In order to complete the podcast assignment, you'll need to have some familiarity with two key technical moves (recording audio and editing audio) and two key "storytelling" moves (performing an interview and then creating a story through your editing). In this post we'll cover the technical tips.
There are basically two key tips here: 1) try to find a setting without too much ambient noise, and 2) get the microphone as close to the speaker as possible. Here is a useful YouTube video that offers some tips on using your phone to acquire high quality audio:
There are two great apps for this purpose: Audacity, if you are on a PC, and Garageband, if you are on a Mac. Both are easy to learn and offer you all the tools you need to edit a basic podcast (and more). For both of these apps, you can find extended training on Lynda.com, which you, as a Harvard student, can access for free. Here is the link to the Audacity course, and here is the link to the Garageband course.
If these lengthy courses are more than you need, you might try YouTube, where you can find shorter tips on editing podcasts with Audacity.
Or editing podcasts with Garageband:
Interviews (and other audio)
If your podcast is going to depend largely on sound you capture on location, you need to do your best to give your interview subjects the best possible shot at telling you their stories (and you need to think about capturing some of the "natural sound" you find at the location to help listeners understand the context). Here is a useful set of tips from the star of a popular NPR show and podcast:
Pulling it all together into a story
Once you've acquired all of your audio, you need to start thinking about how you are going to trim it, arrange it--maybe even how to enhance it with an additional voice-over you record yourself later on. The goal, ideally, will be for there to seem a necessary rather than random order to the pieces you select, for the elements to seem linked and patterned, and for the piece as a whole to "add up to something." Here is a great interview with Ira Glass from This American Life, where Glass outlines two key elements that will seem familiar to any listener of the show: the basic "anecdote" (or series of events) on the one hand, and the "moment of reflection" on the other: