Oral History Project Guidelines

Oral History Checklist

A Complete Oral History for Special Collections

  • Audio or video recording
  • A complete transcript (.docx so that it is editable) 
  • A signed consent form (.pdf)
  • A complete oral history summary form

Audio or Video Recording

Recording equipment

Make sure you have enough space on your device. Example: An iPhone test of a voice memo (audio only and default compressed .mpeg4) shows that it captures at about 528KB/minute, so 10 minutes would be about 5 MB, 30 minutes 15 MB, and 1 hour around 30 MB.

You may also want to find out if your equipment alerts you when it has stopped recording or is full.

Use new batteries or a fully charged device.

Do a test before you start recording the actual interview.

An external microphone can be very helpful.

Interview Location

Conduct your interview somewhere quiet with as little background noise as possible. For remote interviews, make sure that you and your interviewee will have no interruptions and that you have a plan for technical interrupts such as internet cutouts. 

Test your setup before you start the full interview. With a remote interview, do a few test conversations before you record to check internet and sound from where you will be conducting the interview. 

Be aware of how close the recording device is to the interviewee, particularly since they should be doing the majority of speaking. It helps, in remote interviewing, to have a headset like headphones with a microphone. 

File Naming

Includes the name of the interviewee and the date of interview. If broken into parts, make sure to label part1 or part2 in the file name. 


Audio Files: LastNameFirstName_YYYYMMDD.wav or LastNameFirstName_YYYYMMDD_part1.mp3

Transcript: LastNameFirstName_YYYYMMDD.docx

Consent Form: LastNameFirstName_YYYYMMDD_Consent.pdf

Summary: LastNameFirstName_YYYYMMDD_Summary.pdf



Transcripts are a critical component of a complete oral history. Transcripts provide hundreds of words that can be matched when a researcher is conducting a keyword search, allowing for the discovery of an oral history within an online collection. Some researchers prefer to skim transcripts for relevant material before listening to the recording or before deciding to use the interview in a research project. Transcripts are also an opportunity for proper nouns like place names, personal names, etc. to be spelled correctly.

Please be aware that a proper transcript of a single interview can take hours, and sometimes days, to complete. 

For these reasons, Special Collections staff do not consider an oral history to be complete or ready to be added to our collections until a full transcript has been written and proofread.

Release and Consent Forms

Make sure the interviewee understands the purpose of the interview and how you intend to use it. This is not a private conversation. Let the interviewee know that the recording and transcript will be given to UTSA Special Collections, where it will join a growing collection of more than one thousand oral history interviews and will be made publicly available online for researchers.

Release forms make it clear to the interviewee, without question, how the interviews will be used, minimizing the chances for misunderstanding. In addition to offering some protection, release forms also remind the oral historian that the interviewee grants us the privilege of using something that does not belong to us.

After the interview, have the interviewee sign the release form before you leave.

There are two different types of Consent or Agreement forms and they are often personalized. 

  1. A consent form to indicate that the interviewee understands that they are being recorded and that this is not a private conversation.
  2. An agreement with a repository or archive for their interview to be placed in there for future researcher. This can be restricted or unrestricted depending on the prior agreement between both parties. Make sure to have this discussion before any recording. 

Summary Form

An Oral History summary sheet is a bit like a cover sheet for your project. It just gives archivists a good idea of what is in the interview and gives in an easily findable location all the information we need to process it. This will also help the interviewer sort and categorize their research.