List of Questions

  1. What is the Peer Review Process for the Oral History Journal?
  2. I’m planning an oral history project.  Should I pay interviewees and interviewers?
  3. What should I do with the interview when it is finished?
  4. I’m applying for funding for an oral history project.  What should I include in my budget?
  5. How can I find out more about oral history?
  6. What is the optimum recording setting I should use?
  7. What is the best “small recorder” to buy?
  8. Does OHQ tailor workshops to suit particular oral history projects?
  9. How much do workshops cost?
  10. What is the best way to archive our oral histories if I don’t have a professional archiving program?
  11. How can I access OHA Journal articles on Informit?
  12. What expenses are involved in recording a family history?
  13. I have copies of 34 tapes of oral histories recorded with my parents in 2002/2003.  The originals are held with a library but haven’t been digitised there yet.  My parents died in 2011.  Please advise me how I can digitise my tapes before they deteriorate.


1.  What is the Peer Review Process for the Oral History Journal?

What is peer review?

Macquarie Dictionary defines peer review as the assessment of one’s work by one’s peer group, or by others of similar standing and qualifications, especially with reference to scientists, doctors, academics, etc.Peer review is important for university academics and postgraduate students. Publication in ‘refereed journals’ is an essential element of how an academic’s scholarly reputation is judged. While we welcome papers from all those engaging with oral histories, we particularly encourage researchers and PhD students to submit papers for peer review. The editorial board of the OHA Journal offers feedback in a supportive manner designed to facilitate communication of scholarship in the field of oral history.


I am not at University.  Can my work be peer reviewed?

Yes. Just as membership of the OHA is open to everyone with an interest in oral history, any contributor to the OHA Journal can request peer review and benefit from objective feedback and advice.


Is my work suitable for peer review?

Your work may be suitable for peer review in the OHA Journal if it meets the following criteria:

    • It is relevant to OHA membership;
    • Original in subject matter and approach;
    • Accessible and readable;
    • Conforms to the OHA Journal style guide here.
  • It is a ‘Paper’ as defined in OHA Journal’s Information for Contributors, i.e. your work contains substantial consideration of theoretical, and/or ethical and/or methodological issues, and is no more than 5,500 words, including notes.

In more general terms, this means that:

    • The paper has an introduction that clearly outlines the main thrust of your argument.
    • You have conducted thorough research into, and evaluated, the current literature relevant to your area of writing.
    • You have understood the current literature and been able to apply it to your own work.
    • Your paper makes a contribution to knowledge about oral history, for example, you have identified a gap in the literature and are addressing it.
    • You acknowledge and accurately reference the sources you have used to develop your paper.
  • You use an appropriate style, i.e. your language is clear and concise; you avoid verbosity, cliché and meaningless phrases; you use active rather than passive voice; and you explain jargon or terms that are specific to your research method or topic.

To help prepare for peer review, you should browse issues of the OHA Journal to see examples of peer-reviewed papers. If you are a university student your supervisors, tutors, and library staff will also be able to assist you in developing your work for peer review.


What does the peer review process entail? 

During the peer review process, the OHA Journal board, which consists of four editors, will first decide if your paper is suitable for peer review, and, if they agree it is, forward the paper to two experts in the field.

These experts then give feedback as to the content and approach; the validity of the argument presented in the paper; how well the author has read, used and understood other academic resources; whether the paper makes a contribution to knowledge; innovation or originality of material; presentation; and relevance for an oral history audience. Peer reviewers may refuse to pass the paper for peer review and/or suggest many changes.

This process is referred to as ‘blind’ peer review because the experts and the board don’t know the name of the author, and the author doesn’t know the identity of the peer reviewers. This eliminates bias in that regard.

The peer review process can be time consuming, taking up to six months from submission to final publication. The editorial board recommends that authors undertaking the peer review process allow ample time to meet all deadlines.
After reading a paper, the board may agree that the paper is not suitable for peer review, but is of interest to the OHA Journal’s readers. In this case, there will be an opportunity for the paper to be published in the non-peer reviewed section of the journal. Please be aware that the board may ask for revision of papers.


Why peer review?

The peer review process is a way to ensure that papers are of a high standard, and that other researchers can rely on the work they contain.If you want your article to have credibility in the field of oral history and you are building your academic profile, it is important to have your article peer reviewed. You should also find the process instructive as the emphasis is on providing constructive feedback on your work.


Can I still publish papers in the OHA Journal even if I don’t want them peer reviewed?

Yes. The OHA Journal accepts project reports, descriptions of projects, and even poems and other creative writing based on oral histories, in the non-peer reviewed section of the journal. The editors look forward to reading your work.


2.  I’m planning an oral history project.  Should I pay interviewees and interviewers?

Paying interviewers:

Generally, it is the oral historian gathering the interviews, rather than the interviewee, who gets paid, as it is the interviewer who provides the equipment, prepares the questions, spends time researching and then assembles the final project. So, if you are preparing a budget, plan to pay the interviewers, especially if you intend to commission professional oral historians. Oral History Australia provides guidelines to determining fees for oral historians:


Paying interviewees:

However, if you want to pay your participants, and are applying for funding, there is nothing stopping you doing so, and no guidelines exist as to what amount is paid. As generally oral history interviews can last anywhere between 1-15 hours, plan for a per hour payment.

In the oral history projects some Queensland branch committee members have worked on, participants are generally happy to participate free of charge, if they feel their story is going to be treated with respect, and is part of a valuable project. In some sense, it is the interviewer who is providing a service to the community by gathering the stories, and ensuring they are accessible to the rest of the community (with the interviewee’s permission).


Ensuring interviewees’ rights:

We highly recommend ensuring that your participants:

    • Retain copyright of their interview, licensing you or your community group to use their stories in your project;
    • Clearly understand (verbally and written) how their interview is being used;
    • Have a say in what they choose to tell interviewers in the interview;
    • Have an opportunity to comment on a transcript of the interview and remove any comments they don’t want used;
    • Have an opportunity to comment on the final product, and negotiate with project organisers if they are dissatisfied with their representation;
    • Can contact the project organisers at any time during the project to withdraw, or negotiate a representation;
  • Are given a copy of the final transcript and audio of their interview for their own records and to share with their family and friends. This means you have to budget for copies of these in an accessible format, e.g. burned to CD.


3.  What should I do with the interview when it is finished?

You should consider putting a copy of the transcript and/or audio (with permission) in your local or State library for the community to access. This means contacting your local librarian and checking they are interested and/or have permission forms participants need to sign so their interview can be deposited.  The State Library of Queensland actively collects contemporary material that has historic significance. 

The best way to achieve these outcomes is to put together an information pack for Library that includes:

    • A description of the project and contact details for the interviewer/s;
  • A signed document where participants agree to let their interview be used if they want it deposited in the library. This includes a document that YOU, the interviewer, signs in order to give permission to the library for future use. You would need to go through this verbally with all participants.

Have a look at Beth Robertson’s Oral History Handbook for further guidelines.


4.  I’m applying for funding for an oral history project.  What should I include in my budget?

This will depend on your specific project’s size and scope. However, generally you will need to budget for:

    • Research
    • Hours of recording
    • Travel costs
    • Transcription
    • Copy of audio and images for interviewees, for example, burned to a CD
    • Recording equipment
  • Presentation of interviews.
    • This will depend on what you are planning to do with the interviews. Some budget items for presentation of interviews may include:
      • Audio-visual consultancy support
      • Venue for exhibition/display
      • Catering for opening the exhibition/display
      • Printing of brochure/pamphlet/book
      • Domain name and website support if you plan to publish the interviews online

Oral History Australia offers guidelines for paying interviewers for recording and researching interviews:

If you are applying for a grant, you may like to provide some of your time pro bono. We would also recommend working out who is going to be on your team and if they are happy to take a similar approach to payment.

These are very general guidelines. If you would like more information regarding your specific project contact Oral History Queensland.


5.  How can I find out more about oral history?

Oral history workshops and courses in Queensland

The Queensland University of Technology has subjects on Oral History and Transmedia Storytelling as part of its coursework Masters. Contact Helen Klaebe for details: h.klaebe@qut.edu.au 

The University of the Sunshine Coast also runs a unit on oral history as part of a Masters coursework degree in history or creative writing.
Oral History Queensland (OHQ) offers workshops on oral history.  If you’re a member of OHQ, you can keep up to date with details about when we’ll run workshops. Membership costs $40 for an individual for a year. If you’re interested in becoming a member, the details are here.


Online resources

If you are a member of the OHQ you can read about members’ projects and other oral history information via our e-mailing lists and regular e-newsletter.

Also have a look at our blog, which is regularly updated and has details about oral history projects and other oral history related news:  http://ohq.org.au/blog/ and join our Facebook page.

Suggested readings on oral history

There are a number of excellent books and journals you can read, depending on your interests and skills set. The following are just a few examples.

    • A practical guide to oral history is Beth Robertson’s the Oral History Handbook. This offers advice about how to run an oral history project. This is a very useful book for those new to oral history. However, some of the information on recording equipment is a little out of date.
    • Lesley Jenkins’ Talking Together: A Guide to Community Oral History Projects might also be useful, but again a little out of date in terms of equipment (everything changes so quickly it is often hard to keep up in print publications). Both these books can be purchased from OHQ.  This book is now out of print.
    • Handbook of Oral History edited by Thomas L. Charlton, Lois E. Myers, and Rebecca Sharpless is also very helpful, particularly Charles Morrisey’s chapter ‘Oral History Interview: From Inception to Closure.’
    • Also, have a look at The Oral History Reader edited by Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson, particularly Alessandro Portelli’s chapter ‘What makes Oral History Different.’
  • The Oral History Australia Journal is an annual journal, and publishes project reports and peer review articles on oral history work across Australia. OHQ members get this journal as part of their membership.


University libraries would have copies of these books. The State Library of Queensland holds an online copy of the Oral History Association of Australia Journal from 2003 to present. You can access this online resource for free if you have a State Library of Queensland e-services card. Please contact the state library for more details on their e-services card:  http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/membership/how-to-join

6.  What is the optimum recording level I should use?

The digital recording quality that is recommended is uncompressed WAV file 48kHz 24 bit.  This is in accordance with the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives http://www.iasa-web.org/tc04/audio-preservation and is endorsed by the National Library of Australia. 

Most recording devices allow you to control the setting. Please refer to the manual of your device to determine how you do this. Once the device has been set, it will generally remain in that setting.

You will need to ensure you have enough space on your recorder/memory card to accommodate the large WAV file.  Allow at least 1Gb per hour.

You can then keep this as your master copy and convert to smaller files, such as MP3 if you wish.  Ensure that you keep this as an original file and only edit copies. Save the large file with the last name of the interviewee, the date of the interview and the word ‘original’ in the file name. When you go to edit this file, save as a copy before you begin editing.


7.  What is the best “small recorder” to buy?

There are a number of opinions about the best “small recorder” to buy.  One of the criteria is that it records in high quality .wav file 48kHz 24 bit.  The Zoom H5 or H6 fits this criterion.  They can be purchased from Mannys Brisbane for $356.00 for H5 or $473.00 for H6 which are very reasonable.  The H5 is adequate for interviewing, but the H6 may have features you want.  When phoning your order ensure you also purchase an AC adaptor ($15.00).  Purchase a couple of 16GB SD cards from JB-HiFi.  You will also need (good quality) microphones.Here’s a link to find out more:  https://www.storedj.com.au/zoom-h5-handy-recorder
Mannys Brisbane
71 Brunswick Street
Fortitude Valley  QLD  4006

Phone:  07 3099 6916
If you don’t want to spend that much money on a recorder, you may consider purchasing an MP3 recorder such as this Sony Digital Voice Recorder.   There will be other similar recorders for around $100.00 or less.  Also you may be able to download a recording app to use on your mobile phone.


8.  Does OHQ tailor workshops to suit particular oral history projects?

Yes. We are keen to work with organisations which have specific projects in mind to train interested participants in the skills needed for the projects. Our workshop officer can work with organisations to discuss tailored workshop content and length of workshops. Depending on the project and those involved, skills include: writing permission forms, considering the ethics of community oral history projects, using equipment, designing questions, interviewing skills, digital storytelling, effective writing with oral histories.


9.  How much do workshops cost?

Generally, a workshop costs $880 per facilitator per day. This is in-keeping with industry standards for professional facilitators with high levels of training and industry experience. We encourage you to factor this into your budget if you are applying for a grant.

As a not-for-profit organisation, OHQ recognises that not-for-profit organisations often have tight budgets. If your organisation does not have grant funding and is a not-for-profit, discounts may apply.


10.  What is the best way to archive our oral histories if I don’t have a professional archiving program?

Firstly, digitally record the oral histories at archival quality suitable for State Library of Queensland (SLQ) – 48 KHz, 24 bit format. When you record, make sure you use an external microphone, as this will ensure best sound quality.

Any images accompanying the interviews, should be scanned at 600dpi. With images, save the file with as much detail as possible—names, dates and locations if you have them. It is useful to produce a ‘summary sheet’ for images: a Word document which includes a thumbnail of the image, the file name, and as much detail as you have.

Best practice is to record in the file name: the name of the interviewee, interviewer and date of interview and then indicate it is an original e.g. smith_vanluyn_221012_original. This file should be kept, and any editing you do (for example, if you want to compress it to put on the internet) or copies you make will be saved as a new file, e.g. smith_vanluyn_221012_compressed.

If you don’t have a digital repository, we recommend backing up on an external hard drive which you keep in a temperature regulated space, as well as electronically with a program like Dropbox, Google docs or iCloud, plus a printed and digital copy of a transcript (text of the whole interview) or summary of the interview (where you write the interviewer’s questions with a ‘time code’ related to the audio and then a list of key words or summary of the interviewee’s answer). In the transcript/summary include: name of interviewer, interviewee, date of interview, place of interview, any abbreviations used in the transcript.

You should also ensure you keep a hard and digital copy of the consent form the interviewee has signed, giving you permission to archive the interviews.

You may also like to keep a copy with the State Library of Queensland. Please contact Catherine Cottle, who is the oral history and digital storytelling co-ordinator at SLQ and she can advise. SLQ has its own consent and permission forms: Catherine.Cottle@slq.qld.gov.au

If you are interested, OHQ also provides training for collecting oral histories. We can train interested participants to write consent forms, thinking about ethics, design questions, equipment and conduct interviews.


11.  How can I access OHA Journal articles on Informit?
You can access from home through the National Library (recommended) or the State Library of Queensland. You can find the article you want by looking through the Index and putting that in the Search or browse each issue.

 Access through Informit

1.  Browse Publications.
2.  Select Oral History Association of Australia Journal.  The contents of all journals from 1979 onwards are listed.
3.  Click on document required to see details and abstract.
4.  Full text downloadable copies of articles may be viewed and downloaded for $4.00 plus GST.
5.  Alternatively Institutional users/students can log in via Shibboleth and use their password for free access.

Access through National Library of Australia

  1. Firstly apply for a free Library card.
  2. Once in receipt of your login details
  3. Open the home page
  4. Click on e-Resources
  5. Login
  6. In the Find A Resource search box type Informit and click the Go! button
  7. Scroll down and click on Informit e-Library: humanities & social sciences
  8. Click Visit Site.
  9. Click Browse Publications
  10. Select Oral History of Australia Journal.  This will give you access to a list of all journal editions and you can download the article/s of your choice free of charge.

12.  What expenses are involved in recording a family history?

We can only provide you approximate costs when it comes to collecting oral histories, i.e. interviews, with family members.  You may find some information about costs for doing oral histories and transcription here.  To give you a sense of the costs involved in collecting oral histories of family members, you will need to think of the following:

  • Transport to and from the place of the interview (ideally the interviewee’s home, because that will be where they are most comfortable),
  • Equipment to record the interview:
    1. A digital recorder to record voice. 
    2. A camera to take pictures of the interviewee, and any pictures or objects they might have of significance. You can buy a ‘point and shot’ digital camera for about $150. The higher quality cameras will give you better image
    3. A computer to access the digital audios so they can be transcribed, and to do research on the subject. You may already have one. You can get a desktop computer or laptop for about $1500-$2000 from a good electrical store.
    4. Optional: a laptop and flatbed scanner to scan pictures in the interviewee’s home. A CanonLide flatbed scanner cost $150 two years ago.
  • Time to dedicate to transcribing or writing a summary of the interview. If you are transcribing in full, you can download free software called ‘Express Scribe’ or ‘Transcriber’ to help with the process, but it will take between 2-4 hours of time to transcribe 1 hour of interview. You may consider paying someone to do that.

You’ll need to consider what you’ll do with the interviews afterwards. Will you put them together in a book for other family members, for example? Photobooks are a good idea for family histories. See, for example, http://www.photobookaustralia.com.au/ . You can also get these at Kmart and Big W.

13.  I have copies of 34 tapes of oral histories recorded with my parents in 2002/2003. The originals are held with a library but haven’t been digitised there yet. My parents died in 2011. Please advise me how I can digitise my tapes before they deteriorate. 

I understand your concern about the integrity of your tapes used in 2002/2003.  At that time most oral historians were using cassette tapes.  We were advised to use the best quality tapes and only 60 minute tapes (30 minutes each side).  We didn’t use 90 minute tapes because of the risk of “stretching”.  You’ve said the “original tapes are held with a Library”, which should be in ideal preservation conditions.  So you want to digitise the copies you have.  If your tapes have been stored well e.g. in a box in a cupboard, not left out and not used a lot, they should still be in good condition.  There are a number of devices around now which you can use to digitise your cassette tapes.  I have one that I’ve used to digitise oral histories from the 1990s.  It connects with my computer with a USB cord and it uses the free Audacity sound editing software  https://www.audacityteam.org/, which you will need to download.  The process plays the tapes in real time so, of course, it will take many hours to complete.  Practise first with any old cassette tape you have until you get the volume right and you’re happy with the quality of the sound.  When you’re satisfied, then try with one of your precious tapes.  Avoid stopping and starting.  Another device for converting your tapes doesn’t require a computer, see https://www.jaycar.com.au/cassette-to-mp3-converter/p/GE4102.  The State Library of Queensland has a guide for digitising your collections, including cassette tapes here  https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/sites/default/files/Caring-for-your-collections-Digitisation_3.pdf