When first brainstorming for this project (all the way up to the rough draft, really), I couldn’t figure out what on Earth my research would center around. I knew that I would focus on pastoralism and Patrick Taylor’s An Irish Country Doctor. But, beyond that, I had no idea. At first, I wanted to focus on the reality of this novel, and if such a township actually existed within Ireland during the 20th century “troubles”. Taking that route, I began preparing myself for piles of historical documents and different studies on the concrete happenings during this political turmoil. Yes, I love history, but not researching history…I quickly realized that was not what I wanted to pursue.
Professor Vander Zee, however, helped me open my mind to a broader and more theoretical reading of this novel, rather than its raw, physical state. Though pastoralism was not a theory we studied within The Theory Toolbox, it’s still a valid topic that I quickly realized was often correlated to idealism–a topic definitely covered within our multitude of readings earlier this year.
Though I have never seen myself as necessarily a “theory” guru (in fact…I really hate studying it), I can’t even comprehend how much theory has aided me within my research process. From what I’ve experienced, researching a broad topic is never a good idea, and should never be undertaken, lest you find yourself drowning in a sea of articles and a backbreaking amount of library books. Therefore, you have to understand what theories most appeal to you and coincide most with the topic you are researching (even if it pains you to do so).
Not only does one theory aid this process, but dueling ideologies are golden! Really, my research would have fallen flat had I only utilized pastoralism or idealism. In a way, I would have been merely reiterating facts that had already been stated for hundreds of years, rather than actually formulating an argument.
Therefore, though it may have been explicitly obvious to everyone else in class, I quickly learned that theory is so apparent in everyday life, especially when researching and trying to narrow down your sources. Pastoralism and idealism have BOTH been so critical within my understanding of Ireland and its history–a topic in which I am currently minoring in and wish to pursue for the rest of my life. Thus, listen to the overarching theories around you…they’re there for our use!