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Oral History

Background Research

To be prepared for your interview, conduct background research that puts your interview into context of the event or time period you are studying. Determine what it is you are trying to learn, by summarizing your oral history project in 1-2 sentences, which will help you explain to your narrator what you hope to accomplish with the project. 

Consider what information might already exist on your research topic. For example, if you wanted to learn more about a politician, you might want to consider campaign literature (e.g., pins, brochures, posters, etc.); political documents; and perhaps other biographies or interviews that already exist. In the same way, you will want to consult newspapers and any other records pertaining to a particular historical event if that is your focus. So, if you wish to collect and preserve your family history through oral history, you might want to consult family diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, heirlooms, etc.

Many archived interviews are available at various institutions and historical museums throughout the U.S. See the "Oral Histories Archives in Nebraska" tab on the navigation menu for links to the oral history archives from Doane and other Nebraska universities.

Adapted from Oral History Toolkit, Claremont Colleges Library

Historical Background Information

To prepare for your oral history interview, you should gain some knowledge about the topic which you'll be interviewing your subject. For general overviews of an historical event or other topic, reference works like encyclopedias and handbooks can be very useful.

Newspaper Articles

Newspapers can be a good primary source for historical events. Here are a few newspaper resources you can access through the Doane Library:

Historical/Cultural Periodical Articles

Consider exploring popular magazines from the historical era of your oral history topic. In addition to the databases below, the Library has several magazines in print on the lower level you may wish to browse.