Board Deux: I forgot how to scholar

Had my second supervisory board yesterday.  Not as plain-sailing as the first one, but there weren’t any shocks either. 

Basically, my Mass Observation section structure didn’t work - which I knew already, and I did ask the board for advice on how to restructure it when I sent them the paper.  My main problem was that I was so overwhelmed by source material that I just threw everything I could find at the page and totally forgot that research questions were a thing.  Awful, I know, but I’ve thought up the questions now and feel pretty confident that I can restructure the chapter around them:

  • What did Mass Observation respondents in the 1949 Ideal Family Survey say about only children?

  • What was their reasoning behnd this?  How influenced do they appear to have been by literature on only children?

  • What did those with only children say on the topic?

  • What did those who were only children themselves say?

  • How does this compare with answers to the 1944 Family Survey?

  • What are possible explanations for the differences between the two surveys?

I’ve also stuck variants on these questions into the talk I’m doing tomorrow - which mercifully had a more sensical structure than my board paper!  The main thing I hate about restructuring is that I have to keep a close eye on my footnotes, in case a short one gets used before I’ve used the long one, or I get an ibid that’s not meant to be where it is.  Anyway, I’m holding off doing that for a while.  I want to keep on moving!

Specifically, I’m keeping moving with autobiographies and oral histories.  I feel a lot better now I’m just paying attention to the relevant parts of oral histories rather than transcribing loads of stuff I can’t imagine ever being relevant to what I’m doing.  I even came up with TONS of research questions to help me know what I’m looking for:

  • Parent/family questions.  What reasons did they give, if any, for their being an only child?  How did they get along with their parents?  Was one favoured over the other, and if so was it the parent of the same or opposite sex?  How did their parents get on with each other - was there a ‘triangle’?  Were their parents overprotective?  Pushy?  Were they eager to please their parents, or did they rebel?  Did their parents agree with their choices in life or try to/succeed in stopping them?  Did they describe themselves as spoilt?  In what way?  Did they have to look after their parents?  Did they use family connections in their professional lives?

  • **Childhood socialisation, friends and activities.  **Did they describe their childhoods as isolated or otherwise?  Was this related to class/where they lived?  Did they see much of their extended family?  What do they say about childhood friends - did they have many?  Did they have difficulty making them?  Did they express any regrets about not having brothers and sisters?  What kinds of activities did they favour as children?

  • **Gender.  **Did their parents involve them in activities traditionally associated with the opposite sex to make up for not having a child of that sex?  Were they friends with the opposite sex, completely cut off from them, or something else?  Were their interactions with the opposite sex awkward?

  • Health.  What do they say about their mental and physical health as a child/young adult?  Were their parents very concerned about their health?  Did they put any mental health problems down to being an only child?  Did they put any of their positive/negative characteristics down to being an only child?

  • Marriage**.  **Did they marry?  Did their parents agree with their choice?  Was it a good or bad marriage?  How many children did they have?

  • **Time.  **Were they ‘war babies’?  What was the effect, if any, of this?  How did the time they were born affect their lives?  How can only-child experiences be seen to change over time?  Were there times in childhood that they felt more isolated than others, for example, before starting school?

  • Class**.  **Did they experience social mobility?  Might this be a result of being an only child, for example, because their parents were able to invest more money in them, or send them to grammar or private school?

Lots of questions, but this is for the main part of the thesis.

Like with the last board, I took notes of the good things people said about me.  Again, it was largely that I write well and that my topic is interesting.  And I’m definitely getting upgraded to PhD, so yay for that.


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About Alice Violett

Reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK