Prewrite

The better prepared you are, the better the interview will be. Get ready by following these steps:

Make sure you're prepared.

  • Set a date, time, and place for the interview.
  • Make sure that it's convenient for you and the interviewee. If the person would prefer, conduct the interview over the phone.
  • Find out how much time the person will have to talk. Make sure you have enough time to get an interesting story. Ten minutes won't do it. Thirty minutes or longer is better.
  • Be respectful of your interviewee's time.
  • Don't keep the person too long.
  • Write a list of questions. Start with Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? Ask questions that will draw out details and memories to help you get a picture of that time.
  • Bring a tape recorder if you have one. Test it ahead of time to be sure it works.
  • Bring along paper and pen. It's a good idea to take notes even if you are taping the interview.

Get background on your interviewee. Find out answers to these questions about the war:

  • How old was the interviewee?
  • Where was the interviewee?
  • Was the interviewee a soldier or a civilian?

This information will help you choose questions to ask. It will also give the interview focus. Ask the person to bring along pictures they may have.

Gather background information on World War II.

Use textbooks, encyclopedias, and the Web to gather information. Find out which countries were fighting, the names of leaders, and big events of the war.

Pay particular attention to what was happening where your interviewee spent the war years. This background information will help you understand the person's recollections.

Write a list of questions.

Start with Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? Ask questions that will draw out details and memories to help you get a picture of that time.

Here are some questions you might ask. Be sure to add your own. Refer back to this section during your interview.

You've done your research. You've written your questions. Now it's time to conduct the interview.