On designing an oral history search system

Iain Walker, Martin Halvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
144 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose - The aim of this research was to conduct a U.K. based assessment of oral history technology and to identify the most important features that should be available in any oral history search system.
Design/methodology/approach - A co-design approach involving interviews and focus groups was adopted. The Framework Approach with elements of grounded theory was used to analyse transcripts to identify themes.
Findings - Analysis found that ‘ethics, consent and control’, ‘accessibility and engagement’, ‘publicity and awareness’, and ‘innovative technologies’ were the four major themes identified. It was also established that there is limited understanding of oral history in the digital age, numerous interests, ethical concerns, lack of publicity and several key attributes that those designing an oral history search system or archive should strive for. Findings also identified that further exploration into sampling selected technologies on different user groups is required in order to develop software that would benefit the field.
Research limitations/implications – Participants were all recruited from one geographic region. The qualitative methodology utilised could be deemed to have elements of subjectivity.
Practical implications – This study has identifying important features of any oral history search system and offered design recommendations for any developer of an oral history search systems.
Originality/value - This research has validated some previous findings for oral history search systems from more limited user studies. New issues for consideration including usability, software development and marketing have also been identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1281-1298
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number6
Early online date9 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2017


  • design
  • information retrieval
  • information management
  • oral history
  • user studies
  • digital age


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