Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Oral History

Project Planning

So you want to do an oral history project? 

That's great!  Now the real planning begins.  Oral history projects take considerable time, training, research, money, and motivation. 
Steven Sielaff, at the Baylor Institute for Oral History, breaks down the time you can expect for one, one-hour, interview to take.

  • Pre-Interview Research: 4-8 hours

  • Interview: 2-4 hours for onsite, 8 for local travel, 16 for longer

  • Audio Processing/Transcription: 15-20 hours

  • Review: 2-3 month wait

  • Post-Review Edits: 5 hours

  • Final Editing: 5 hours

Total: 30-60 hours, over 3-4 months

You can read more here:

Here are some questions to ask early on in the planning process.  

  • What are you trying to accomplish by conducting interviews? 
  • Why is interviewing the best way to gather this information? 
  • What are the goals and outcomes of  the project?
  • How much is this project going to cost?
    • ​​​​​​​Some things to consider - time, training, travel, accommodations, general supplies, equipment, hard drives and software, transcription services, content hosting platform, event funds, compensation
  • Do you have the necessary equipment?
  • Whose doing to do all the work that oral history entails?
    • ​​​​​​​
  • Where are you archiving the project?​​​​​​​
    • Oral history practitioners should select an archival repository 1)whose collection development policy relates to the project but 2) is equipped to handle the management and access to audiovisual materials and digital files for long-term preservation. ​​​​​​​Oral history practitioners should ask important digital preservation questions when shopping around - and you as a repository - should be honest about your capabilities.
  • How are you going to process these interviews?
  • Have you taken any oral history training?
  • What is your process to researching the interviewing topic/s?
  • How are you going to find people to interview?

Don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish - create a mission statement


Please, follow guidelines and best practices




Finding a repository/archives


How much is this going to cost? One time expenses, ongoing expenses


How are you going to process these interviews?


Finding narrators.


Have you been trained in oral history interviewing?

Planning interview outline


How do I ask questions


Have you researched the topic of the interviews?


How can I keep track of everything needed for oral history rooted in best practice?

Project Proposal


Purpose and Significance

Project Scope




Do You Need IRB Approval for Oral History?

While it could still be considered a debatable topic, the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services' "Policy for Protection of Human Research Subjects" 2019 revisions now exclude oral history from IRB review and approval through a specific definition of research.  The exclusion is found in the final regulations under Section 46.102 and are as follows:

  • Research means a systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge [emphasis added]. Activities that meet this definition constitute research for purposes of this policy, whether or not they are conducted or supported under a program that is considered research for other purposes. For example, some demonstration and service programs may include research activities. For purposes of this part, the following activities are deemed not to be research [emphasis added]:
    • Scholarly and journalistic activities (e.g., oral history, journalism, biography, literary criticism, legal research, and historical scholarship), including the collection and use of information, that focus directly on the specific individuals about whom the information is collected.

The Office of Human Research Protections offers additional guidance here.  For more information on oral history and IRB, please visit the Oral History Association.

Trinity University's Institutional Review Board follows the "Policy for Protection of Human Research Subjects" 2019 revisions and the Office of Human Research Protections guidance.   Please visit the Institutional Review Board T-Learn page or email for more information.