Friday, 2 September 2016

Research: Baby Steps

After briefly considering starting up a blog purely about my research, then quickly forgetting postponing that until next year, I realised that I do actually want to write about what I am doing education-wise. This blog has become something of a Frankenstein's monster. It began as somewhere to write down my thoughts about studying with the OU and quickly ended up with me writing about the kids, and well, now it is just a mix of all things and I seem to be the friendly local blogger who attends events and reviews days out with the kids. There is nothing wrong with this of course, it's just that I think maybe eventually I might need a new space on the Internet to write solely about what I am doing with my research. So anyway, if you want to read about what I am up to research-wise then continue reading and if you'd rather see my silly bad photo-shop posts or guides to lazy parenting then I'm sure they will be along soon too!


So I am in my second year of my MA in Twentieth Century History. I did it part time, hence the two years. If I had the chance, I would have loved to have done this full time, but with work and three kids, it was always going to be impossible. Part time is fine and it does mean that I get a bit more planning/reading time across the two years, which can only be a good thing. Last year I covered most of the twentieth century, so right from World War One to the end of the Cold War, 9/11 and globalisation. It was a lot of material, but I wrote a few decent essays with merits (the distinction eludes me for now by about two marks, but I hope to rectify this soon.) So I have chosen my modules and this summer I set to thinking about my dissertation and PhD application. Strangely, it is the PhD application that requires the most attention at this point - the deadline for that is months before the dissertation is due in. The PhD application is obviously to try and secure funding for the duration of the doctorate. You've got to be in it to win it. etc.


I have always enjoyed research. I am a bit of a nerd and once I get hooked on something that's it - I want to know everything about it and analyse it every which way until I am quite the expert at it. I set high standards for myself and this is no exception. Sounds like I torture myself, but I don't - I really love what I do.


So the dissertation is 15,000 words. This sounds like a lot, but I am not too frightened of this. My aim is to write a dissertation closely related to my PhD and something I can build on with future research. I am hoping to write something that is actually publishable. Maybe I am aiming a bit too high as a very "junior" researcher at the moment, but as I said, I aim high.

The Idea

At a time of high unemployment, de-industrialisation in Merseyside, inadequate social housing and general unrest a socialist feminist newspaper was published. Big Flame was sold outside factory gates and proclaimed to be "Merseyside's Rank and File Newspaper." The newspaper wrote about key issues affecting the working class people. The Big Flame newspaper eventually became a radical fringe protest group with various commissions organised as a revolutionary movement. They were involved in a number of high profile protests such as the Kirkby Rent Strike in 1972 and organised day schools and summer schools to recruit and educate members. I am interested in what the group did, how they functioned, how they fit in to the broader history of the left. By 1975 they were a national group with small pockets up and down the country, involved in many struggles and initiatives,
For my dissertation I want to examine the role of women within the group. Who were they? What impact did they have? What were the male/female dynamics within the group? What are their legacies? The paper I write will then feed in to the overall study of the whole Big Flame group.

Baby Steps

I am not a seasoned researcher, although, I know I'm blowing my own trumpet  I am actually pretty good at it. I'm not the best writer in the world, but I enjoy sitting for hours poring over old papers, trying to find the missing link, trying to delve. I read very quickly and can pick out details and I try to use them in the best context! At the same time, I am taking baby steps. I'm not the most confident person, but I know what I want.


I always knew that I would love the archives. I know I sound a bit bonkers, but I've been looking forward to searching through archives for years. I never really got the chance as an undergraduate and now I have it all here at my finger tips. As I have picked a local project (for now!) there is a lot of archival material available local to me. Here are some that I have already visited:

Salford Working Class Movement Library

This library contains many leaflets, pamphlets and minutes for me to examine.

Liverpool Records Office

This is located in Central Library in Liverpool so it is a lovely building to study in. This archive has almost all of the Big Flame newspapers, so I think I will be spending a lot of time here in the near future.

Kirkby ARK 

This is the library on my doorstep. This archive contains all of the council minutes from 1972-1974 and this covered the Kirkby Rent Strike. I loved flicking through this - I live in Kirkby so it is even more interesting to me.

I have a lot more archives on my list - just in the North for now, but I am aware that there is a lot more material up and down he country - mainly in London. I am sure I will make the trip soon enough, especially if I could get cheap train tickets - that would be ideal.

This Summer

To be honest I have not used my summer as well as I would have liked. I wanted to get a load of secondary reading done, but for whatever reason I didn't get that much done. Things have been hectic with the kids being off school and we have not stopped. I think the main thing is that I have consolidated what I know about the group, I've pin-pointed where I need to go to find the information I need and I have a skeleton draft (in my head for now!) of what I want to write about and what my funding application will look like.

New Academic Year

I start back at uni in about four weeks. The kids are back in school next week so I still have some time to get some more secondary reading in. I'm excited for the new semester and looking forward to getting stuck in.

So that's it really, research-wise. As I said, I am taking baby steps.



  1. Since I decided to go back to uni and came across your blog, it has somehow reassured me that i can do this with 2 kids(3 and 1) and another on the way due december - i think i am bonkers doing this. Anyways, thanks for your write ups


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