How to Interview a Relative

Are you writing a family essay or a paper on a time period that a relative of yours lived through? Interviewing a relative will feel different from interviewing people you aren't as familiar with––you'll need to be just as polite and thoughtful though. Here's how to interview a family member.

Steps

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    Plan your questions ahead. If the interview is about a time period, ask about economy, music, clothes, fads, wars, pastimes, major events, and so forth. If it's about the relative personally, ask about events in each stage of their life, their stories, careers, etc.
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    Call your family member ahead of the interview. Schedule a time, date and place to meet. Tell her or him why you wish to interview them.
    • Hold the interview in a comfortable, relaxing, quiet place.
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    Bring a recorder to record what your relative says. Just in case they don't feel comfortable with that, bring a notebook and a pencil. At the beginning of the interview, explain politely how it's going to work. Ask them if they feel comfortable being recorded. If not, use the notebook. Then ask them if they have any questions about the interview.
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    Begin asking questions. Be polite the whole time, and don't make them answer anything they don't want to answer. If you suddenly think of an unplanned question, ask it anyway, and if at the last minute you decide not to answer a certain question, skip it.
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    Finish the interview up politely. Say "goodbye" and "thank you, your help has meant a lot to me."
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    At home, organize your notes and information. You can make a timeline, categorize the notes into subjects, make them into paragraphs, highlight, the basic info, and more. Just make sure your data is clear for whatever you're going to do with it.
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    Write a quick thank you note to your relative. Tell them that you appreciate that they gave their time to assisting you in this project. If possible, provide a write-up or other outcome from the interview––it's quite probable that they would enjoy seeing the end results.

Tips

  • Ask about things your interviewee talks about. Not all questions have to be planned!
  • Listen to every detail. Show that you're interested but don't be rude or sarcastic or sassy.
  • Consider whether photos or even video footage will assist your interview.

Warnings

  • If you are interviewing a very young child, check with their parents about everything they say. Little children like to exaggerate a lot. Moreover, it is a really good idea for a parent or responsible teen sibling sit with young children during any interview.

Things You'll Need

  • Digital recorder
  • Notebook and pen
  • Camera (optional)
  • Items that might help with memories, etc.

Article Info

Categories: Interview Skills