PhD funding: The Result

An email fell into my email box yesterday.

You know… that gives the wrong impression. Like I didn’t care if it arrived, like I wasn’t eagerly watching for it. Like I hadn’t spent the entire previous 28 hours watching for it.

Wednesday and Thursday of this week proved to be agonising. For one reason or another, I’d gotten the date wrong for the result – I thought it was Wednesday, turned out to be Thursday. Feeling of total doom and conviction all day Wednesday that the answer was going to be NO led to tears and upset on Wednesday evening as I reached out to someone to find out that the correct date was the following day. I consoled and medicated myself with Ben and Jerry’s and snuggles with my partner. And on Thursday morning I decided, after a day of agonisingly, continually hitting the refresh button on my email, to approach it differently.

I got on with stuff. Went to the doctors, picked up a routine medication prescription, took it to the pharmacist to get it filled, went to the shops to get food for dinner. Went home. Did some prep work for the next project. Refused to look at my phone except every hour, on the hour. Ran a bath, and went downstairs to get my lunch (a salad). Came back up.. and there it was.

sitting my email inbox. blinking. The email that would control the rest of my career.

I took a deep breath, a very deep breath, and opened it.

The first line revealed the result, no, the second WORD revealed the result. ‘pleased’. Funny how the pleasantries and manners of official documents like this reveal results far more than words like ‘offer’ and ‘successful’ and ‘congratulations’. No, my brain fixed on ‘pleased’.

A moment where the world went still, and I tried to take in the enormity of it. What it meant, how my life would change. Totally failing in that, but still struggling to deal. Tears pouring down my cheeks. A moment where I hugged it to myself, tight, a precious jewel of knowledge that … just for a moment, I didn’t want to share with anyone else, not even my nearest and dearest.

And then it began: notifying people. Family. friends. Facebook. My email went crazy. Social Media went crazy. Invites out to celebrate (which I couldn’t take up as I had my final MA class). Congratulations. Well dones. Sending emails to say thank you to those people who had helped with advice, with support.

And ‘pleased’. Yes. I’m pleased. I’m happy. I’m overjoyed!

And overwhelmed.

((and truth be told, just a little bit scared.))

PhD funding: the emotions involved in applying

One thing that occurred to me earlier today is that I’ve not written anything much on the PhD funding application process that I’m going through now. With just a month left (more or less) before the final result comes through, I want to get some thoughts down before the results are known.

I’m not going to specify exactly which funding I applied for – it is from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and similar funding is available for arts and humanities students throughout most of the UK, with similar application procedures, so exactly which it is is not really relevant. This kind of funding is generally very sought after. There were over 500 applicants last year for 78 places for the one I applied for, making odds of slightly worse than 1 in 6. There is a complex, but not lengthy application form, and some universities/departments will also interview you. For mine, the application process opened in October, the application forms had to be handed in in early January, and the university interviewed a week later. The results come through on March 23rd, so the whole thing takes around six months or so.

It is not an easy process. Sure, some of the form is straightforward, with basic details like name, qualifications, etc. But the rest concerned searching questions about what I wanted to study and why… And not a great deal of space to answer it in (indeed, condensing the information that they need into the character space allowed is a skill worth learning: it will come up again and again). I got some help from the uni, from my potential supervisors (actually, constant advice and support from them, which I am so incredibly grateful for) and from various other people. I got to a point where I felt I was happy with my application, then sent it out to everyone that I knew who was working at PhD level or above. And I do mean everyone. From the head of school down to people who had succeeded in obtaining the same funding a year or two earlier, from general history people through to people working solidly in my proposed research area. I asked for feedback on what I had written, and suggestions for what they thought might be missing, what else needed to be included. Some advice I rejected, but certainly where the same advice was given by more than one person, I listened, and where necessary, amended the application. I think – no, I’m sure – that that process made for a stronger, better application.

The other thing I did, right from the beginning, was to talk to people, particularly people who knew something about the funding. What the assessors were looking for, how they wanted projects to appear, what they wanted them to include, the best way to approach certain elements of the project. I went to the workshop where the organisers told us in very specific terms what the assessors wanted. And then I sat down and thought about how to give that to them within the confines of what I was already proposing to study. That’s actually good practice anyway, especially if you want to go into academia, as the process of applying for post doc funding involves much the same idea: of making sure your proposal fits in with what they want – only post doc demands can be far more stringent than they are at this stage.

Once I’d worked through the feedback, I continued to tighten the proposal up. Your prospective supervisors are (or at least, should be) essential at this stage, in helping you to firm up your research questions, to think about how the proposed project fits into the existing literature, how it answers the ‘so what’? question. I found out afterwards that one of my interviewers was infamous for asking ‘why should I care about this’ to people (And certainly someone else I know got a bit of a grilling): I didn’t get that question, which leads me to think that my proposal had sufficiently answered that to begin with.

The interview itself lasted about half an hour. I tried to prepare for it by anticipating some of the questions that they might ask. I had all kinds of stuff written down. Don’t depend on it though – it didn’t take them long to realise I was leaning on my notes and would quickly ask me a follow up question when I looked down to make sure I’d covered everything I wanted to, to force me away from the notes, and to see how much I actually really knew, how much I was prepared to think on my feet, how much I was prepared to answer quickly, and to have the courage of my convictions. Having the confidence to discuss your ideas and say what you think seemed to be very important to them. Sitting there in silence and absorbing like a sponge is fine at undergrad level (If frustrating for your teachers); it won’t cut it at doctoral level. In fact, one person told me after the interview that she had heard that there were a few people who were unable to articulate their ideas in person – they were able to write it down, but not to have the confidence to verbally speak up, and those people, the assessors quickly weeded out.

I also took advantage of the ‘do you have any questions for us?’. That isn’t just a politeness. Use it to show that you’ve really thought about the next three years. One question was to do with the process, which I hadn’t been able to find the answer anywhere (that’s important: do your research. If you ask a question where the answer is on their website’s front page, then it makes you look lazy or idiotic, and that’s never good). The other two questions I asked were… well. Lets just say that they were designed to be thought provoking but also to actually pick their brains in a way that I can take that knowledge forward and act on it should I get a ‘yes’ on March 23rd.

And now? Well, I was told that I was put through to the final stage, which is an assessment of all the applications (including references and notes from the interviewers) from the entire region, so covering six universities. This is the final stage, the final yes/no. I am told that they meet to decide on the 78 who are going through, and on those who make it onto a waiting list, to be offered a place if one of the 78 should drop out. And then the emails go out on a specific date at the end of March with the final decision: yes, waiting list or the dreaded ‘sorry, but…’ email.

I have started to look into alternatives, in case of a ‘no’. It is also important – and something I will be doing over the next few weeks – to shore up my mental health in case of a no. It’s important for me to recognise that a ‘no’ doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of my application or my work or ME – with so many good applications from a range of really smart people, who work hard and are potentially excellent doctoral students, the assessors have to choose on the basis of what projects are most likely to succeed, to produce something that will really advance the field, and people that they feel are most likely to finish the PhD and to continue on to work in academia. Shoring up the mental health, bracing the barriers, means not allowing a ‘no’ to affect my self-confidence. And then, too, I have to lay down other plans. What do I want to do if I get a ‘no’? Give up? That’d be daft. So I’m looking for other funding, other projects, considering alternatives. Being smart, in other words.

There is nothing I can do at this point to affect the outcome and for that reason, I’m trying to put it out of my mind, and not worry too much about it. I do feel very ambivalent – when I do think about it, I go through stages of ‘oh god, I’m never going to get in’, through to ‘don’t be daft, woman, you stand as good a chance as anyone else’ to ‘mmm. might make the waiting list’. There’s a lot of ‘if I get the funding…’ being said at the moment, in terms of the next year; it’s making me feel unsettled. I don’t know where I will be in the next six months, the next year, what I will be doing. I’m unable to make plans. Even something as simple as ‘I want to save to get the spare room painted’ becomes ‘if…’ when you’re going through this process. And that has substantial knock-on effects in to every other area of your life.

The next few weeks are going to drag; but at the same time, I don’t want them to end. All the while the answer has not come back, there is hope. My dream is still alive. Once it is known, I have to deal with it as it is. Surprising as it may seem, even a ‘yes’ is not necessarily longed for: yes, the opportunity is longed for, but if I get a yes, while I will be celebrating, absolutely celebrating, there will also be a large part of me that is going ‘Oh shit. Now I have to deliver’.

Ambivalence indeed.

In the excitement of a ‘yes’, the despondency of a ‘no’, or the frustration of a ‘maybe’, these ambivalent emotions are often forgotten, at least until the next time one applies for funding, and then they are remembered. I think it’s important to note them, to understand that they’re normal, that the scariness of a yes, the confidence-blow of a no … all these are normal emotions. It’s important to know how to deal with them, how to celebrate or comisserate, sure, but once the celebration/commisseration is over, to re-orientate yourself and continue on down the path that you’ve laid out. Investing everything into one option, and then panicking when it doesn’t materialise serves no-one well, and the smart prospective academic would do well to remember that, and to plan accordingly.

Catch up and plans

I blinked… and suddenly, it’s January.

Last I knew I was giving a paper at a conference, and then it was a case of … well, head down, and keep on charging through. I didn’t really get time to think, let alone think about writing here. I have missed it though, which is why I’m back here today: things have cleared enough that I’m no longer impersonating a bull determined to get through that red cloak if it kills him, and I can put my head up and breathe…. and think, reflect. Continue reading

immersed in the archives

I spent last week immersed in the archives in Hereford, and I had a great time while I was down there. I am lucky enough that my mother lives nearby so I at least have somewhere to crash; this makes doing this research vastly easier. I went there with three aims:

  1. to check out the sources for my proposed PhD subject, to ensure that there are enough sources for me to study what I plan to study, and what kind of sources there are;
  2. to look at (and photograph) some of the sources for my planned MA dissertation;
  3. to look at (and photograph) some of the sources for an article I’ve got in mind.

But before I get into that, I want to spend a little bit of time writing about Herefordshire Record Office. It’s a great place to work! They’ve recently moved into a new, purpose-built building (with a coffee machine that absolutely rocks!) that is… well. Don’t take my word for it.. !

Record Office Main working Room

Record Office Main working Room

The main working room is lovely and bright – behind me, the room extends a little bit further, and since someone there needed the blinds drawn, it has made the area around where I’m standing, holding the camera, a bit dark. But otherwise, it’s lovely – certainly more than enough natural light to take photographs without a flash on a good digital camera. The building also has good toilets, smaller meeting rooms, a display area, and best of all… a mixed reception and small area where you can sit to eat your packed lunch or sip coffee from the aforementioned machine!

Reception/lunch area

Reception/lunch area

Outside is just as nice, a modernist building but I think those wooden tiles are going to colour beautifully, shading to a lovely silvery colour – they’re already on their way. The archivists are so fortunate to be working there – I know other record offices around the country are really struggling with space and with their working environments, not just for themselves, but for the people that visit their offices. I wish more record offices were able to have similar working conditions – hopefully one day. But in the meantime, its to HRO’s credit that they DO have these lovely offices, and I for one will be taking as much advantage as I can!

The outside of the building

The outside of the building

But onto my work. I left home Wednesday morning, and after a quick pub lunch, got there early enough to fit in about 3 hour’s work. They were immensely helpful and I was able to quickly assess what kind of records they have there. More importantly, I was able to assess that the methodology that I have in mind should work too, hopefully! I won’t know for sure until I actually try it and I don’t have time for that at the moment, what with my MA studies about to kick off again. But it is good news.

Thursday I was there all day, working on the second of my three aims, copying material for my MA dissertation. This is very much linked to my PhD proposal, in that its covering similar material (the MA, of course, being much smaller than the PhD) but since the MA gives me an ‘in’, it’s a way to get used to handling material that is notorious for being difficult to read and transcribe – namely church court records & depositions. Some of what I copied was in Latin, but I was able to make out enough to work out which records out of the stack were to do with my subject, I think, so I only copied those. I came home with a phone that was almost full of data and had to upload everything to dropbox that evening, hammering my mother’s internet connection in the process!

Depositions to the courts - basically witness statements. I had to copy one of these bundles, and it took me the best part of a couple of hours. Ouch!

Depositions to the courts – basically witness statements. I had to copy one of these bundles, and it took me the best part of a couple of hours. Ouch!

Friday I went with my mother to Brampton Bryan. Herefordshire Victoria County History had arranged a fantastic afternoon there, with two talks, one by Professor Timothy Mawl on eighteenth century garden design in Herefordshire, and the other by Dr. Jane Bradney on the Historic Gardens at Brampton. Both really interesting talks, then we got to see the castle and grounds at Brampton, in what is now a private home, so this was a real treat. I was also fortunate enough to meet some of the people who do a lot of work on local history in Herefordshire. The day was really good, although tiring, and I slept really well that evening. Many thanks to the people who organised the day!

Brampton Bryan Castle, ruined during the Civil War

Brampton Bryan Castle, ruined during the Civil War

Saturday I was back into the archives, researching the working woman in the seventeenth century in Herefordshire. My most productive foray that afternoon seemed to be in weights and measures – these are the records of people who have been flagged up for arrest as selling items with incorrect weights or measures (a form of scam), and since there are women’s names on the list, it shows that women were working in that period. I did a lot of photographing, so after this, I need to transcribe the names and then start doing further work from there, but still, it is a starting point.

My working space at the record office

My working space at the record office

What became very clear over the last week is that I am going to be spending a lot of time in the record office over the next year or so, if not the next 4 years! It’s probably a good thing I DO like it there, and that I have access to a readily available bed. In some ways being a historian is a bit like being in the armed forces. There, the oft-quoted quote is: “long periods of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror”. For historians, it’s “long periods of nose-to-the-grindstone, not seeming to achieve too much, punctuated by moments of sheer exhilaration, excitement, and joy”. I think the latter is better, personally, even if it does mean the next few weeks will see long periods of nose-to-the-grindstone…!

Jackanapes to historical self-awareness

I’ve mainly been wading through a book by David Cressy, Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England: Tales of Discord and Dissension (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000), which covers a range of case studies, including the fantastic tale of a woman who gave birth to a cat. If you want to know more you’ll have to read it yourself, but it’s a great book, which touches on my research interests in a number of places. At the moment I’m reading a chapter on the language that was used by the laity towards the clergy – usually because the person was cross with the clergyman, for a number of reasons. Such incidents, where clergymen were told they were a ‘scurvy rascal knave!’ or a ‘jackanapes’, or even compared to an ‘ass’ (as in donkey, rather than the current equivalent of a backside, all found on page 138 of his book), could be very upsetting to the clergyman concerned, undermining his authority and it could mean that the person spitting the insults was taken to court (the church courts), which is how the records of these incidents have survived.

I was reading this in the bath (I do my best reading in the bath – I just read, obviously you can’t take notes, and that frees up the process, I think. Churchill did the same – working in the bath, that is) and as I put the book down I got to thinking. We are all products of our time. There is a school of thought in History which says that it is impossible for us to truly understand the past, as we are not of their time, but of ours, and which is why we study History, and not the past. I see the world – and the past – differently to how my mother sees it, and differently to how her mother saw it.. and so on. But it isn’t even a generational thing – someone just 5 years younger than me will see the world differently – have largely grown up with the internet, with mobile phones, whereas someone older than me will remember, even more clearly than I do, a time without those things.

The world has changed a great deal in the last 15 years. 9/11 had a massive impact. Terrorism, which in the UK, at least, seemed to have gone away (since the Irish question had been… well, not sorted out, but at least the various sides were no longer resorting to terror to solve it), surged back into people’s awareness. I remember, vividly, in the pre 9/11 years, working with someone who was Muslim, asking her questions about Islam, with no sense of worrying that she, or her family, might be extremist. It never crossed my mind at all. I just learned, and when I was asked if I would consider marrying into her family, I took it as the compliment it was intended (although I said no). The rise of al-Quaeda, and then of ISIS, is shaping a whole new generation of historians. I grew up with the threat of IRA bombings in my life. It never changed what I did, I never came close to them, but it was still a presence. Just going to the museum, having your bags searched. Things like that. I went to a boarding school – with children from all over the country – including 2 from Northern Ireland. One Catholic, one Protestant. And I learned, from them, about the enmity of the two groups for each other. I experienced – at a remove – that dichotomy, and it shaped my understanding, as an adult, of history. Where I differ, I think, from those who are growing up now, who experience the terrorism of ISIS, of other extremist Islamic groups, is that I saw – rightly or wrongly – that what was going on in Northern Ireland, and to a certain extent in the UK, as a war that we were caught in the middle of, waging war on the innocent, yes, but also with each other, and the British Government. Both sides were resorting to this. It didn’t make it okay, but it was different to what is going on now. With ISIS, with what is going on with the attacks in France.. there is only one side, them, waging war on the innocent. Sure, there were extremist Muslims in the seventies, and I remember the fatwah against Rushdie, but it didn’t register on my radar in the same way as the Irish terrorism did.

My time, as it were, has turned me into someone who sees ‘sides’, polarity, dichotomy, very readily. I don’t think its any co-incidence that I’m studying relationships – dichotomy again – or religion, and how people have experienced it. Will someone growing up now, see the Reformation differently? As a group of extremists – early Protestants – doing all in their power, to force the masses to worship the way that they wish? They wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, just different. This is why in studying History, we study not only the facts of the past, which are relatively straightforward – e.g. Henry VIII died in January 1547 – but also the shifting theories, the shifting histories. Never mind ‘Who do you think you are’ … ‘WHEN Do you think you are’ becomes important too. It shapes your thinking, and that self-awareness is critical when developing a history. For that reason, I think, all historians should have an awareness of modern history, at least as it pertains to their own lifetime. The idea that scholars can live, oblivously, in an ivory tower, has long gone. And good riddance too.

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A quick catch up on the last few weeks…. they have been busy. Unfortunately, not so busy with my studies! Between housework (or work to do with the house, to be more accurate), home admin stuff (the car needs MOTing, for example), other admin, work that I’m doing for Leicestershire Victoria County History – and voluntary research for Charnwood Roots… I have done my own work but not so very much of it. This will be changing though – next week, I will be heading into the archives in Hereford and I am thoroughly looking forward to it!

… daily PhD?

… maybe not. Not so sure that particular style is working for me – as evidenced by the lack of daily posts. There is only so much one can say about reading articles after all (I may as well post my notes), and I suspect at this point that won’t change until the second year of PhD studies.

Quite how this is going to shift, I don’t know. But it is a young blog, and blogs often take a while to find their feet, to settle down into their style. I’m not too concerned about that. Maybe a weekly post would work better. Let’s try it, for now:

Monday morning was primarily spent away from my studies, catching up with a few necessities like food shopping and so on. I still have to eat! I spent the afternoon working through a few ideas for increasing the social media use and engagement of a project that I’m going to be working on, in preparation for a meeting on friday. I started to read through an article, but had to leave to collect my partner from the station before I could finish it, unfortunately. In that respect, its a forced ending to my day – 6.15pm or so, is when I more or less have to down tools. I can’t decide whether that’s a blessing or not – I suspect it both is, and isn’t.

Tuesday… Tuesday was amazingly productive actually. Every single thing on my to-do list was crossed off, plus some additionals, making for a very positive end of the day. I finished reading, and making notes on, the article from Monday. I use the Cornell notes method at the moment, which helps a lot in terms of not only getting it straight in my head what the article is about (active, rather than passive reading), but also helps me to relate the material to my own research topic. Then I made some rough notes, starting to draw together the plan for the lit review, starting to think about how to frame and position various historians and theories with relation to my research topic.

I got quite a few emails done as well, in a veritable blizzard of productivity. Some of these I had been putting off for too long, but they got back to me fairly quickly, and they turned out to be relatively painless. I did a little housework (such as the ever-eternal washing up!) and prepared for a trip to the Record Office in Wigston, on Wednesday.

Wednesday… the planned trip to the record office. I’m doing a little voluntary work as part of the Charnwood Roots Project, where I’m researching the history of stage coaches and small carriers in parishes in the Charnwood Forest area (to the North West of Leicester). I’m well overdue in doing work on this, but I’ve been looking forward to it for a while, so … time to knuckle down. I managed to make serious inroads on the trade directories, which I think will be the main source for this project, starting from 1794 and I managed to get to 1849. It seems that although the stage coaches died fairly quickly after the introduction of the railways, the small carriers, going between the parishes and the towns, survived much longer – serving the equivalent of the rural bus network today. It will be interesting to trace the services for each parish, see how much continuity there was. I’ve already seen that with coach builders, there was a continuing trade from one particular street in Leicester, for example, although the actual business changed hands at least once. I suspect, that for parishes where the same person/family did this role for decades, they would have been seen as of key importance to the parish, like the parish clergyman or school teacher – if they weren’t disreputable in other ways. I have found evidence in local newspapers, later on (latter part of the 19th Century) that the carriers sometimes had a relationship with alcohol that was, well, lets describe it as less than healthy! Anyway, I’ve scanned/photographed the relevant pages with my phone and camscanner (more about that in another post), so what needs to be done now is a) extracting the relevant information out of the trade directories into parish format, and b) organising the photographs so that they’re ready for turning over to the wider Charnwood Roots project, ready for someone else to incorporate as part of the parish histories. So that will be a day or two’s worth work – probably starting next week.

One thing that I should really note is how good it felt to get into the record office and back into primary sources. I reflected on this in a comment on this post, by someone else who is doing a DailyPhD style blog, although in the sciences rather than the humanities like me. Stewart commented on how he got ‘far too excited’ because he was doing real science (for a change, rather than other stuff) and it immediately struck home for me, because I felt the same way in the record office. Nothing quite like the smell of a record office in the morning… (!) but in all seriousness, I think most people who work as serious historians will recognise what I mean: the excitement that comes when handling old documents, primary sources, of figuring out how to make them relate to your theory, of the implications of them… For me, however, there’s the ‘ding’ moment when you find a document or something that completes the puzzle, makes your theory work, makes you understand something that you were trying to work out… how it contributes to the ding isn’t so important, but the ‘ding’ moment is this moment of incredible clarity where the world, just a little bit, a tiny little bit, suddenly makes sense, or more sense than it did before, and I just feel on cloud nine when I get that. I don’t know whether other historians feel the same way – its not something that I think most people would feel comfortable discussing!

Anyway, back to the week’s review. Thursday, I uploaded the photographs and PDFs (of the trade directories) from my phone to my laptop, so they’re in a better format for working with next week. This was easier said than done as previously I had done this on a one-by-one basis – not suitable when you’re dealing with several hundred photos! So I had to research, investigate and download a suitable app for downloading large amounts of material, and finally found one, then had to sort them out – what with one thing and another that took most of the afternoon. I also did some final preparation for Friday’s meeting, then rounded off the day with a little reading of an edited book.

The meeting on Friday went well – that was discussing a new job that I will be doing, very part time, working as a social media officer for the Leicestershire Victoria County History project. This is something I’m looking forward to getting involved with – even did a little work on it on Friday afternoon and was very happy to see results immediately, so that’s good news. I’m also hoping to put in for another part time job doing research – it all looks good on the CV and its something I enjoy doing, so why not?

Next week: More work on the social media project, applying for that other research role, more work on Charnwood Roots, starting to pull together that Lit Review, more reading, and more research work in the record office – can’t wait for that day, at least! My mother is dropping by for a cup of tea tomorrow, on the way past, so it will be good to see her too 🙂

finding patterns in the literature

A key part of the PhD proposal – ANY PhD proposal, for that matter – is the literature review. This is where the proposer explains what has been done already, and how what they propose to do fits in with that. It’s a way of showing that they’re not repeating what has already been done (which is pretty pointless) and goes some way towards answering the ‘so what?’ question, which every PhD proposal (and thesis) has to answer. In a nutshell – Why should we care? Why is this important to the wider world, not to just a bunch of wierd academics who like examining these things in minute detail!

In the case of the PhD proposal, the lit review isn’t large – the section that deals with it suggests that it should contain around 200 words, which is – for a humanities student – miniscule. The corresponding section on the eventual PhD thesis would be around 5,000 words or so. Big difference between the two! The amount of reading that I need to do for a lit review directly corresponds to the word count – there’s no point in reading 20,000 books and articles for 200 words. At the same time, it is critically important that I am able to demonstrate an awareness of the key texts, terminology, concepts and debates in my chosen field, and that requires a certain amount of reading. A balance, therefore, is required, and finding that balance, determining it, is the difficult point.

Part of it has to begin with defining the field, thinking carefully about the boundaries of it and exactly what I am going to be studying. This is much easier said than done. I can say that I want to study relationships between the clergy and his parishioners in Herefordshire in the early modern period, which is good, as it defines the boundaries in terms of geographical place and in terms of time (1500-1700 or so, although this will need to be majorly tightened up on). Right now the woolly bit is that term, ‘relationships’. Defining relationships is tricky – and moreover, will be largely determined by how much source material there is available on the subject.

More than that though, at the moment, my mind is engaged in trying to establish patterns between the different secondary texts that I am reading at present. One way of doing this is very well described by The Thesis Whisperer, in ‘five ways to tame the literature review‘. The time aspect of this is really covered by the traditional-revisionist-postrevisionist perspective – I just need to figure out what those different positions would be saying about clergy-parshioner relationships, and more to the point, who is saying them. There’s also different types of issues that can crop up between a clergyman and his parishioners – the economic types (usually over tithes, enclosure, that sort of thing), social (for example, later on, clergy begin to take the role of magistrates and that brings a whole host of issues into play), religious (from the godly disliking priests, through to issues over vestments, communion tables, wives, – the potential issues in this area are never-ending) and moral (money, behaviour, etc.). There’s different ways of seeing the relationships – hierarchical, either top down or bottom up, there’s conflict vs co-operation, there’s management strategies – and that’s before you even get into examining power and the different ways that this can work in a parish, hugely dependent on the type of parish you have, the type of roles that are present, the type of people.  I’ve started to write out a spider diagram but it’ll be a while before it gets finished, but at least things are getting down onto paper.

I’m also trying to think in terms of identifying simple words to attach to each article or chapter from a book. Short, direct words, like you find in some cloud depictions, to try to see patterns. I may be overcomplicating that one for this stage of the lit review but it is still helping me to try to get some of the stuff in my head (and my head is starting to pound) down onto paper, where I can play around with ideas, concepts, and patterns. It may be a while before any sort of coherency begins to appear from the chaos, and at the moment I am very much working with preconceived patterns, that have been described in texts that I have been reading in the last five years. Whether I will be able to pick out my own patterns, remains to be seen.