Life History Interview and Oral Presentation
The purpose of the final assignment is for the student to demonstrate mastery in the
application of theoretical and empirical work relevant to the biological, cognitive, and
psychosocial development and functioning of the individual across the life course. Based on
a face-to-face interview with a person 70 years of age or older, the student will integrate
his/her knowledge of the course material by analyzing the subject’s development and
behavior across the life course. Students also will present their work in class.
The paper should contain 3 sections:
1) The narrative or story of the person’s life
2) A theoretical analysis of the person’s development and behavior
3) A personal reflection about the insights gained from the assignment
A supplemental reading will be distributed to assist you in understanding some of the
major socio-historical events and periods that your interviewee may have experienced:
Garthwait, C. (2007). A century in review: A decade-by-decade social and historical timeline.
In E.L. Csikai and B. Jones (Eds). Teaching resources for end-of-life and palliative
care courses (pp. 18-31). Chicago: Lyceum Books, Inc.
Selection of the Interviewee
Do not choose a family member, close friend of the family, someone well-known
to a close friend or colleague, or a USC instructor for this assignment. The
interviewee may be a neighbor, fellow church member, casual acquaintance, absolute
stranger, or anyone else who is 70 years of age or older and is willing to volunteer for
the interview. The interview must be face-to-face. Skype and other real-time, inperson online communication tools are permissible. While telephone contact is fine for
scheduling and follow-up communication, it is not permitted for the interview itself.
Asking the interview subject to return written responses to questions that you
mail/email/text also is not acceptable. It is critically important to establish trust with the
interview subject through both verbal and nonverbal communication in order to
facilitate the sharing of personal information. It also is important that you remember to
use a pseudonym in the paper to protect the confidentiality of your interview subject.
Contents of the Final Paper
1) The Narrative
For the first part of this assignment, introduce the interview subject and present the facts or
“story” of his/her life. The story can be told chronologically according to life stages (e.g., early
childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, adulthood, later adulthood; Erikson’s psychosocial
stages) or can be organized by categories of life experiences (e.g., significant relationships,
work/career, major accomplishments, etc).
To assist you in telling the client’s life “story” you may want to focus the interview on the
following domains of inquiry:
1. Significant life events and/or normative transitions (e.g., leaving home, becoming a
parent, job loss and/or career transitions, going off to war, marching in a civil rights
protest, a close other’s death, etc), and their influence on the person’s bio-psychosocial development and behavior
2. Significant relationships in various life stages, and the impact of those relationships.
3. Significant changes in biological/physiological/cognitive/emotional function and the
ways these have affected development and behavior.
4. Goals, values, beliefs that have been important to the person.
5. Successes and areas of pleasure, joy, and satisfaction.
6. Disappointments and areas of pain and distress.
7. Views of the aging process as a whole, views about what “getting older” means,
thoughts about what constitutes successful aging, ways he/she has coped with life’s
ups and downs
8. Reflections on how diversity-related factors, such as culture, gender, sexual
orientation, religion, etc., have affected the his/her life experiences
9. Plans for/views of the future
10. Biggest life lesson learned or piece of advice, personal motto
Sample Interview Questions: The following is a list of sample questions that you can use to
get the interview started, to probe for more information, to start a new topic of discussion, etc.
1. What is your earliest memory?
2. What were you like as a child?
3. What was your family like? Who did you “take after”?
4. What were your relationships with your parents and siblings like?
5. Who were the important people in your life? Tell me about them.
6. Did you experience any losses in childhood? Later in your life? How did you deal with
7. What important events did you experience in childhood, in your adolescence, in early
adulthood, in mid-adulthood, in late adulthood?
8. How did the neighborhood in which you grew up influence you?
9. Did you ever have to make a life-changing decision?
10. What has parenting been like for you?
11. Have you ever had any serious illnesses or injuries?
12. Have you been discriminated against or limited in your life chances because of
who you are?
13. Do you have a personal motto or philosophy by which you live your life? How did it
develop? Has it changed over your life course?
14. If you had a chance to live life over, would you? Why (why not?)
Things to keep in mind: Explain the purpose of the interview to the person, how it will be
used, and how confidentially will be guaranteed. Ethically, you also should let the person
know that you are a mandated reporter. Ask for a quiet and private place where you can
conduct the interview. Invite the person to choose his or her own pseudonym. Be an active
and courteous listener. Remember that the interview is not simply a question and answer
period, but rather a conversation about the person’s life. Many persons feel they benefit from
telling their own stories. They may share things, very sensitive things, in some cases, that
they have never before told to anyone. If this occurs, be empathetic, but remember your role:
you are a graduate student conducting an interview for a class, not a clinician conducting a
therapeutic session. Ask if the person is okay and if she/he wishes to continue. You can
always take a break or reschedule. It is not uncommon to have to meet 2 or 3 times with the
subject to complete the interview, so plan your time accordingly. Once the interview is
finished, be sure to thank the person for helping you with the assignment and for sharing
his/her life with you.
The narrative is worth 25 POINTS and should be approximately 3-4 pages.
2) Theoretical Analysis
The second section of the assignment is a critical theoretical analysis of the person’s life.
This is your opportunity to demonstrate an ability to critically utilize theory to derive a
theoretically-informed understanding of development and behavior across the life course. In
completing the analysis, make sure to do the following:
Incorporate at least 4 different theories from the course into your analysis. You must
include at least 1 theory related to adolescent or adult development (Units 10 and 11) and
1 theory related to social relations/social conflict (Units 12-14). Use sub-headings to
distinguish your discussion of each theory. Remember that theory attempts to explain why
people behave as they do. You must go beyond simply listing or identifying relevant
theoretical concepts. Your analysis should attempt to explain or make sense of patterns of
bio-psycho-social development and functioning in the person’s life. Select theories and
concepts that are most applicable to your interviewee’s life course. Support your analysis
with specific examples from the person’s life and scholarly source material.
Include at least 1 strength and 1 weaknesses of each theory for understanding your
interview subject. Support your claims with interview material and scholarly literature.
The critical analysis is worth 40 POINTS and should be approximately 8-10 pages.
3) Personal Reflection
The third section of the assignment is a reflection on personal and clinical insights gained
from the interview experience. What assumptions did you have coming into the interview and
how were those confirmed or disconfirmed? How did the interview experience affect your
personal view of older adults and the aging process? In what ways were you personally
changed or challenged as a result of having conducted the interview? In terms of your
development as a social worker, how has your understanding of clinical terms such as
“starting where the client is”, “self-determination”, “person-in-environment”, etc., changed?
What clinical or professional insights have you gained about the ways in which people
integrate and make meaning of their life experiences?
The personal reflection is worth 15 POINTS and should be approximately 1-2 pages.
Style and Format
The paper should be 14-16 pages in length (not counting the title page or reference list),
double-spaced, with 1-inch margins on all sides, 12-point font, a running header, and page
numbers. Use subheadings (in bold font) to organize your paper. Throughout the paper,
provide examples from the person’s life to illustrate your points, as well as conceptual and
empirical evidence to support your arguments. Reference a minimum of 10 scholarly works
(at least 3 of which must be sources that do not appear on the 506 syllabus; place these in
bold type). Avoid using direct, verbatim quotes from source material (except from the
interview). Please do not cite the asynchronous material, lecture notes, etc. Instead, rely
upon original sources of scholarly information. A scholarly source is one that is a direct result
of academic study or formal research by someone with subject matter expertise, typically
denoted by an advanced degree in the relevant field. If you are unsure as to whether a
source meets this criterion, consult your instructor. Use editorial and referencing styles as
specified in the latest APA Publication Manual (http://apastyle.apa.org/). Please note: The
HBSE textbook (ie, Robbins, Chatterjee, & Canda) will count as a one scholarly source
regardless of the number of chapters you cite.
Style and Format is worth 10 POINTS.
The title page should be formatted as follows:
Assignment 5: Life History Interview
Evaluation of your work
The evaluation of the paper will be based on whether you addressed all aspects of the assignment, the appropriate use of the theoretical concepts you have chosen, the strength of your analysis, the quality of your written work (graduate level writing, organization, flow, clarity, depth, mechanics, spelling, etc.), and the correct application of APA style.
Proofread your work and abide by the academic integrity guidelines. Students are strongly
encouraged to seek assistance from the Writing Center in proofreading and editing their work. It is expected that students will be responsible for submitting their own original work and properly citing the scholarly work of others that informed their ideas. If you study with other students, be conscious of shaping and writing your own paper. Please note: Turnitin automatically scans all papers upon submission to the platform. Students found to be in violation of the academic integrity guidelines may be referred for judicial review. The University’s guidelines on academic integrity for graduate students can be found at the following URL: http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/studentconduct/grad_ai.htm
The Life History paper is due by 11:59pm Pacific on the day of the Unit 15 live session.
Papers will be penalized 4 points for each day they are late.
Brief oral presentations will be done during the final 2 weeks of class. Presentation
format will be up to the individual instructor. Presentations should include major highlights of
the interviewee’s life narrative, key theory(ies) that best explain his/her behavior, as well as
personal and professional insights gained. Students should be creative and respectful in
sharing the life stories of their interview subjects.
The presentation is worth 10 points