Oral history is defined by the Oral History Association as "a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events. Oral history is both the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s and now using 21st-century digital technologies."
Oral histories provide a vehicle to capture the stories of a diverse range of personal experiences that are are not represented in the historical record. It also gives the interviewee the opportunity to tell their story in their own words. Oral history depends on human memory and the spoken word. Oral history interviews usually capture the life of the interviewee or a specific subject/topic the interviewee has experienced.
Life History - Life and history of Chinese Americans in the greater Los Angeles region.
Subject/Topic History - Student experience during the COIVD-19 pandemic.
The use of oral history has always maintained strong ethical obligations to fully inform interviewees on the use of their oral history recording. For more information on ethical issues regarding oral histories take a look at the following resources.
Interviews as part of research projects sometimes fall under the category of "Human Subjects Research." Human Subjects Research requires oversight to ensure that research is being conducted ethically and protecting the privacy and rights of the interviewee. The Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Cal State LA sets guidelines and approves projects:
Oral History projects that DO NOT need IRB approval:
Oral History projects the DO need IRB approval:
For more information please see the Oral History section of the Cal State LA Institutional Review Board's page on Research with Human Subjects