This week, a community of postgraduate students on twitter #phdchat discussed how they should write about their research in plain English to make it more accessible for people. Here is my attempt. I hope it makes sense and I would really like to hear your thoughts and comments.
Lots of people live near things that cause vibration and noise in their homes such as railways, roads, construction works, industrial premises and other people. Vibration and noise have been found to affect people negatively, causing annoyance and sleep disturbance for example. The government are keen to protect people from too much vibration and noise in their homes. They also want to promote a good standard of living, health and quality of life.
My research is about what it is like to live near railways. Railways have long been part of our residential environments and many properties are built alongside them. A lot of research has already found that vibration and noise from railways causes some people to be annoyed. However, many people report that they are not annoyed by the railway and appear to accept it as part of their home environment. It is important to find out more about this as railways are likely to become busier in the future with more freight (goods) and passenger traffic. Also, new railway lines may be built such as High Speed 2, a proposal for high speed train services between London and Scotland.
I have interviewed ten residents living near the West Coast Main Line railway in the North West of England. I am focusing on how people talk about where they live and how they make sense of living in the places they do. The places where we live make us who we are and form part of our identities. Previous research has found that our relationships with places affect what we say about the things we live near. I am exploring whether the railway presents a threat to place identity. To find this out, I have analysed what people have said and how they have said it.
So far, I am finding that residents do talk about the railway as being a problem and something which ‘you just get used to’ over time. Yet they also talk about it as not being a problem in comparison to trying to find a ‘decent’ place to live. Whether residents own or rent their properties also impacts upon what they say. For some home owners, the railway is a compromise when finding a suitable home within their price range. They present themselves as having a choice over where they live and therefore defend their decision to live near a railway and talk positively about place. Whereas those renting from the local authority often talk about having no control or choice about where they live, which enables them to be more negative about living near a railway.
I am still analysing my data and will write another post about my research in plain English soon. Maybe you live near a railway or have lived near one in the past – I would love to hear about your experiences.