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This activity and final project assignment incorporates the interactive understanding of social life with the use of a qualitative methodology not commonly found in today’s sociological research: the oral history. While this resource was used for a Rural Sociology course, it can be adapted to any sociological topic. The introduction and inclusion of oral histories reinvigorates an aging methodology within the modern, digital world and makes these histories accessible to a wider audience (Woodward, 2013). While interviews are a common approach to qualitative research, the power of storytelling via oral histories is a useful and fun resource for the young sociologist’s toolbox. Using oral histories as a teaching tool also allows the students to experience personal and local stories, providing depth and complexity to topics otherwise only discussed throughout the semester (Dillon, 2000). Oral histories are introduced at various points in the semester, followed by an in-class Oral History Workshop (activity), and concluded with a final project where students conduct and analyze their own oral history with narrators (interviewees) of their choosing. The Oral History Association guidelines are used to educate students on the best ethical and research practices (Oral History Association). Students learn the value of this methodology as a research tool, as well as express appreciation and respect for their narrators through this learning experience. Along with learning this new methodology, students should gain a new confidence as sociologists with a sparked qualitative inquiry. The hands-on approach to methodology as undergraduate research and inclusion of collaborative assignments makes...


Resource Type(s):
Assessment, Assignment, Audio, Class Activity, PowerPoint 
Rachel Sparkman
A. Logan Clary 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Qualitative Methodology 
Class Level:
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

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While we utilized this oral history teaching approach in the context of a rural sociology course, students of all course levels and topics can use this resource. Oral histories should be introduced throughout the semester, leading up to the Oral History Workshop (middle semester), and concluding with the final project...

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Students will learn how to effectively use an oral history as a research tool, and understand and appreciate the benefits of using an oral history
Assessment 1:
Introduce oral histories throughout semester; assign activities where students have to listen to a full oral history, analyze the narrator’s content, and articulate the power behind having a narrator’s story told.
Goal 2:
Learn how to conduct an oral history by creating quality questions, taking field notes, and listening to narrators
Assessment 2:
Students will participate in the Oral History Workshop: lecture with in-class activity. Students will complete the workshop handout that reflects good interview questions, comprehensive field notes, and preliminary conclusions from their interview.
Goal 3:
Successfully conduct an oral history and apply findings back to course material
Assessment 3:
Complete a final project that demonstrates the students’ understanding and executing of the oral history material that has been expounded throughout the semester. Students should be able to conduct an oral history appropriately and ethically.

Files for Download:

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Oral History Instructions, Timeline and Usage Notes.docx
Oral History Workshop Presentation.pptx