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Oral History Research Essay
Instructor: Autumn Lauzon
Over the next few weeks you will be working on an oral history research project. You will find a person of interest to interview, do background research* on the time period or event, combine the interview and research into an essay, and lastly form a visual representation of your project and present it to the class. We will be going over some examples in class of Oral History Projects.
This assignment consists of five major steps.
- First, choose a person you would like to interview and formulate a question or issue. (ex: how is New Year’s celebrated in another country, how did women aid in the anti-war movements of the 70s) You can choose anyone to interview, a grandparent who grew up in the South during the civil rights movement, a roommate who’s from a different country, etc. You will then conduct background research on the time period, event, or other relevant information your interviewee will be discussing.
- Second, you will conduct your interview.
- Third, you will combine your interview with your background research in a 5-7 page essay in order to answer your question or issue and/or explain how a personal account has altered your original question.
- Fourth, you will turn your project into a visual presentation. The options are limitless, just be creative! (We’ll discuss this in more depth as the time nears and your projects evolve)
- Lastly, you will present your topics and visuals to the class in short presentations.
Before you begin your interview or form your interview questions, you need to have a good foundation for what you and your interviewee will be discussing. Therefore, historical/political/cultural information about the event, time period, etc., will be extremely important, not only for yourself, but also for your reader. There are always two sides (or more) to every story. In addition to historical/political/cultural information, find a contradicting view from that of your interviewee in order to discuss and analyze multiple interpretations.
- Four (4) sources will be required for this assignment (this does not include your interview).
- Three (3) of those sources MUST be reliable, academic sources (ex: newspapers, books, journal articles, magazines) and one (1) can be something you have googled (ex: a web site).
Writing the Essay:
Your intention is to interpret the interviewee’s comments, using them as evidence for an argument. You will need to make a strong argument while still letting the interviewee’s experience and insights come through. Your essay might use the interviewee’s comments to advance an alternate interpretation of a historical time or culture, confirm a commonly held characterization, or enrich an existing view.
You want your essay to use the individual’s experiences and/or perspective to make an argument about a larger historical or social context.
- On page 491, Call to Write has a paragraph on oral histories and a great section on “The Interview Process,” which I highly encourage you to look at.
- Although Chapter 5 in CTW deals with memoirs, this project is emerging from these ideas because we are re-creating “in written language, moments or episodes of lived experience” (137). The blue “Writing Assignment” pages might be helpful with sources.
- Some very helpful websites:
You will be graded on meeting the requirements listed above. Your paper should clearly state the main focus of the essay while having logical development and clear organization. Use strong supporting details and evidence through your background research and interview. We will discuss the visuals and presentations at a later date.
- Rough draft due: April 15th
- Oral History visual due: April 27th
- Presentations: April 20th, 22nd, and 24th
- Oral History Essay due: April 27th