Qualitizing Oral History Works-5

Characteristics of Interviewee

Mahya Hafezi
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


The Iranian Oral History Website has conducted short conversations with some experts and practitioners in order to more understanding the problems of producing books on the topic of oral history books or memories, the results of which will be presented to the readers in the form of short notes and in several parts.




One of the elements of oral history that should be addressed and its characteristics to be examined is the interviewee. In order to do a good oral history work, the interviewee must also possess some of the following qualities.



A good interviewee is someone who is available. The feature of availability is also a relative feature; That is, the interviewee may be available for some interviewers and not for others. On the other hand, availability does not necessarily mean the possibility of face-to-face meeting. According to the type of interview, if it is face-to-face, availability means meeting. If it is phone interview, online interview, etc., availability means it is possible for the interviewer to communicate with the interviewee.


Having a new word

It is better for the interviewee to say something that has not been said before. The ideal interviewee is someone who has unspoken words. If words are said in the interview that the interviewer or other people have already said once or several times, that interview is not valuable.


Coherent mind

Some people have a lot to say, but they can't express it; Because they do not have a coherent mind and it is not possible to classify the speeches in their minds. When the interviewer's mind is not coherent, he/she talks in a random manner, but does not provide the interviewer with useful information about subject of the interview.


Relative memory

No person can claim to remember all the memories related to subject of the interview; But if a lot of these memories are forgotten, it will not be useful. The interviewee must have a relative memory. It is not necessary for the narrator to remember all the details and events, but he/she must remember generalities of the memory and events. Usually, for oral history of Sacred Defense or the Islamic Revolution, there is no person with an accurate memory who has recorded everything in detail.


Not famous for lying

If the interviewee is famous for lying or bragging, even if he/she says correct words in the interview, it will not be worth in history. In the history of Islam, to determine authenticity of a hadith, the history of its narrator is checked. One component of the authenticity of a hadith is the narrator's reputation for truthfulness.


Having a relative independency

Usually, a person cannot claim to have absolute independency and can talk about all the information he/she has; however, the person who is chosen for the interview must have a relative independency in expressing his/her words. The interviewee must have independency to know what she/he can say and what should not be said. The interviewee should not ask for permission to say anything.


Financial issues

The interviewee may expect a payment for the time spent on the interview. This issue cannot be a reason for the appropriateness or inappropriateness of choosing the interviewee. The value of an interview with a person is not necessarily determined by financial issues, but it depends on the information that the narrator provides to the interviewer. That the interviewee receives money or not, it will not affect the oral history work.

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