Conducting Interviews

How was your COVID-19 experience? The pandemic changed our lives in many ways. In this activity, you will interview three other people to learn what the pandemic was like for them. After conducting interviews, compare and contrast different accounts of the pandemic, reflecting on the similarities and differences.


  • Account: a description of an event or experience
  • Creative Commons: a type of copyright license that provides ways for creators to give others the right to share and use their work
  • Interviewer: the person conducting an interview
  • Narrator: the person sharing their story

Step 1: Developing Questions

For this activity, you can choose to develop your own set of interview questions or use the My COVID-19 Experience form.

To develop your own questions:

  • Think about what future generations might want to know about living through the pandemic. Some topics to consider: Home, School, Friendship, Holidays, Food, Entertainment.
  • Write six to eight open-ended questions. Open-ended questions leave more room for the narrator to reflect on and express their experiences. Open-ended questions may begin: Why…? How…? What…? Describe... Explain... Tell me about…

Or, use the My COVID-19 Experience form:

Step 2: Interviewing

Choose three people to interview. Think about interviewing across generations (parents, grandparents, siblings and friends) to gain different perspectives.  Let each narrator know the purpose of the interview and ask for their permission to be interviewed.

Interviews can be conducted in-person, over the phone, or online. (See StoryCorps Connect for one way to record interviews online.) Record audio or video using your smartphone, tablet, or computer; you can also take notes in writing.

Some tips for interviewing:

  • Choose a quiet time/location and test out your recording equipment.
  • Begin by identifying yourself, the narrator, the date, and location. Also identify the topic, and any special relationship you have with the narrator.
    • Example: “This is an interview with [narrator’s name]. The interview is taking place on [date] in [city, state]. The interviewer is [interviewer’s name].”
  • Ask the narrator one question at a time, and state each question as directly as possible.
  • Use follow-up questions to gather more specific information, such as: What did you mean by… Tell me more about… and Explain how you…
  • Try not to interrupt the narrator. Pauses can be useful for reflection and recollection.
  • Listen carefully to what your narrator is saying and use body language to show you are interested in what they have to say.

If you plan to contribute materials to a Maine Contemporary Archives project, make sure to download and fill out a Creative Commons Release Agreement for each interview.

Step 3: Reflecting and Sharing

Compare and contrast the experiences you recorded:

  • Did you find similarities in their your narrators’ accounts of the pandemic? Differences?
  • Did anything surprise you?
  • How did the narrators’ experiences of the pandemic compare with your own?

If you like, upload your interviews to a Maine Contemporary Archives project to share with your community. (Use this list of participating libraries to find a project near you). Each project has its own Terms and Conditions; get in touch if you have any questions!

You can also use your interviews to produce a podcast, comic, short video, or other creative project!


American Folklife Center: Interviewing Tips

Oral History Association: Educator's Resource

StoryCorps: StoryCorps Connect

Conducting Interviews