Oral history standards and guidelines

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Within the text: When quoting or paraphrasing oral communication, the source should be cited in the same manner as written sources; the surname followed by the year should be placed in parentheses.

  • Direct Quotes: The citation should come after the closing quotation marks but before the final period. Example: John recalled visiting the village during the winter. He stated, “My father maintained a trapline that extended up Crisco Creek that he would have to maintain at least once every two weeks” (Jacobs 2004).

  • Paraphrasing Information: Use a similar format for citing an oral source as mentioned above. The period is placed outside the parentheses.

  • Citing before the quoted or paraphrased passage: When appropriate, put the citation before the passage being cited using the standard format, name and date of source in parentheses.

  • Multiple interviews with the same interviewee during the same year: Differentiate each interview/tape made by the same interviewee by placing alphabetizing (small letter) after the date (i.e., Jones 2004a, 2004b).

    1. Within the Bibliography: The following format provides an example of how to reference oral sources in the bibliography.

      1. Taped source:

    Jones, Harold

        1. Taped interview. Dennis Griffin, interviewer; Robert Blackman, interpreter, Hood River, Oregon. July 17. Fred Black, transcriber. Tape 04CR06; Oral Historic Society Library, Portland.

      1. No tape transcription: If tape is not transcribed or if interpreter was not used, simply delete those sections.

      2. Multiple citations by same interviewee should be cited in a similar manner as outlined above.

    1. Personal Communication:

    Within the Text: When referencing personal communication within the text, such as untaped interviews, telephone conversations, letters, etc., use the full name of the source (unless it appears in the text [e.g., Mr. Smith (telephone communication, July 7, 2004) stated that …]), description of the communication, and as much of the data as possible. This information should be placed within parentheses in the appropriate sentence of the passage. In some instances it may be more appropriate to use the term “personal communication” rather than a description of the communication, such as when citing casual conversations.
    Example: One Cherokee elder stated that when he was a boy at least six families, including his, would return to the village to catch fish as soon as the snows had melted (Samuel Smith, personal conversation, 3 July 2004).

    In the Bibliography

    Often the information given in a citation of a personal communication is all the information that was shared by the interviewee. When this is the case, it is not necessary to reference the personal communication in the bibliography. However, in cases where further information about the communication is shared, such as a formal interview that was untapped, it is appropriate to reference it within the bibliography using one of the following formats:
    Smith, Samuel

    1. Untaped interview. Dennis Griffin, interviewer: Robert Berouq, interpreter.

    Salem, Oregon. 3 July.
    Smith, Samuel

    1. Telephone conversation with Willamette National Forest Supervisor, Dennis Griffin 3 July 2004. Salem, Oregon.

    Smith, Samuel

    2004 Conversation with the author. 3 July. Salem, Oregon.


    Baum, Willa K.

    1977 Transcribing and Editing Oral History. American Association for State and Local History, Nashville.
    Davis, Cullom, Kathryn Back and Kay MacLean

    1977 Oral History: From Tape to Type. American Library Association, Chicago.

    Echo-Hawk, Roger

    1997 Forging a New History for Native America. In Native Americans and Archaeologists: Stepping Stones to Common Ground, edited by Nina Swindler, Kurt E. Dongoske, Roger Anyon, and Alan Downer, pp. 88-102. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, California

    Griffin, Dennis

    1995 Columbia River Gorge Oral History Project: Operating Plan. Report to the Nez

    Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama Indian Tribes, and the Columbia River Gorge Commission on the Design and Organization of an Oral History Project for the Columbia River Gorge. Columbia River Gorge Commission, White Salmon, Washington.
    Harris, Ramon I., Joseph H. Cash, Herbert T. Hoover, and Stephen R. Ward

    1975 The Practice of Oral History: A Handbook. Microfilming Corporation of America, Glen Rock, N.J.

    Hubbard, Blair, Heather Huyck, and David Nathanson

    1984 Collecting, Using and Preserving Oral History in the National Park Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

    Sitton, Thad, George L. Mehaffy, and O.L. Davis, Jr.

    1. Oral History: A Guide for Teachers (and Others). University of Texas Press, Austin.

    Starr, Louise

    1996 Oral History. In Oral History: An Interdisciplinary Anthology, edited by David K. Dunaway and Willa K. Baum, pp. 39-61. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, California.

    1 Information within this document is largely derived from an oral history operating plan designed by Dennis Griffin (1995), with oral history forms based on forms designed by the BIA/ANSCA oral history program, Anchorage, Alaska.

    th Estimates based on Oral History: From Tape to Type (Davis et al. 1977). Interviews were conducted entirely in English. If interview involves more than one language or requires translation into English, estimated time involved in entire process will increase considerably.

    2For on-site visits allow at least 8 hours for interview.

    3 Time estimates for interviews and transcriptions are for one (1) hour of taped interview. If interview extends longer than one hour, estimates should be increased.

    4 Form is adapted from a sample from the Idaho Oral History Center, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise.

    5 Prehistoric and historic resources are defined according to 36CFR 79.4 and Tribal regulations. These include: material remains; components of structures and features; intact or fragmentary artifacts and waste products of human manufacture; human remains; traditional cultural properties; and foods and medicines.

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