Oral History Interview & Importance Part 15

How to ask questions?

Hamid Qazvini
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


How to ask questions has always been an issue of concern for interviewers. Despite having tens of good questions in hand, some interviewers fail to ask them or to receive a proper response to their questions. Asking the question the wrong way or in no proper time might seriously affect the interview process.

The following points have to be taken into consideration while asking questions.

  1. Questions shall be asked in a manner to be fully understood by the narrator to enable them to give a proper answer.
  2. When direct questions might lead to sensitivity, they have to be raised indirectly.
  3. Asking multiple sensitive consecutive questions shall be avoided.
  4. General questions shall be avoided.
  5. In order to ease the narrator, permission shall be granted by them to ask sensitive questions.
  6. Precipitancy and excitement shall be avoided in an interview session and asking questions.
  7. Questions shall be asked calmly and transparently.
  8. Don’t shy away from asking questions.
  9. Borderline or trick questions shall be avoided.
  10. When the response to a question is not compatible, ask the question once again by further elaboration and definition.
  11. When you don’t clearly percept the intention, ask the narrator to elaborate.
  12. Ask the narrator to elaborate on the technical terms.
  13. When local dialect or foreign words are used, ask the narrator to define them to provide an integrated understanding of the terminology for the audience.
  14. When names of non-prominent features are stated, ask the narrator to give the full name and briefly introduce the individual.
  15. Arrangement of the questions shall encourage the narrator and avoid boredom.
  16. Let the narrator finish before asking the next question.
  17. Intervene to stop the narrator in due and proper time.
  18. Observe silence to give narrator time to think and concentrate on their response.
  19. Avoid unnecessary activities or movements which might affect narrator’s focus.
  20. When the response to one question is incomplete, keep asking questions respectfully to get there.
  21. It might help to ask the question in different forms to receive a full response.
  22. Questions shall be pre-outline.
  23. When the narrator raise a new subject which is unexpected, let them finish and then return to the main subject and continue your query in its right path.
  24. Avoid arguments with the narrator since it might affect their mentality and perspective and eventually the interview.
  25. When the narrator states wrong dates or incidents, refer to them in respect. For instance when the narrator is mistaken in the date of an operation or an incident; for example, when the narrator states that Khoramshahr was liberated in Fath Olmobin Operation and not in Beyt Olmoghadas.
  26. Finish the interview with easier and light questions.


Oral History Interview & Importance Part 1 - Oral History, Path to Cultural Dialogue

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 2 - Characteristics of an Interviewer

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 3 - Selecting a Subject

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 4 - Narrator Identification & Selection

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 5 - Goal Setting

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 6 - Importance of Pre-interview Data Collection

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 7 - To Schedule & Coordinate an Interview

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 8 - Required Equipment & Accessories

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 9 - Presentation is vital

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 10 - Interview Room

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 11 - Pre-interview Justifications

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 12 - How to Start an Interview

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 13 - Proper Query

Oral History Interview & Importance Part 14 - Sample Query

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