ISGS 4320 Women, Work & Family

Interview Paper

This is a 5-page paper that analyzes an interview you conduct with someone whose background is different from your own about his or her decisions regarding work and family.  This is a synthesis exercise.  You need to interpret this person’s story in light of the history, theories and concepts you have learned from the course.  What NOT to do:  Give me a “report” of what this person told you or a chronological narrative of their career or family  or a list of answers to the suggested questions below.  What TO do:  Make an ARGUMENT about this person’s life choices (i.e. usually explaining how the interaction of family, social, and institutional factors led this person to the decisions they made about education, career, and family).  The interview itself is not the paper.  It is the raw materials (the “evidence” so to speak) for the interpretation you are making.  Some of it will be relevant to your argument.  Some of it won’t.  You should cite articles/chapters read for the course in your discussion.  You should also talk to this person about your interpretations of his/her experiences.  You need not necessarily agree about the interpretation (and these points of disagreement might be fruitful “data” for the paper). 


1.        Your paper will present a thesis--that is, an argument or position about this person’s work and family choices that requires defense or support (i.e. a reasonable person could disagree with you on this).

2.        You will offer specific, appropriate, and carefully analyzed evidence that supports your thesis.  That is, you will quote this person or recount stories or facts from this person’s life that make your interpretation of his/her experience compelling.

3.        You will make connections between this person's work/family story and the readings / discussion we have done for class.

We have read many articles and book chapters based on interviews or surveys conducted by scholars with a wide variety of populations.  Attend to both WHAT this person tells you and the WAY the person tells it.  Take both into account in making your argument. 

If this is going well, you will get STORIES from this person vs. just 1-2 sentence answers.  This is what you want.

Things to think about:

FAMILY: What kind of family did this person grow up in?  Extended, nuclear, single-parent, etc.? Were there “other mothers” present?  Did the mother work outside the home?  For pay?  What kinds of jobs did mother and father do—were their fields “masculine” or “feminine,” well-paid or poorly paid or volunteer?  How did they feel about this?  What sort of relative importance was placed on men’s and women’s work?  Who did domestic work and childcare?  Why? How many siblings, and what kinds of decisions did they make about careers and families?  Religious background?  Is/was it relevant to ideas about work and family, and if so, how?

DECISIONS ABOUT EDUCATION/TRAINING:  How much and what kind of education does this person have?  What kind and how much education do parents and siblings have?  Husbands, wives, or partners?  Was race, class or gender important in how much education they got and the area they chose to specialize in (do they think so, do you)?  Were they encouraged or discouraged from entering certain kinds of work by school counselors, extended family, or peers?  WHEN was this person making these decisions?

WORK/FAMILY:   How did they choose a career/field and why?  What do they like/dislike about their field?  How important was being a breadwinner to the decision?  How important were flexibility and the opportunity to accommodate family demands?  Desire to serve the community?  Is this person in a field or subfield that is dominated by men or women, or a mixture?  What is the racial/ethnic background of coworkers?  Sexual identity/orientation?  Does this matter to them?  Has family influenced career decisions?  How?  Have career needs and demands influenced decisions about family?  How and why? 

Who does “the second shift,” and why?  Do ideas about “going rates,” fear about the consequences of divorce, or “family myths” seem to operate?  How?  Do they have household help—nanny, housekeeper, lawn service, etc., and how do they think about it?  Who are these helpers, and how/what are they paid?  Does this person have religious beliefs that shaped decisions/ideas about family and career?  Does sexual identity (gay, straight, bi, whatever) influence ways of thinking about family and career work or the stories this person tells you about home and work life? 

CHANGES:  If this person has changed jobs/careers or gotten divorced, remarried, re-partnered, adopted a child, changed their mind about having kids (whatever)—why?  Is the first job/career different from the second?  Is the first marriage/partnership different from the second?  How?  Why?  Is this person's life different than s/he would have imagined?  How/why? 

FEMINISM:   Does this person call her/himself a feminist?  Why/why not?  Do any of his/her ideas/convictions resonate with maternalist, liberal or socialist feminist ideals?  Why do you think so?   Has this person ever been part of “alternative” households that radically reimagined work and home life in ways Dolores Hayden describes in relation to 19th-century visionaries? 

Other things they’d like to add?

Papers should be typed, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins and standard font size.  Please number pages and staple papers in the upper, left-hand corner.  Be prepared with a 3-4 minute presentation of your findings for the class. 

Papers are due Mon. 2 Apr. at the start of class in 2 formats:  (1) hard copy you will hand in to me (see above); and (2) an uploaded electronic copy to TURNITIN.COM (see below).  If you are ill or have a family emergency and can document it, I will accept late papers without penalty.  If not, the grade drops one full letter grade for each business day it is late.  E-mailed and fax-ed papers are NOT acceptable.

I would be thrilled to talk about papers, look at outlines, talk about theses, etc. at any point.  E-mail and phone work if in-person does not.  ((972) 883-2338 / [email protected] / Office:  Green 2.208)

TURNITIN.COM – go to  The course id number is 1800621.  The password is “womenwork”

ON CITATION:  Use the MLA Citation method (parenthetical references in text with author last name and page number; Works Cited list at the end).  Explained here: