EPQs (Extended Project Qualifications)


EPQ topic lists from schools that use the Archive have been incredibly eclectic – and many projects we can’t help with at all – but we do have a lot that would make for a good EPQ assignment.

Reports on immigration, crime, capital punishment, Welsh and Scottish independence, the use of music in advertising, convenience food, even romance (see case study below) , etc.  And also a lot on women’s issues. We have just done some work on ‘The Great Inflation of the 1970’s’ and its effect on women.  There are reports on Teenagers and their attitudes in the 1970s (4). One of our favourites is The Continental Quilt story  – it could be a good start point for an EPQ for a student to do a qualitative survey of their grandmothers, great-aunts and their friends to understand what life was like for women in the 1970’s!

In Q3 2024 we will produce a ‘Guide to Teaching EPQs’ with ideas, examples, exercises and case studies to help students explore topics and select a title.


Romance in the 1970s

With all the news about teenagers’ sex-texting and advice to parents to start talking to their children about pornography from the age of 9, we can be forgiven for cynical thoughts about the end of romance in our culture. What’s love got to do with it? we might ask. Has good old-fashioned ‘romance’ died? Still 95% of people claim to have sent a Valentine’s Day card at some point in their lives, surely it can’t all be over for romance? The Archive can tell us more about Romance in the 1970s.

So let’s dig into the Archive and see what romance really meant in the past. First a definition:
Romance: a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life: “the romance of the sea”

If we look through the CRAM collection – which is the work of an eminent early qualitative researcher, Peter Cooper, we can see how products were marketed in the 1970s to appeal to the desire for romance.

For example, here are some comments from Babycham advertising testing reports:
Babycham has potential in terms of its warm, dreamy, romantic images, its presence which can suggest that something will happen, the sense of excitement etc’.
‘Light, bubbly, innocent fun’
‘…promise in terms of romance, fun, light hearted sophistication’.
‘…excitement, good humour, echoes of Christmas, romance, fairy tales, magical’

And for Black Magic chocolates:
Black Magic may be losing some of its excitement, romance, and magic, and is becoming rather mundane and safe.
The research explored: feelings about Black Magic, with special· regard to romance, love, excitement, mystery, quality, and mystique

There are projects on fragrances and, less obviously, deodorants for men. Romance comes into them all!

We can also look at reports describing people. For example, in a project for Boots, ‘The Teenage Enigma’ (1974), we see that young women had really rather limited horizons at the time:
… Nearly all respondents considered that the chief landmark in their futures would be marriage and many gave this as their sole ‘ambition’. On the whole, they expect to be married by 22 or 23 and to have 2 or 3 children before they reach 30

By 1974 contraception had been available for some years, and attitudes to sex before marriage are discussed in the report. You’d have thought that this would be the start of romance going out of the window but no…
“Even the most promiscuous girls are very romantic about marriage” (Teacher)

There was huge readership of women’s magazines in the 1970’s including the kind of women’s magazines that deal almost exclusively in real fictional short story romances—Boy Friend, Red Letter, Secrets, Family Star, Marilyn, Red Star, Mirabelle, Marty, Romeo, Valentine and Roxy. Barbara Cartland was a bestselling author of romantic fiction.

In fact, we see that almost anything which was out-of-the ordinary was thought to be romantic in the 1970’s – flying, foreign holidays, even smoking ‘exotic’ cigarettes was seen to add mystery, glamour, excitement and romance to a person. Normal life was rather humdrum and unexciting – romance was escapism from the everyday – it led to fun and love.

In these days, where ‘every day is Christmas’ relative to the 1970s, a lot of what was seen as exotic in the 70s has become commonplace – and the modern world has brought its own set of problems – and yet we still see little girls who love Disney princesses, tens of thousands of £££s spent on fairy tale weddings and exotic holidays, dating sites doing tremendous business. Perhaps romance is still alive and well?

If we look at modern research on young people in the archive we see concerns with serious matters: Housing, Mental Health, Technology, Climate change.

In the 1970’s housing (availability, mortgages, inflation) was the big issue. But Mental Health, Technology and Climate Change were hardly registered. Basically young people worried about the usual things that young people worry about (themselves, what they looked like etc and having enough money and getting on in life). They weren’t much engaged in the news and politics.

Now, if anything, the pressures on young people through social media are greater than ever, so the need for escapism must be greater than ever. The evidence lies in the success and popularity of video games, romcoms, Disney princesses, fairy-tale weddings and all that.

Romance is dead. Long live romance!

Please do contact us if you have any specific areas that we could help with. We have many other reports which would be useful for an EPQ. It’s helpful for all students to be able to demonstrate the use of archives and other sources in their work.



teacher and pupil