1st Edition

Oral History for the Qualitative Researcher
Choreographing the Story

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ISBN 9781593850739
Published May 20, 2010 by Guilford Press
271 Pages


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Book Description

Oral history is a particularly useful way to capture ordinary people's lived experiences. This innovative book introduces the full array of oral history research methods and invites students and qualitative researchers to try them out in their own work. Using choreography as an organizing metaphor, the author presents creative strategies for collecting, representing, analyzing, and interpreting oral history data. Instructive exercises and activities help readers develop specific skills, such as nonparticipant observation, interviewing, and writing, with a special section on creating found data poems from interview transcripts. Also covered are uses of journals, court transcripts, and other documents; Internet resources, such as social networking sites; and photography and video. Emphasizing a social justice perspective, the book includes excerpts of oral histories from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, among other detailed case examples.

Table of Contents

I. Order

Reinventing Oral History for the Qualitative Researcher


*Oral History Evolving and a Work in Progress

*Mnemosyne, Goddess of Memory

*Why Oral History Now?

*Sorting Out Oral Traditions


*Oral History as a Social Justice Project

*On the Critical Importance of Testimony as Oral History


II. Design and Tension

The Tools of the Oral Historian: The Choreography of Techniques and Issues


*Interviewing as a Creative Act of the Imagination

*Oral History Interviewing

*Types of Interview Questions

*Preparing Questions

*About Phone Interviews

*Some Interviewing Rules of Thumb from the Interviewer's Point of View

*Perennial Ethical Issues for the Interviewer

*Analyzing and Interpreting Oral History Interview Data

*Journal Writing for the Oral Historian and for the Narrator

*Documents as Data

*Documents, Artifacts, and Photographs to Augment Oral History Reports


III. Balance and Composition

Becoming an Oral Historian


*Writing Up the Narrative

*The Researcher's Reflexive Journal

*Using Poetry in Oral History to Represent Someone's Story

*The Potential and Eloquence of the Narrative in Digital Storytelling

*Internet Inquiry, the Wiki World, and Copyleft Agreements for Oral Historians and Qualitative Researchers

*Finding Models of Digital Oral History Using Tools of the Web

*Awareness of Ethical and Legal Issues

*Putting Some Pieces Together: Crafting an Oral History Report


IV. Harmony

The Art of Making Sense of Oral History Projects with a Choreography of Social Justice


*Why I Do Oral History

*Hawkins's Theory of Dance, Experience, and Art

*Final Reflections


A. Selected Electronic Resources: Websites and Listservs for the Oral Historian

B. Selected Oral History Centers, Archives, and Collections

C. Selected Journals That Publish Oral Histories and Related Issues

D. Sample Consent Form for Project Undergoing IRB Review

E. Basic Contract (Sample)

F. Federal Statement on Oral History

G. Statement on IRBs from the American Historical Association (Edited)

H. List of Choreographers Used for Surnames of Participants

I. Practicing the Techniques of Oral History: Strategies and Activities to Sharpen Your Writing Skills

J. Excerpt from an Oral History of a 9/11 firefighter

K. Excerpt from an Oral History of Hurricane Katrina Survivors

L. Example of a Nonparticipant Observation Assignment to Develop Observation Skills

M. A Sample Rubric Assessing Writing

N. Interview Project Assignment

O. Example of a Qualitative Research Methods Syllabus

P. An Excerpt of a Transcript (Edited) from an Interview with Jane A. de Mille

Q. Digital Equipment for the Oral Historian

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Valerie J. Janesick, PhD, is Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of South Florida, Tampa, where she teaches classes in qualitative research methods, curriculum theory and inquiry, foundations of curriculum, ethics, and educational leadership. Her text Stretching Exercises for Qualitative Researchers includes ways to integrate the arts in qualitative researchprojects. Dr. Janesick’s writings have been published in Curriculum Inquiry, Qualitative Inquiry, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, and other major journals. Her chapters in the first andsecond editions of Handbook of Qualitative Research use dance andthe arts as a metaphor for understanding research, and her chapterin Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Inquiry: Perspectives, Methodologies, Examples, and Issues addresses John Dewey and the arts andeducation. She is completing oral history interviews of female schoolsuperintendents as part of a larger project on women leaders and iscurrently taking classes in yoga and meditation. Her most prizedpossession is her British Library Reader’s Card, in particular for herwork on an archival project on John Dewey’s letters to internationaleducators and their subsequent influence.


"A lucid, thoughtful guide for the oral history researcher. Written in highly accessible language, the book details the steps involved in doing research on lived experience. The many examples of actual oral history interviews illuminate the processes of both gathering and presenting oral history data. On the cutting edge of the field, the book considers oral history in the digital age and provides links to a variety of related resources. Both novice and experienced oral historians will profit from Janesick's expertise and her social justice framework."--Ruthellen Josselson, PhD, School of Psychology, Fielding Graduate University
"Janesick brings her extensive teaching excellence and research expertise to this book, which provides a finely honed understanding of oral history practice and includes a wealth of timely case studies. The book discusses the nuts and bolts of conducting an oral history project, from the data collection phase (including online and multimedia data collection techniques) to strategies for data analysis and writing up the results. Janesick draws out the ethical and social justice dimensions of the practice of oral history by showing the power of this method for uncovering subjugated knowledge and the lives of people who have been marginalized. The choreographic metaphor woven throughout invites the reader to engage in a dance of learning and to feel actively engaged in oral history praxis. This book is a gem!"--Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber, PhD, Department of Sociology and Director, Women's Studies Program, Boston College
"This book demonstrates the value and importance of oral history research as a qualitative technique. Through excerpts from oral histories and directed activities, readers are invited to sample and actually practice techniques such as interviewing and journaling. Blending theory and practice, the book offers critical insight into oral history as a performative practice. The postmodern perspective and the focus on social justice are important features of the text."--Patrick M. Jenlink, EdD, Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas
"I love the writing style! It is clear and friendly yet scholarly, and progresses smoothly through ideas and topics. It’s very conversational. I recommend this book for any reader seeking a primer on doing oral history."--William G. Tierney, PhD, Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education, University of Southern California
"A book on oral history methods for the qualitative researcher is certainly needed! This book is especially timely in situating oral history in the context of current professional and societal issues. I also value the framework for positioning oral history in the postmodern context. The book could be used for both professional and class use. It is accessible for beginners, but delves deep enough for professionals to apply the examples to their own work."--Brian D. Schultz, PhD, Department of Educational Leadership and Development, Northeastern Illinois University
"As I embark on a project that involves doing oral histories with Holocaust survivors, this book is exactly what I need for thinking through my own work and for teaching oral history research to graduate students who seek to integrate artistic and social scientific perspectives. Janesick combines a creative approach with useful advice about the nuts and bolts of conducting successful oral history research. I especially appreciated the examples of how to respond to IRB requests and ethical issues, the performance exercises, the insightful discussion of oral history as a social justice project, and the discussions of poetry and digital storytelling. I definitely will use this book in my graduate qualitative methods classes and in classes specifically on oral history. I predict this book will be widely used by methods instructors in education, sociology, communication, psychology, and social work, as well as those in the creative arts."--Carolyn Ellis, PhD, Department of Communication, University of South Florida
"This engaging text is loaded with examples, exercises, handy websites, and references for further reading. Almost any qualitative researcher will get something useful from this book, whether a more reflexive approach to research, a more interactive one, or a better awareness of the origins and history of the techniques we use. The book offers concrete advice on everything from the wording of questions and ways to prepare for an interview to techniques for pulling themes from the data. Janesick provides an especially useful discussion of getting approval for qualitative research designs from institutional review boards (IRBs). One of the charms of the book is its emphasis on choreography, whether a tango with the IRB, or a waltz with interviewees, or some completely original dance or poem to present the results. From the initial interviews to the final write-up, Janesick's approach is consistently graceful, self-aware, transparent, and collaborative, with a focus on documenting the lives of ordinary people."--Irene Rubin, PhD, Public Administration Division (Professor Emerita), Northern Illinois University
Through teaching qualitative research methods classes for over 25 years, Dr. Janesick has sustained a research and writing agenda which makes her work accessible, original, and valuable. As she also teaches curriculum classes focused on authentic assessment and the social issues surrounding high stakes testing, she has creatively managed to use both strands of her research work to incorporate social justice awareness and practices. She has made consistent and formidable contributions to the advancement of the field through research, leadership roles, mentoring, and breaking some new ground with a poetry blog on critical approaches to curriculum and research. This wealth of experience is reflected in the Oral History text and is sure to enhance readers' knowledge and practice of qualitative research....Introduces the qualitative researcher to the value and power of Oral History. Learn how to create poetry from interview data. See case examples of stories from ordinary individuals on the outskirts of society for a social justice perspective in oral history and its uses. Learn about the technology available for facilitating oral history projects and the various on line oral histories already available for study. Reawaken your imagination as you learn about storytelling through the metaphor of dance and choreography through your interviews, documents, and observations. Reawaken your narrative writing skills through a research reflective journal. Oral history is a way to capture the lived experience of a person and this text helps to open the repertoire of options to document that experience through the use of technology, poetry, and with an eye toward social justice.
--International Journal of Technology and Educational Marketing, 3/21/2010ƒƒ
Janesick expertly crafted a multi-dimensional space in this work within which deeper understandings come forth. She combines the introduction of new ideas with a strong and centered narration filled with instructive examples easily accessible by many different reading communities....Janesick continues to demonstrate why she is among the most provocative thinkers about forms and functions of qualitative inquiry. She is so adept with building instructive metaphors to increase and enhance understanding, while she intentionally chooses to write in an accessible way, determined to engage researchers at all levels of experience....This text will quickly be adopted by those of us teaching graduate-level research methodologies courses and equally enjoyed by others intrigued by possibilities of oral history....Janesick's ideas are the kind you have a hard time keeping to yourself.
--The Qualitative Report, 3/21/2010