Image supplied by Alvine Mulligan
Alvine Mulligan is the author of Martin Sharp, Heritage Activist, recently published in Volume 7, Number 1 of History in the Making.
As part of our third instalment of our ‘author in focus’ blog series for 2020, Alvine discusses her research processes and practices and has some excellent advice for history students who are trying to conduct research during the Covid-19 pandemic!
How did you come to the topic for your History in the Making article?
The topic for my HiTM article came out of having to generate a project idea for one of my undergraduate units at the University of New England, ‘Researching and Applying History’. My very sage lecturer suggested that I take inspiration from the immediate world around me. The inspiration was a poster outside my office -a Martin Sharp poster for a Tiny Tim concert. It’s a long story, but in the early 2000’s Martin generously donated a signed poster to my son’s special needs school, and he also sent one home for me. Since Sharp’s death in 2013 his body of creative works have been celebrated alongside his faith and never-ending support of the Luna Park ghost train fire victims. I wanted to look at Sharp’s relationship with Luna Park in a new light – I wanted to see if I could define his work at Luna Park not just as a mere quirky obsession, or as a piece of commissioned work, but as a true and successful form of advocacy for an important popular culture site in Sydney.
What’s your writing process?
Bringing together your research into a cohesive and engaging piece of writing is the fulfilling, and sometimes difficult (for me), part of studying history. I work best when making plans before writing – although the plans always get revised and reworked as the research and writing progresses! I tend to document my research vigorously through short annotations on the value of how each source can be used to support my thesis. When I was an undergraduate, I always completed the research before writing, but as I progress through honours, I am quickly learning that ‘writing as you go’ is probably a more effective process. I have a set time and place for writing each day – I throw on the headphones (Mozart’s Requiem is high on rotation), try to let go of my perfectionism and produce some form of writing each day.
What did you learn from the peer review process?
The peer review process was not as daunting as it seemed. Each reviewer gave valid and directional remarks on how I could improve my paper to ensure it reached the publishable standards of the journal. The process was a rewarding learning experience which improved my writing and academic skills.
What advice would you give to someone considering submitting an article to History in the Making?
Sharing your research and writing is what history is all about so if you’ve written a great piece of original historical research – go for it! There are three important tips that I can give to potential HiTM authors. Firstly, edit your research paper into an article that meets the journal guidelines. Secondly, transform your paper from a great university essay into an outstanding journal article. And lastly for your own sanity, view peer review feedback as invaluable advice – not negative criticism. Once my article had been reviewed, the HiTM editorial team were extremely supportive and encouraging – which, considering our new life during Covid, shows the exceptional dedication the team have in creating a space for history students to share their work.
Do you have any advice for history students trying to study and conduct research during the COVID19 pandemic?
I am currently mid-way through Honours part-time at the University of New England. Admittedly I have found transitioning to researching and writing in the Covid-epoch difficult. I am fortunate that a large proportion of my primary sources have been digitised, however that small amount sitting in the archives may have to wait for another project. Maintaining communication with both my supervisor and university community have been invaluable support mechanisms. These, together with setting achievable daily writing goals are keeping me on the path to getting that thesis written!
Where would you like to take your research next?
This year I will be completing my honours. My research continues to focus on how we value our shared spaces – but I’m taking it back to the late-nineteenth century and exploring the experiences and responses of Sydneysiders who spent leisure time in the parks and bush land of the city’s southern fringes.