There are more ways to gather information than from your text or your teacher. Experts, grandparents, historians, scientists, authors, and many others all have interesting and important stories to tell. To get the most out of interviewing these people, you need to consider a few things that will help you get the most out of your interview.

Preparing for the Interview

  1. Make an appointment with the person (it is rude to just show up and expect the person to give you their time).
  2. Learn a little about the person before meeting him/her.
  3. Know what you want to get out of the interview ahead of time.
  4. Write your questions down before the interview, but be prepared to take a different path of questioning if necessary.

Conducting the Interview

  1. Be on time, and be prepared with paper and pen/pencil.
  2. Be friendly and courteous - remember they are giving you their valuable time!
  3. Ask your questions clearly.
  4. Don't interrupt! Really listen to your subject!
  5. Ask specific, thought-provoking questions. Avoid yes/no questions.
  6. Try to stay focused, but if something interesting comes up go with it.
  7. Take good notes. Ask the interviewee to repeat what they said if necessary, but only do this when it is something important.
  8. Don't volunteer information unless it is to get the interview going, to get it back on track, or to give background information relevant to your goals.
  9. Obtain all the information needed before ending the interview. If necessary, review your notes with the person.
  10. Thank the interviewee for his/her time.

The 2013 Addendum:

  1. Don't ask veterans about killing unless they volunteer the information first.
  2. Ask about actions instead of feelings, particularly with older generations.
  3. Meet relative strangers or strangers in common areas and with other group members or parents. Be safe. Do not go into people's houses if you don't know them or without parental permission.
  4. Start with easy questions (even small talk) and then make questions more harder / controversial as you go. 


Ask an Expert advice Many experts are offering their time to students. If you have this opportunity either in a chat room or e-mail, you should follow the above advice, with the exception of getting straight to the point. Don't waste time "getting to know" the expert. Ask your questions and move on.