Using social research methodologies, a critical review of Garden stories found in the Mass Observation archive can be made. The critical review will focus on Joy’s (a character in the Gardens and Gardening story) status and position. It also focuses on the freedom of the character which she used to respond to directives in the Mass Observation, differences between the narrative and interviews, theories that can help in understanding the story, usefulness of the case study in social science research, and its role in broader social science debate (Aitchison, 2003).
Social research methodologies entail the study of a social phenomenon using direct observation methods, communication with participants, or analysis of a given text. According to Freysinger, social science, researchers are working to answer questions regarding human behavior (Freysinger, V 2013). Through quantitative study, social science research seeks to understand the how and whys of human behavior. Social research methodology is a study that requires an in-depth understanding of a concept for one to understand it fully and reach a valid conclusion (Mass Observation Archive 2001).
Joy’s status and position in the story come out very clearly throughout her writing. Joy’s stories contained in the Mass Observation archive had given us a deeper and clear understanding of her status from her childhood up to the time when she wrote about her experience in gardening. Following Georgakopoulou’s arguments, Joy’s status and positioners looked at regarding; her social position about others (family and friends, and her occupation as a gardener (Georgakopoulou, 2007).
From her life writing, we are made to understand that Joy is a hardworking person, who does not believe in the superiority of men. She proved to everybody that women can do better gardening, just as men can. Joy is a good homemaker. She spends her leisure time gardening.
Through hard work and dedication, she was finally able to have a beautiful garden. She did it to her level best without being diverted by the opinions of the radio and Television presenters. She promoted the culture of gardening by sharing pictures and cuttings of her flowers with her neighbors (Mass observation online, 2009).
To understand the social status of the individual, researchrequireires personal information as well as his/her relationships with the people around him or her. Joy’s gardening story; Joy did not talk much about her family members. She just tells us that she is married. The role of her husband and other family members (exception of her mom) in her social life is not depicted. As a researcher, if the information on the contribution of her family members was expounded, then it could be easier to study her social status and position. This is because the social role of an individual is dictated by the people they are interacting with.
In Joy’s gardening story, Joy responded to the directive questions in a “telling case.” Sheridan argues that a “telling case” gives a writer the freedom of expression (Sheridan, 1993). She decided to present her experience in gardening basing her narration only on gardening life. The way she responded provides the reader with the chance to study and deduce the conclusions from her life writing. She does not give direct answers to the directive questions. Giving the user the freedom to make conclusions is a technique that is crucial to research. Moreover, Joy avoided some information about herself since they are private, and unnecessary for the reader to know. Confining herself to gardening is also paramount since that is how she expressed her social status and therefore omitting information that was not necessary. In this way, she was able to give the researcher a chance to get the information required and avoid flaws of giving details that are irrelevant to the study. Life writing allows the reader to examine the social status of joy and get to understand deeper the gendered lives and leisure (Georgakopoulou, 2011). Therefore, Joy’s way of responding to the directives makes her responses more valid and, thus makes the case study more interesting and valid for social research than in the event of an interview.
Ways in which Joy’s narrative is different from interviews In social research, life writing is preferred to interviews since the respondent will have time to think and give responses that will answer the social research questions given by a researcher. Interviews, on the other hand, will require immediate questions and thus the respondent may not exhaust the information required by the researcher (Harris, 2005). In Joy’s narrative, she narrates her story giving details that would otherwise have not come out clearly if she had been interviewed. According to Idol and ponder, then out that the method of using stories found in life writing is very much advantageous over interviews since it gives the researcher the freedom of choosing what to write and avoavoidsat she considers unnecessary for the reader to know about her life. Through this, the social life and identity of an individual are well understood. Furthermore, the life stories found in Mass Observation are a vital way of studying gendered lives to gain a deeper understanding of the uses and the meaning of leisure (Idol & Ponder, 1999).
Social science analysis can be successfulachievedeve by critically analyzing a single case study. Joy’s story was chosen for social science analysis. It was used as a perfect representative of the many narratives of different respondents. Joy narrates her story in a ‘telling case’ (it has been presented just like a narrative). Joy’s story is made perfect for social science research since many social aspects are looked at in the story; the role of gendered lives, factors that shape one’s social life, and the role of the subject character in promoting social science ethics. According to Marsh, telling the case is very vital in revealing the essential principles of social change; it emphasizes the dialectical associations between the analytical structure and case studies, allowing experimental data to be sensitized to give room for certain processes, which will let for abstract advancement (Marsh, 2009). Therefore, Joy’s story is suitable for social science research since it provides all that a researcher requires.
Concepts/theories that facilitate the understanding of Joy’s gardening story Women have a great role in a family. According to Joy’s story, this theory is very true.
The role of women comes out clearly in the story whereby Joy’s mom is shown to have been a gardener. She could not let Joy do the gardening. Also, when Joy got married, she took over the role of gardening from her husband. Joy did the gardening beyond the expectation of her family members. Thus, the theory that women have great social roles in their families to play is valid according to the story. Social research methods have proved that gendered roles are used to postulate theories to support an idea (Bryman, 2015).
To illustrate social science debates, Joy’s story can be used. How the story is presented by the writer, its episodes, and its uniqueness gives it a priority and a better chance of being used to demonstrate social science in a debate. The story can be used to show the cultural role of women in gardening. When Joy got married, she could not let her husband do the gardening, but instead, she did it herself. The story can also be used to illustrate social science whereby men and women have got different perceptions of the kind of flowers to be grown. For example, Joy in her story differed from men who preferred pastel-colored flowers to taudy flowers. Also, Joy’s story can be used to show the role of women in uniting and saving their families. When Joy saved the dying tree, it was metaphorical to saving and bringing her family together. Therefore, it is enough to use Joy’s story to exemplify social science debates (Rak, 2005).
In conclusion, Bailey argues that understanding social science requires an ideal and high level of understanding of the concept under study (Bailey, 2008). Life writing, being one of how the social life of an individual is known, gives the researcher a chance to develop concepts and theories which will help him/her understand the social life of that particular character in a story. The life-writing stories found in Mass Observation are the fundamental ways of studying gendered lives to gain an enhanced understanding of the uses and the meaning of leisure.