Oral History :: Research Literature & Oral History

Research Literature & Oral History

Morteza Nourai (PhD)
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


We are constantly dealing with oral history texts that, if included in the historiography circle, their genealogies are missing. Perhaps under appreciation of the most important part of the writing, which is a major contribution to the endurance and validity of the text, has been neglected. Negligence and hurriedness, have caused a lot of work not to be desirable. To this end, we try to recall in this succinct series, the literature of research in accrediting the text.

Undoubtedly, the content of any text is based on an original story and oral history products are no exception. This record can be in the form of texts and documents, or be in the mind of the interviewee and other related people. The engineering of questions to enter the main interviewing circle is in fact part of the basis of the discussion. At the same time, the research may be subject-oriented, in which case further reference should be made to documents from texts and available literature.

In this regard, it is important that the circuit of the discussion in the orbit of historiography is not lost. On the other hand, every oral history production has a relative dynamics in the circle of historical awareness and historical memory. Where the subject originates? Which are its roots and origins? These are important aspects. The researcher is in fact trying to create an identity for the subject. Also, focus on the origins of every subject indicate its place of origin and destination: It is possible to maintain such precision in historical research?

One of the weak points in historical research is that the literature is neglected and individuals enter discussions on subjects for further discovery and we are constantly dealing with replicated products and various researchers keep digging the same grave. Lack of knowledge on the roots of a subject results in waste of time and funds. In light of this, some aspects of research literature, its review and revival in oral history have to be taken into account:

  1. Knowledge of the Research Field: In fact, research goal, individual or subject oriented, has a pre-study context: individual background such as personality, life and his/her spirit, his prominence in the cycle of pertinent information, general information on his/her professional life, social and political activities, relevant organizations or institutions and on the other hand the subject status requires a review of the documents and available literature. Review of the research cycle available shall be conducted to the full and despite the fact that the competence of the interviewer or the researcher is relative but in fact understanding the structural composition (of the individual or subject) reinforces its importance.
  2. Summarizing previous achievements to enter the research subject; starting with wide range of studies and moving towards key questions shall be conducted and summarized to draw the geography of the subject and provided to the audience. Such background might be summarized in one paragraph. This entry point help the researcher to understand the path he/she is steering the audience towards the main subject. Usually, in interviews, the question “Please give a brief background on …” is asked to serve this very purpose.
  3. Revealing the research gap to be filled with the project; the two efforts above reveal the necessity and research gap in the subject and define the rationale for such research? Research gaps including neglected aspects or complementary efforts are revealed. – This is in fact the aspect that the interviewer either as the author or researcher has to magnify: why is this interview necessary? Why should it be conducted? These two questions shall be evenly placed in the package of questions designed. Indicating its importance in the introduction or the main content is not enough since it is the outcome of the interview engineering in the interview questions indicating the importance of the results drawn from an active interview.
  4. Research starting point; this is the zero knowledge point. The same point were the research literature has stopped which shall be the starting point of a new effort. In other words, in order to reach to the origin of previous researches, studies on available literature is imperative. Here, in active interviews, preliminary studies along with the interview reveals the intersection of efforts done and works left undone.

To this end, the efforts of oral historians, in every level, is research. Efforts shall be made for the outcomes and products of such research to address the essentials. Essentials are implicit within the body of the research, its path and outcomes.[1]


[1] Note of Morteza Nourayi (PhD), Professor of History of Isfahan University & Head of Iranian Local History Association which was written on 12 April 2018 in Sofia University, Bulgaria and submitted to Oral History Association.

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