Systematisation of experience

The chronological order does not matter in the memory story. Likewise, names of places and people as well as specific dates of events are of secondary importance and will have to be verified afterwards.

More important is the thematic and logical connection that leads from one memory to another, in associations known only to the narrator. If these are not clear during the story, make a note to yourself and ask about these connections at the end of the interview. Also make note of any unfinished episodes or unclear resolutions to events, which you should clarify at the end of the interview.

It is recommended to keep a researcher’s diary, in which you write down the course of the interview and your first impressions immediately after the interview. These notes can be very valuable when later working with the text of the interview as well as when preparing for a follow-up interview with the same person.

After the interview, an overview of all the important information obtained during the interview should be recorded as soon as possible1:

  • How was the interviewee selected, and in what area, house or apartment does he/she live?
  • How did the narrator prepare for the interview, how was he/she dressed, did the children or spouse of the narrator participate, and how did they influence the interview?
  • Was the interviewee anxious during the interview? Did he/she calm down during the course of the interview? Did the recording equipment interfere with the interview?
  • Describe the interviewee’s mood: angry, dissatisfied, kind, talkative, etc. Did his/her mood change during the interview, and how did it affect the interview?
  • What was the relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee?
  • Did the interviewee say anything he/she would probably not have said to someone else?
  • Did certain questions need to be specifically probed to get an answer?
  • How does the interviewer evaluate his/her own work – did he/she succeed in hearing everything that was hoped for?
  • What conclusions can be drawn from the interview?

The interviewer cannot replace a psychotherapist, but be aware that interviews can become emotional and be prepared to help the narrator deal with and release any negative emotions. It is important to end the interview on a positive note and help the narrator return to the present. At the end, you can ask the narrator to summarise the best of what he/she has experienced, to share his/her most important knowledge of life.

  1. Gāle-Kārpentere, Inta. Mutvārdu intervija: teorija un prakse. No: Spogulis. Sast. Māra Zirnīte. Rīga : Latvijas Universitātes Filozofijas un socioloģijas institūts, Latvijas mutvārdu vēstures pētnieku asociācija «Dzīvesstāsts», 2001, 162.–167. lpp. ↩︎