We suggest using a digital recording device with headphones and an external microphone for conducting interviews, but don’t let access to equipment keep you from collecting someone’s story. If all you have is a basic handheld digital recorder or a cassette tape recorder, that’s fine. The key to a successful recording session is to be comfortable with your equipment, whatever it is, so be sure to practice using everything before the actual interview.

Your interview should be conducted in a quiet environment. Turn off cell phones and limit all background noise. Remember to have a spare set of batteries for your equipment, if you happen to be recording in an environment that does not allow for plug-in power.

If using a tape recorder, interviewers should be careful to avoid voice-activated recorders because they often cut off the first part of spoken words.  High quality sixty or ninety minute tapes are best, and – if possible – recorders should be set to the Type II (chromium oxide) tape setting.


  • Always test your equipment before the interview!
  • It is best to always use a power cord over batteries. Keep in mind that you might need an extension cord. Still have batteries on-hand for back-up.
  • Always bring extra batteries and tapes/discs. Open the packages and adhere the blank labels to the tapes or discs before the interview. Be prepared.
  • Always wear headphones when recording. If something sounds wrong through the headphones, something is wrong with the audio.
  • Be aware of background noise. Conduct the interview in a quiet room with no distractions.
  • Make sure the microphone is close enough to the interview subject to capture the audio.
  • Always record a formal introduction to mark the beginning of the interview: your name, the date, location, interview subject.
  • Always ask the interview subject to introduce themselves: name, occupation, birth date.
  • Be aware the recording time available on your device. Start new files/tapes by saying the person’s name, date and side/tape number.
  • Label and number your tapes or discs immediately after the interview.
  • Make two (2) duplicate copies of the interview. The original recording should be labeled MASTER; the copies should be labeled DUPLICATE.

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