person's impressions and feelings.
  • Listen carefully. Something the person says may inspire you to ask a question you hadn't planned. For example, let's say that the person you are talking to mentions that she will never forget seeing television footage of the Kennedy children at the president's funeral. You might ask why it was so unforgettable. What did the children do? How old were they
  • Let the person have plenty of time to talk. But if they start to ramble, try to get them back on the subject by asking one of the questions you brought along.

After the Interview

  • Thank your subject at the end of your meeting. Afterward, write a thank-you note.
  • If you recorded the interview, listen to the tape. Write down important points and interesting quotations.
  • Look back over the questions your prepared before the interview. Did the interview help to answer them? If you are going to do an oral report, think about how you will present your information. You might talk about what you had hoped to get out of the interview, and what you learned from it that was unexpected. You could also talk about the difference between reading a book and getting a personal view.
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