Interview questions to write biography
The purpose of a life history interview is to enable the interviewee to tell the story of his/her life in his/her own words. The role of the researcher is to facilitate and support the process, and encourage the interviewee to share their experiences. The interview must focus on the key topics such as
- Early years
- Family Life
- Full name
- Place and date of birth
- Father’s name, place and date of birth, occupation
- Mother’s name, place and date of birth, occupation
- Where did you grow up?
- Describe the house you live in
- Describe the sort of food you ate
- Describe the types of clothes you wore
- Describe the games you played as a child
- What sort of things did your family celebrate?
- Describe a typical Christmas/Birthday and/or other family gatherings that you celebrate
- What were your family’s attitudes toward education, religion…etc.?
- What was the discipline like at your home?
- What sort of things were your parents strict about?
Ask questions about the interviewee’s educational background (grade school, high school and university).
- Where did you go to school?
- How did you get there?
- Did you have any favorite teachers? Why did you like him or her?
- Were there any teachers you disliked? Why?
- What was the discipline like at school?
- How old were you when you left school? Why did you leave? What did you do next?
- What was your first job?
- Describe what you did in your job
- How did you feel about your job?
- What were your relations like with your workmates? With your employer?
- Why did you leave your job?
- What did you do during you spare time?
- Marriage/ Partners
- How did you meet your partner?
- Why did you decide to get married/ live together?
- Where did you get married?
- Was it a religious or civil ceremony? Why?
- Describe what you wore
- How would you describe your relationship?
- Did you both have the same ideas about bringing up children?
- Describe how religious your family was when you were a child
- Did your parents attend a place of worship?
- Were you taught to say prayers at night?
- How much would you say religion meant to you as a child?
- What was/were your most memorable experience/s as a child?
- How did those experiences affect you?
- What were the impacts of the way that you were brought up on your personality?
- What are the differences between your life as a child and your present life?
- Describe your cultural background.
- Describe your family.
- What celebrations, holidays, and occasions did your family observe?
- How did your family value education, religion, family etc.? How did that affect you?
- What values have you learn from your parents and elders?
- Describe your experiences at school.
- How old were you when you left school, what were your reasons for leaving and what did you do after?
Remember that the questions given above are just examples. You as the interviewer must learn to probe and ask questions that are related to your topic. Your job is to facilitate the discussion. Allow the interviewee to talk and share her/his experiences. You do not have to use all the questions given, just choose the questions that you think are related. It is also important that you formulate your own sets of questions that will help you to gather the information needed. The profile or the background of your subject (interviewee) should also be considered in the formulation of questions.
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