The Basics

While the outcomes may differ, the foundation of interviewing and surveying are the same: We want to know how people live, what they see as their challenges and successes, and what they can tell us about the society in which we live. The answers to these questions require reaching out to people you know—and people you don’t know—for 1-on-1 conversations.

Assignment Requirements

  • While some interviews and surveys may be completed without an audio recording an attempt to record all interviews and surveys must be made—however, you must always ask to record an interview before you begin (i.e. “Do you mind if I record this call to make sure we have your responses logged accurately.”)

    • In Illinois, affirmative permission to record conversations.
    • In Ohio, only one party must consent to legally record a call but for transparency, we suggest telling a person if you are recording them for accuracy or if audio from the interview might be published.
  • Check in with a Documenters Field Coordinator for requirements on your assignment, including audio recordings


  • Prioritize equity and diversity in your outreach efforts. Consider people who may not be connected to reliable information networks and people who are not typically represented in mainstream public dialogue.
  • Be creative in your outreach efforts.

    • You may use your social media platform and friend/family networks to find relevant interview or survey sources.
    • You may also reach out to organizations that work specifically with individuals relevant to your assignment interview or survey (ex:
  • Be responsible in your outreach efforts.

    • Respect the time of your sources—if you say an interview will take 15 minutes, keep an eye on the clock.
    • Never press sources to provide more information than they are comfortable giving—consent is mandatory at all times in interview and survey assignments.
    • Be as transparent as possible about why you are talking to this person, as well as how and where their responses may be used.
  • Review your list of questions (provided for each assignment) closely before making contact with your interview or survey source.
  • Listen carefully throughout the entirety of the interview and ask follow-up questions to clarify or confirm key information. Better safe than sorry—it is easier to do this now than to have to make a correction later.


  • Review questions provided with your assignment
  • Prepare your recording device/app and find a quiet place to conduct your interview
  • Ask for permission to record each interview or survey
  • Ask each question listed for your assignment
  • File your submission form with written text (mandatory) and audio recording (if available)

Resources for Recording Your Interview or Survey

  1. Using an external recording device is the easiest and most efficient way to record in-person or phone/video interviews. This can be a handheld recorder or a secondary device such as a phone or tablet to record audio from your primary device.
  2. If you are conducting an interview via videochat, your videochat service may include a recording function. This option is not available for phone-based survey calls.
  3. Log into Google Voice (personal accounts are free) and adjust the settings to record incoming calls.
  4. If you create an account with a service like you can use it to record a phone call at any time.
  5. Apps for iPhone (check out Rev) and Android come at a variety of range of price points, including free! Here’s a good list of apps to start with if you’re looking for something downloadable to record your calls.
  6. If all else fails, City Bureau can provide free access to our Recordator phone recorder service. Due to capacity limitations we are only able to offer this option as a last resort. Use of Recordator will be approved by a Documenters Field Coordinator upon request. Use this form to request access to City Bureau’s Recordator no less than 3 hours before your interview or survey.

Know of a way to record your interview or survey that is not mentioned here? Let us know and we'll add to this list.