Firstly, the hopeful news (I hesistate to say ‘good’ when I’ve still got so far to go): with the exception of the conclusion, which I plan to write right at the very end, all the chapters of my thesis (and a couple more besides) are drafted! I’ve written everything I want to say - now I need to slim it down, totally rewrite some chapters and edit/rearrange som others. I just did my first ever word count of the whole lot, and I have 110,446 words - so that’s a whopping 30,446 to lose. So, what’s my plan from here on in?
One thing I’m probably going to do is get rid of my chapters on 1920s/30s/40s psychologists’ challenges to the only-child stereotype and Mass Observation completely. I might refer to a couple of things from them, but they don’t really add anything, distract the reader from my format of ‘here are the stereotypes, and here’s how people didn’t fit them’, and didn’t do massively well when I submitted them for supervisory boards. So that’s nearly 15,000 words lost immediately!
I need to totally overhaul my introduction and literature review. My introduction, written for my first board when I didn’t know much of anything, is woefully short and doesn’t in any way reflect what I’ve ended up doing. I suspect the literature review could do with some rearrangement, plus I’ve read a load of books since I wrote it that need to be added in.
A big thing I need to do is rewrite Part One, which sets out what the perceptions of only children were during my period, why they came about, and how widely they were disseminated. Again, I’ve found additional information I need to put in, and there are books on my ‘to read’ list that I need to read and add too, but I’m also thinking of rearranging it according to theme (isolation, social awkwardness, spoiltness and so on) rather than looking at the nineteenth and twentieth century beliefs separately. I might start from scratch on this, and put my notes into NVivo to help me code the themes and not miss anything. Psychological challenges and Mass Observation were originally in Part One, so I’m going to have to think about how to do the chapters so that there actually is more than one chapter in it.
Part Two, about only children’s actual experiences, is in less dire need of massive changes than Part One, but nonetheless, there is a lot of it, and I have corrections and clarifications to make, things to read and add in, and possible rearrangements. There are currently six chapters in Part Two: Personality (Introversion and Extraversion), Feelings, Feelings of Difference, Parent-Child Relationships, Spoiling and Strictness, and Extended Family and Friends. It’s been pointed out to me that some of the ‘Feelings of Difference’ material isn’t hugely only-child related, so I might just keep the things that are relevant from it and disperse them in other chapters. The chapters I wrote longer ago have more information about my control group of non-only children than is really necessary, so that can be pruned - although the same chapters also need more context about time, place, and class, so I could well end up putting a lot of words back in.
I can’t anticipate how long this is all going to take, but I don’t see myself needing to go into a write-up year. I don’t want to rush it, though - I’d rather have it as good as I can get it than hand in something ‘good enough’ on the first day I’m eligible to hand in - also, if I did that, I’d miss out on my last funding instalment! Editing and rewriting are probably my least favourite academic activities, as I just find them dull, quite frankly. I’m hoping that I can keep things lively with those books I need to read, and maybe writing an article or two. Planning what to write, and actually writing the first draft are probably my favourite things, so it’s kind of sad that I’ve now passed that stage! It’s going to be hard work, and despite reaching this milestone, the end is actually nowhere near in sight yet.
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