Do-It-Yourself Oral History

Because the UIU community may be found throughout the world, it may not always be feasible to come to campus for an on-site interview. If you are interested in recording your own memories about Upper Iowa University, consider completing a "do it yourself" oral history interview.

Please review the tips and guidelines below before recording your stories.

Audio recordings are usually simpler, cheaper, and easier to produce and preserve than video recordings. If you are interested in conducting your own video oral history, please contact the archivist for guidelines.

The recording session

  1. Choose a quiet location where you will not be interrupted by other people. Recording at home can sometimes present problems as there may be too many interruptions. If you are near a UIU center, ask to use one of their rooms when class is not in session. Other possibilities include small rooms in libraries or local community centers.
  2. Turn off all telephones.
  3. Make sure there are no distracting background noises such as radios, televisions, fans, or traffic.
  4. Test your equipment. Do a test recording and listen to make sure everything is working properly. Have both the interviewer and interviewee speak, and make sure that all voices may be heard clearly.
  5. Keep the audio recording running through the entire session unless there will be a long break. Try not to say anything that you do not want recorded for prosperity!

Required questions: setting the stage

  1. The interviewer should begin by stating:
    1. His / her name
    2. Date
    3. Location
    4. State that the recording is part of the Upper Iowa University Oral History Project.
  2. The interviewee should state his/her name, and maiden name if appropriate.
  3. The interviewer should then begin the interview by asking basic background questions:
    1. Where and when were you born?
    2. Where and when did you attend Upper Iowa University?
    3. What year did you graduate?
    4. What did you study?
    5. Where do you live now? (city, state, and country are sufficient)

Suggested questions

Below are some suggested questions. Additional or follow-up questions may be asked depending upon the experiences and answers of the interviewee.

  1. What are some memorable events from UIU?
  2. Tell us about your favorite classes and professors at UIU.
  3. Tell us about your friends and activities at UIU.
  4. What was a typical day like?
  5. Why did you choose UIU?
  6. Did you work while you were at college?
  7. What influence did your family have on attending college?
  8. What did you do after you graduated?
  9. How did UIU help prepare you for life after college?
  10. Do you stay in contact with college friends? Tell us more about them.
  11. What would you tell current and future students at UIU?


  1. Answer the questions as if you are talking to someone who knows nothing about you or Upper Iowa University.
  2. Provide as many details and facts as possible. For example if you talk about a professor, give that professor's name and subject taught.
  3. Spell out names when appropriate
  4. Remember the 5 W's - who, what, where, when, and why
  5. If you make gestures, try to also repeat them in words. For example, instead of just saying "It was this long," say "It was this long, about two feet"

Photographs and documents optional

  1. Photographs, letters, and other documents or artifacts can help illustrate the story of your time at UIU, or especially memorable events afterwards. This is particularly important if you speak of these items during the interview. Send originals or copies of any items with your interview.
    1. Best option: send the originals to Archives.
    2. Second best option: Scan at a minimum of 600 dpi. Save as an uncompressed .tiff file.
    3. Third best option: Take a photograph with the highest quality available on your camera.
  2. Take photographs of the interviewee and interviewer before or after the interview. Send them in with the agreement form.


  1. Audio digital recorder, preferred settings are:
    1. Save to Uncompressed Waveform audio format (WAV). DO NOT save at reduced or lossy file formats such as MPEG or MP3 as these sacrifice quality over size.
    2. Bit depth at 24 bits per sample
    3. Sample rate at 96 KHz
  2. Sufficient memory, such as an SD memory card with 4 GB available. You do not want to lose a good story just because you ran out of memory!
  3. External microphone. Multi-directional microphones are best to clearly pick up the voices of both the interviewer and the interviewee.
  4. Make sure all equipment is charged. Plug it in if possible, or bring extra batteries.

Transcript optional

We live in a keyword-search world. The more written documentation that can be provided about your oral history, the more likely it will be listened to by others. If you are interested in helping the Archives transcribe the oral history, please contact the archivist for additional information. The UIU Archives uses the Baylor University Institute for Oral History Style Guide: A Quick Reference for Editing Oral History Transcripts. Transcripts may be submitted after the initial oral history transfer. Note: transcription can be time-consuming. It takes an experienced transcriber approximately 5-6 hours to transcribe one hour of tape.

Checklist for Submitting Forms, Recording, and Documents

Contact the Archivist for instructions on how to submit the oral history, agreement forms, and any supporting documents.


____ Send the Oral history record in WAV or other non-proprietary format

____ Fill out and send the ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW RELEASE FORM. The Archives cannot accept any recordings without this signed form.



____ Photographs, letters, other documents or artifacts and accompanying Deed of Gift

____ Transcript (may be submitted at a later date)