Assessment strategy and assignment details
Research Project: Research Project: Families across time and place

Word limit: 3000 words (interview notes excluded from word count)
Interview notes: You must upload a copy of your interviews with your final paper.
They can be hand written (photocopied/photos) or typed. The notes must include your questions and the respondent’s responses. There is no mark for the quality of the interview notes but failure to turn in the notes will result in an automatic deduction of 10 marks.

This assessment encourages you to ‘do sociology’ and apply a sociological lens to someone you know. The research project involves applying your understanding of the course in conceptualizing the family from a sociological perspective by analysing the family/relationship history of a close relative or friend. You will need to analyse the unique social setting that the relative/friend has experienced over their life course and how family experiences are moulded by sociological forces. The research project involves collecting and analysing data then writing up your findings. The research project content must relate to a topic discussed in lecture. To accomplish this you will need to:
1. Conduct a qualitative interview from someone you know (usually a close relative) about their family background, family or relationship formation experiences, and family preferences.
2. Either:
a) Consider family across time: Consider the life course and how the time period your relative
experienced certain events might have influenced their family experiences, views, and
b) Consider family across place: Consider how the specific country your relative is from may
have influenced their family experiences, views, and decisions.
3. Analysis your participant’s interview and draw from on research to demonstrate how your participant’s family history is shaped by sociological forces. How is your participant’s family history indicative of their generation or home country?

4. Utilize module materials and outside sources to provide support for your analysis. Use these sources to situate your interview in sociological trends and patterns.

5. Write a research paper to present your findings.

For the analysis, take notes during your interviews with an eye to using quotations from them in your eventual paper. Interviews may be done in-person or over the phone/internet. Do not write your paper as a summary of your interviews; the interviews are intended to provide data for your own analysis of your family history.
Essays which has the following characteristics will receive the best marks: an integrated comparison (such as countries/time period systematically compared rather than each treated in isolation); throuough overview of the comparison that draws out themes (rather than just listed details); evidence of wide reading and analyses substantiated by evidence; up-to-date information; all the major points covered, patterns identified, and clearly understood; well organised and presented; complete and correct referencing; no irrelevant material.

Step by Step Guidance for Research Project Essay
The purpose of this assignment is for you to apply what you have learned about family dynamics in this course to a particular case and to put that case into a broader societal context. It is an opportunity to “do” sociology in a modest way rather than just reading or hearing about it. For this research project assignment, you need to write a paper that is typed, doubled spaced, and electronically uploaded to Canvas. The word limit for the paper is 3000 words.
For this assignment, you will need to:
Data collection and research
1. Identify a family member or someone you know and conduct a qualitative interview per instructions as provided in the “interview guide” (see below). I suggest conducting an interview with a family member as it can be interesting to hear about your own family history and they are usually willing participants for a class project; however, if you prefer to interview someone outside your family that is completely acceptable (as long as they are willing!) and may be more appropriate depending on your research topic.
2.Next you will need to select some aspect of your interviewee’s family experiences to focus on and then place that aspect in a broader social context. You could focus on any aspects of family life we have discussed and read about in this course. If you would like to cover a topic covered later in the semester or not a central part of the module, I highly suggest meeting with me beforehand in order to go over your idea and ensure it connects to the sociology of the family. The aspect of family life that you will focus on in your interview will depend on what your family member interview reveals as well your own personal interest.

3.If you are comparing across time, you will need to identify the country your relative has lived in and determine the time period that will be covered. If you are comparing across place then you will need to choose a country other than the interviewee’s country. That is, you need to compare and contrast the family aspect in two different national contexts. Note: for the purposes of this assignment, all parts of the United Kingdom and the isle of Ireland should be considered as one regional area so you cannot, for instance compare Northern Ireland and Scotland as separate “countries.” You are however, allowed to use studies on the UK and the isle of Ireland that do not explicitly distinguish Northern Ireland. This will give you a wider range of material to incorporate into your paper as needed. Also, depending on your topic it may make more sense to compare to a group of countries that have similar characteristics such as Nordic countries, Southern Europe, Latin America etc. If you decide to take this approach, I strongly suggest coming to me to discuss your plans to ensure you are able to make a good argument to do this in your essay.

4.You need to collect information on that aspect family life in general. If you are comparing across time the focus needs to be on changes over generations. If you are comparing across place, then you will want to focus on discussing current differences between the two countries you are comparing. For instance, if you decide to focus on different patterns of mate selection – you need to 1) identify sources of information about mate selection 2) describe trends (over time) or patterns (across countries) related to mate selection. The information can be drawn from a variety of sources but should meet rigorous academic standards (such as academic articles, research books, and government reports or data). You will want to use research studies, government statistics, and/or theoretical perspectives to develop a critical argument with supporting evidence. You can use readings from this class for these comparisons (if they apply) but you will need to identify additional sources related to your particular area of focus.

Writing the research project essay
1. For the introduction you briefly describe what you are going to do in your essay. Explain very briefly what aspect of the family you are focusing on, make it clear whether you are examining across time or place, and who is your interviewee. Keep this very short. You don’t want to be repetitive in your paper, and you want to save your word count for the more analytical part of the essay. In other words, what are the general societal patterns related to this aspect of family and what are the main explanatory factors related to this aspect of family? What are important aspects of your countries or major changes over time? This will “set up” the comparison of these general patterns to the particular case that you are studying but the detail should be left for the body of the paper. That is, you want to ultimately be able to “situate” the particular case of family experiences provided by the interviewee that you interviewed in time or place. This should be accomplished in a concise paragraph.

2. You go into the findings from the qualitative “case study.” First, you can begin by briefly describing who the informant is and what that person’s relationship is to you. You do not need to report their name or their relationship to you. You may want to discuss the relationship if it is pertinent to your interpretations. At the same time, you may be covering some personal information in your interviews and may want to keep the identity of the participant confidential. Using a pseudonym or referring to them as participant/interviewee/respondent etc. is encouraged.

3. Next, you will set out your qualitative analysis. You would describe the relevant information on your chosen topic about the family characteristics, behaviors and attitudes as identified by your interviewee. Here, it is usually best to focus in on the particular aspect of the family history for which you will be making comparisons. You should focus on providing quality over quantity of information. In this part of the narrative you describe the “findings” both generally and using specific quotes from the interviewee to add richness, detail, and authenticity to the case study. Usually the best structured essays organise the findings write-up by themes/topics. Each theme/topic should integrate your data (aka quotes or paraphrased summary of the interview) as well as critical interpretations of how this reflects the sociological aspects of family. You will want to analyse your findings and draw conclusions. This is the most sociological aspect of your essay and should be given the most emphasis. Here you should go beyond describing your findings to “interpreting” your findings. That is, you want to first place this particular case in a broader historical or societal context. You should discuss how this particular case (your particular participant’s experiences) is “situated” in time/place. That is, how does (or does not) this particular case “fit into” the general national trends and trends over time or how does thiscompare with conditions and patterns in a different national context?
How might you “explain” or “interpret” these differences or similarities? You may want to consider aspects of social location, such as gender, ethnicity, or class to explain the experiences of your interview. Remember that people have their own human agency and while their lives may be shaped by society, they may not always perfectly fit within the social trends or patterns. That’s okay! Here you would want to identify in what way interviewee differs and it can be useful to provide a critical reflection on why your interviewee may be outside the norm.
4. Finally, you should attach an alphabetized list of references used in your paper providing full bibliographic information for each internal reference using a standard form of citation such as Harvard or American Psychological Association (APA) style guide. I am not a stylist snob and do not care which one you use- as long as it is up to academic standards and consistent. Additionally, you must upload a copy of your interview by the deadline on Canvas. They can be photocopies/photo images of hand written notes or typed (please see me if your interview will be conducted in language other than English). The notes need to include your questions and the respondent’s responses.

Interview Tips for Research Project: Families across time and place
Here are some general tips and guidelines for conducting your interview.
• • Keep in mind that science is all about making contrasts and comparisons. In this assignment, I have asked you to analyze family/relationship experiences either across time (cohort and period effects) or across place (countries). You could consider what area you would like to focus on and select a family member or friend to interviewee who may be able to provide information on that family experience. If you want to analyze differences across time, I would encourage you to choose someone from a different generation (much older or younger—also remember the participants should NOT be a minor for ethical purposes) as you may find it easier to identify changes across time.
• • Once you have selected a person to interview, contact them and ask their permission to be interviewed for this assignment. It is best to first contact the person you want to interview and then set up the actual interview at a later time or place that is convenient for them. Explain the purpose of the assignment and why you have approached this particular person to interview. Usually most people will be happy to participate.
• • Set aside about an hour for conducting the interview. Some interviews may take longer and others may be shorter but it is best to set aside an hour or so. Try to conduct the interview without distractions. Ideally, this would mean a quiet setting with just you and the person being interviewed (same idea goes for remote interview with trying to find quiet rooms with no other people coming in or out on both sides if possible- this is both for privacy and clearer communication.) It is also sometimes good to supply refreshments. Drinks and snacks can make the interviewee more comfortable and more willing to give a longer interview. You should give the interviewee your full attention and your phone should be turned off (unless you are using it to record the interview) or on silent throughout the interview.
• • Remember the most important source of data for interviews are your “field notes.” These are the notes you take in the course of the interview itself. It is best to take detailed notes during the interview. These are the most reliable source of data for interviews. Direct quotes add detail and richness to your findings especially for your written analysis. You can also record interviews with your phone or other device but you must always ask your interviewee’s permission to do so first. Take notes even if you are also recording the interview (remember sometimes technology fails and besides you can write down other points of information such as body language, expressions, etc. or other observations that you think might be relevant). Please contact me if your interviewee is not a native English speaker and you plan to conduct your interview in another language. This is not a problem but we will need to discuss turning in your interview notes.
• • Prepare a “semi-structured interview schedule” in advance. An interview schedule is a list of questions you intend to ask. “Semi structured” means that while you have a list of questions in advance, you should be open to delve further into some issues by using “probes” such as “Well that is interesting, can you tell me more about that?” With a “semi-structured interview,” you can allow the interviewee to bring up topics to discuss that you can follow up on.
• • A good place to start with a semi-structured interview is ask about the family/relationship history. The key here is start the interview with easy questions. The interviewee may not know what to expect and it can take a little time for them to open up and start delving into the details of their family/relationship history. Asking soft ball questions gets the interviews talking and helps establish a good communication between you before introducing the more complex questions. For instance when I was interviewing women about their remarriage intentions I started with tell me about the first time you fell in love- this would generally be something to get conversation flowing but was not related to divorce or remarriage that might be hard for people to open up on. Here are some examples of where you could begin your interviewee but I would not recommend using all of these or limiting yourself to these:
o When and where were you born?
o Where did you grow up?
o Do you have any brothers or sisters? [for your write up, you will want to have basic
demographic description of your interviewee e.g. 55 year old married white female,
oldest of four children, etc..
o What can you tell me about your grandparents? [try to go back with the family history
as far as your interviewee can remember; try to get basic social background information about the family members such as nuclear family size, education levels, occupations, residence patterns and so on. It can help you develop a picture of their family background and may prove useful for your essay.]
o For those interviewees that were married, how old were they when they got married? What motivated them to marry?
o Did s/he have children? How many, when, and what influenced these decisions? o If they have older children or older parents- do they provide financial, childcare,
emotional support? How often do they see each other?
o When did you leave their parents’ house and for what reasons?
o Did they work and if married did their spouse work? How was childcare and working
outside the home divided?
o Have there been any divorces or remarriages in the family?
• • Keep in mind that you will want to focus on a particular topic related to the issues we have been discussing and reading about in this course. The specific issue you will want to focus on will depend on your particular interviewee and what your interview focuses on. As the interview progresses, try to identify a particular topic to focus upon and then try to delve deeper into that topic in the interview itself. Keep in mind that you will need to incorporate literature support for your arguments. Going outside the topics in the module runs the risk of having difficulty in finding supporting citations. I encourage creativity but take care in keeping to a topic that you will have substantial enough research to make comparisons or contrasts. If you have an idea that we have not extensively discussed, I highly recommend you discuss it with me before you start on the paper to see if there is sufficient information on the topic.
• • When conducting your interview, ask broad or general questions. Allow the interviewee to “tell their own story.” Avoid “leading questions” (e.g. Divorce is terrible, isn’t it?) and instead pose questions in a neutral manner (e.g. What is your opinion of divorce?). Sometimes, interviewees will try to interview you as in “I don’t know, what do you think?” You should avoid being interviewed and instead focus on their thoughts and experiences. In such situations, you could respond “for the purpose of this study, I am interested in what you think.” Your interviewee may not have experienced certain family experiences. That is fine and their reasoning behind that could be interesting. Finally, avoid threatening or potentially embarrassing questions. Be cordial and try to put your interviewee at ease.
Remember that the purpose of this assignment is for you to “do sociology” as opposed to just reading about it; that is, to apply theories, concepts, and evidence from the course to a particular case (your interviewee’s family history) and put that case in a broader societal context.