Journal Article

Interviewing the Interviewers: Difference, Knowledge Sharing, and Cohesion within the Queensland Speaks Interviewing Team

Danielle Miller and Maree Stanley

in The Oral History Review

Published on behalf of Oral History Association

Volume 39, issue 1, pages 61-82
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0094-0798
Published online February 2012 | e-ISSN: 1533-8592 | DOI:
Interviewing the Interviewers: Difference, Knowledge Sharing, and Cohesion within the Queensland Speaks Interviewing Team

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The Queensland Speaks oral history project sits at the crossroad between history and political science. The interview team comes from a range of professional backgrounds and career stages. Although guided by the overall goals of the project, the interviewers have considerable autonomy over whom they interview and the questions they ask. The implications of this flexible approach for the overall cohesion of the project provided the impetus for us to write this article. The literature on oral history and interviewing clarified a preexisting appreciation of the role of the interviewer in the outcomes of interviews, a situation that has particular implications for the Queensland Speaks oral history project in light of the above-mentioned autonomy. In this article, we draw on the literature relating to oral history and interviewing in order to explore how a coherent oral history project has emerged without the boundaries imposed by having a dominant research question and/or a team of interviewers originating from the same discipline. The experiences of the key interviewers were examined to establish likely influences on their interviewing skills and to investigate the differences across the team. We also wanted to gain an understanding of how each individual conceptualized the project. After conducting these interviews with the team and listening to interviews that they had already conducted for the Queensland Speaks project, we found that each interviewer did bring his or her own style and research interests to bear. Even so, the differences between their individual approaches and the subsequent interview outcomes were not as great as we had anticipated, and we found that extensive research undertaken by the less experienced members of the team acted to balance existing knowledge and skill gaps between the early career researchers and those interviewers who are either former Queensland public servants themselves and/or have extensive knowledge of Queensland political history. Through informal communication and teamwork, a high degree of cohesion within the Queensland Speaks interviewing team has emerged.

Keywords: Australian politics; gender; peer interviewing; Queensland; team-based research

Journal Article.  8252 words. 

Subjects: Oral History

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