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Oral History + Podcasting

A collection of oral history and podcasting resources at Davidson.

Recording Equipment

We have several options for recording oral histories. If you wish to use the Listening Station or a Zoom recorder, you can check one out with your CatCard at the front desk of the Library.

Smartphone or iPad

Pros: Easy to use, familiar, and highly portable. Easy access to recording apps like Zoom and

Cons: Lowest quality sound recording.

Listening station

Pros: Easy to use and medium quality sound recording. Comes with an easy to use external mike for higher which increase sound quality. Has option to record visual as well as audio.

Cons: Not as portable as the other options. Has some set-up. Medium level audio quality.

Zoom recorder

Pros: High quality professional sound. Small and portable.

Cons: Extensive technical set-up.

Podcast Studio

Pros: Isolated sound-proof room. High quality recording. Ideal for both group and individual settings.

Cons: Have to reserve in advance. Orientation suggested. Schedule with Daniel Lynds at


The main purposes for editing oral history audio files are to clean up background noise and eliminate dead space. Editing for podcasts is a more involved venture. Editing shapes a podcast into what it is - the structure, music, sound effects, and narration craft the arc of the episode. There are multiple ways to edit audio files.

Audacity is a free open-source editing software that can be used to edit audio files. It is easy to learn and has a depth of features. Learn more at T&I.

Other options include software like Premier Pro, Garage Band, or Adobe Audition. If you have a Davidson College account, you can learn more about how to use these programs from Linkedin Learning. You can also drop-in for assistance from the Media Consultants in Studio D in the Library Sunday - Thursday, 8pm to 11pm.


Why do we transcribe?

Oral historians transcribe interviews for a variety of reasons. Transcriptions are often easier for researchers to browse, they are smaller digital files so they are easier to store, and they act as an additional preservation copy of an interview. Transcriptions are also screen-reader friendly, making the interview more accessible.

How to transcribe:

Transcribing can be as simple as listening to the audio and writing what you hear. There are levels of detail that you might choose when transcribing - from jotting down main themes and timestamps to a full, polished written record of the audio file including interruptions, silences, or body language. One guide we often recommend is Baylor University's Style Guide.

Issues with transcription:

Often, aural and oral nuances are lost in the transcription process. While you can indicate a pause, silence, or emphasis using brackets in your transcriptions, these words mean different things to different readers. Be wary of assigning false meaning to your narrators’ words with these situational descriptors. When in doubt, it is best practice to provide your narrator with a copy of the transcription to review before putting your interview in an archives or publishing.

Questions? Need help? Ask Us
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