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Topic Preparation
Interview Resources
Character Sketch
Interview Tips:

Preparation for Topic Information:

Establish TAP: Topic, Audience, Purpose

FACTS: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How

1. Choose a topic on which to report.

2. What do you need to know to understand the information?

3. What do you already know about the topic? Be complete.

Reporter Trick: On another sheet of paper, start to write your report. As you write, on another sheet of paper, write questions that come to mind: things you do not know or understand about the topic. You will need to know: Who, what, when, where, why, how.

4. Think of people who know something about the topic. List names of people you could interview.

5. What do you think the people you will interview already know?


What they know:

6. What do you need to know? Make an ordered list of your questions and include your introduction to the person. Your introduction should include: what your topic is; why you are wondering about it; asking them to help you.

REMEMBER TO ASK PRECISE, CLEAR QUESTIONS THAT CANNOT BE ANSWERED WITH A YES OR NO &emdash;&emdash;questions you think your interviewee can answer that will help you complete your project.


Preparation for Interview

7. These sections in your Write Source 2000 will help you:

  • 405-407(interview)
  • 402-404 (listening)
  • 273-4 (take notes)
  • 171-177(news story)
  • 159-162 (character sketch)
  • 310 (thinking moves)
  • 178-179 (editorial)
  • Look up other information as you need.

Interview Tips

Before the interview:

  • Think of questions about your topic. Put each one on a note card (273).
  • Make sure the questions cannot be answered with "yes" or "no."
  • Contact the person at school, in person, or via a note:
"Hello. I am __________. I am writing a story (or report) about ___________. Could you help me by answering a few questions? Some of my questions are ...(say questions if talking by phone or provide a list). When would be a good day for you, _____ or _________ ? About what time, ____ or ____?
(If they have already stated a time, use that time.)
Thank you. I will see you on _______ at ______."
  • Practice your questions.
  • Practice taking notes.
  • Practice with a tape-recorder, if you are using one.
  • If you are going with a partner, decide who will interview, and who will take notes.
  • Practice.

Remember to look for:

  • dialogue, facts, good detail and descriptions in interviewee's answer
  • descriptions of the interviewee--how will you describe him/her/them?

At the interview

  • Introduce yourself and thank the person.
  • Take notes or tape-record the interview (ask permission).
  • Ask your questions--good questions get good answers.
  • LISTEN to the answers carefully--you may think of other questions; good questions mean your interviewee will do most of the talking, which is what you want.
  • Silently encourage your interviewee (nod head, say "um-hmm", "yes", "oh", etc.)
  • Let the person talk; do not interrupt unless you must.


  • If you wonder about spelling, circle the word and go back later to ask for correct spelling.
  • If you think of another question, put a ? in the margin and ask it later.
  • If you don't get all the facts, draw a circle for missing info and ask later.
  • Before you leave, go over your notes to make sure you understand everything (see above tip).
  • Thank your interviewee and offer to show the person a copy of your finished work at a later date.

After the interview

  • Go by yourself to write like crazy about everything you remember.
  • Remember to write about:

    • dialogue (a quote or two), facts, good detail in answers, character descriptions



  • Double-check any facts of information with the interviewee to make sure you have the correct information.
  • Be ready by deadline


Writing and Revising (TAP: Topic, Audience, Purpose)

  • Write an interesting story from your notes so others will completely understand the issue/topic/history about which you are writing.
  • Capture the excitement.
  • Keep things in order.
  • Add, cut, rearrange.
  • Revise for powerful descriptions. Remember to use vivid verbs and precise nouns.
    • Whisper is stronger than talks quietly.
    • Tip-toe is stronger than walks carefully and quietly.
    • Poodle is stronger than dog.
  • Keep to the FACTS: who, what, where, when, why, how


Optional:Character Sketch

(Write Source 2000 #159)

Bring the person to life by describing the person both physically and personally. Physical descriptions tell about the person's appearance, their surroundings, the background --the room, the noise, the people.(Write Source 2000 #160)

Personality descriptions tell your observations about the person's beliefs, feelings, attitudes. You must describe the person so the reader can visualize the person (Write Source 2000 #161).

Another aspect of a character sketch is how other people feel--and how you feel about the person (Write Source 2000 #162).