Interviews

Genre Overview:

Task: Develop a list of questions that you will ask during an informal conversation with one or more people, and publish the results of your conversation.

Purposes:

  • To learn more about a particular person, topic, or time period in history.
  • To uncover historical stories from primary sources.
  • To learn the stories and backgrounds and lives of others.
  • To gain expert knowledge on topics of interest.

Audiences:

  • Anyone who shares an interest in the topic, person, or time period.
  • Anyone who might be affected by the stories or information uncovered in your interview.
  • Anyone who likes learning from other people.

Characteristics:

  • Informal, conversational writing style
  • Written record of a conversation between two or more people
  • Usually starts with background research, compiling a list of questions, and then conducting a guided conversation (the interviewer allows the conversation to flow naturally, but still directs it using the list of questions)

Ways to Get Started:

  • Select a person you wish to interview or learn more about. Do some background research and compose a list of questions you wish to ask in your discussion with that person.
  • Select a topic you are interested in, passionate about, or just want to learn more about. Do some background research and compose a list of questions that will help you investigate the topic further. Then, find an expert on the topic that you can interview to discover the answers to your questions.
  • Select a time period or particular event in modern history that you want to learn about from a first-person perspective. Do some background research and compose a list of questions that will help you understand more about what was happening at this particular time in history, and what it was like for someone to live through this experience. Then, find a person who was around during this time period and interview them on their life experience.

Common Ways to Publish:

  • Make an audio recording of your conversation during the interview, and then type it up and publish the transcription (seen often in magazines).
  • Write up and paraphrase the interview in your own words, including some direct quotes (seen often in magazines and newspapers).
  • Conduct the interview as part of a podcast episode.
  • Make a video recording of your interview and publish it on YouTube.
  • Pair an excerpt of the interview with a photograph of the subject (made popular by Humans of New York).
  • Publish a small section of the interview that tells a story (made popular by Story Corps).

Mentor Texts:

  • Students’ Work Ethic Affected by Peer Groups, Desire to Be Popular by Shankar Vedantam (Transcribed Audio Interview)- The text, transcribed from the original interview segment with Steve Inskeep on NPR, reports on the social pressure students feel to be popular in school as well as new research suggesting that among teens, peer pressure and popularity can have significant effects on education. As you read, notice how Inskeep directs the conversation, and notice how the argument is developed (claim, evidence, reasoning) for the audience through this conversation between two people
  • What the New Ms. Marvel Means for Muslims in Comics by Gene Demby (Transcribed Audio Interview)- In this blog post from NPR’s CodeSwitch, journalist Gene Demby interviews several Muslim comic book fans and discusses what the new Ms. Marvel means for Muslims in comics. Observe the ethos (emotional appeal) created by the interview subjects sharing their personal experiences. Consider how the oral history of Muslims in comics helps create a picture for the reader of why Ms. Marvel is so important to the modern generation.
  • Many Younger Facebook Users ‘Unfriend’ the Network by Patti Neighmond (Transcribed Audio Interview)- In this 2014 interview, Patti Neighmod of NPR’s All Things Considered interviews several former Facebook users who have deactivated their Facebook accounts. Notice how Neighmond constructs her argument in an engaging way: She provides statistics and expert opinions appealing to logos (logic) and ethos (experts), but the argument is framed around personal anecdotes and pathos (emotion), which are the bulk of her piece and give it a human, relatable quality for readers.
  • A Graphic Interview of Cara Gormally by Edith Zimmerman (Graphic Interview)- A completely different way to approach writing about an interview. Consider what the change in medium/ form (comic instead of just text) adds to the piece.

Other Resources: