One of the mistakes I made when I went into studying was thinking that because I was an avid reader, I would find it quite easy to read academic material.
But what I discovered quite quickly is that the sort of stuff we read in our ordinary lives like newspaper articles, novels and business letters, we just skim through very quickly.
Academically, you can’t do that; you have to slow right down; read each bit and make sure you’ve understood it; go back over things if you find it difficult and that was quite tough for me. It meant revising the way I read.
I take quite a lot of notes, probably more than is necessary, actually, but I find it’s the best way to make myself slow right down and make sure that I’m taking in all the important points."
Returning to study at this stage in her life was potentially daunting for other reasons. How would it affect her own attitudes?
Social science is all about the big issues on which we all have opinions, and I had a nasty feeling that my opinions were so fixed that I would actually find it quite hard to listen to all different points of view. On the other hand I wondered whether what I studied would change my views and that was quite disturbing in a way. When you get to middle age and you know where you are, you know who you are, to suddenly find yourself questioning your basic beliefs could be quite unsettling.
In fact I found it’s not like that at all: when you do academic study they’re not asking for your opinions, they’re asking can you study the evidence, can you listen to all the different arguments and draw a conclusion based on that evidence, and I feel that there's a better foundation for my opinions now than there ever was before.