mo logo red

Contact us:

Phone: +44 (0)1273 337515


Current Directive (Spring 2021)

On this page, you will find the most recent Directive to be mailed to the Mass Observers. You can download past copies of Mass Observation Project Directives here.

Part 1: Household Recycling

This Directive is about the way you deal with recyclable waste. It is based on similar surveys carried out by Mass Observation in 1942, which were interested in whether civilians saved wastepaper and bones to help the war effort during the Second World War. Many of you will remember a Directive on single-use plastics issued in 2019 – and perhaps even earlier Directives on thrift in 1987 and 2016.

In this Directive, we are particularly interested in your routines and the things that shape your actions when dealing with your household’s waste.


We would like you to make a list of the items you put in your household recycling bin during one ordinary day. Make a note of the item and the room in your house that it came from.

Recycling at home

What items of waste do you recycle at home and where do you keep them? How are they organised? How does this relate to your outdoor bins?

Are there any items you keep to re-use?

Thinking about the items of waste you recycle at home, how do you know that these items are recyclable? Are there any that you are uncertain about?

How did you treat these items before putting them in the bin? For example, did you wash or take any of them apart?

Recycling collections

How is recycling collected in your area? Where is it collected from? How regularly is it collected?

Are there different processes for paper and card, different plastics, tins, glass, textiles, food and garden waste etc?

Has this changed in recent years? If so, how?

Do you regularly take items to communal facilities like bottle or textile banks? If so, how do you get there? How regularly do you visit this facility?

Leaving aside general waste, are there any items that you don’t recycle? What stops you?

Why recycle?

What motivates you to recycle? For instance, do you relate this to being environmentally responsible, to the climate, to reducing waste, or something else? What has influenced these motivations?

Are there any times that you have made a special effort to recycle? Or are there any times where you haven’t been able to recycle?

What do you think happens to your recycling once it is collected?

Do you think good use is made of it?

Shopping choices

Do you ever make shopping choices based on whether something can be recycled or is made from recycled materials?

And finally…

Looking back over the past year, do you think your recycling habits have changed as a result of Covid-19?

Part 2: Why I write 

As a volunteer for Mass Observation, your writing is used for research, teaching and learning. This year your support has enabled the project to generate a substantial national collection on the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted the value of writing about our everyday lives as a record of these unprecedented times.

There are many reasons why people are attracted to write for the Mass Observation Project and in this part, we are interested in your experiences and thoughts about writing.  Whether you have recently joined the Project, or are a long-term volunteer, we would like you to share your story of being part of Mass Observation.

Joining the Mass Observation Project

  • How did you hear about the Mass Observation Project and what attracted you to become a volunteer?
  • Is this the first time you have taken part in something like this? Or do you participate in any other writing related activities, or groups? If so, please share what these are.

Responding to directives

  • Do you have a particular place, day and/or time you like to write? Please describe this.
  • How do you approach writing your responses? Do you set time aside to write the different parts at once? Do you review it at all; check and edit?
  • When responding, do you envisage writing to someone such as a Mass Observation staff member, a researcher or a school child in the future?
  • Do you ever do any research on the topics before responding? If so, please describe whether this is for any particular subjects and detail the resources you might use to help you.
  • Do you have a favourite or least favourite Directive? Are there any subjects you find challenging to write about?
  • Is there a subject you would like us to produce a Directive on? Please share your ideas.

You and writing

  • What do you think you get out of writing for Mass Observation?
  • How does it feel to participate? Do you find there is a therapeutic benefit from responding?
  • How important is it to be anonymous when you write for the Mass Observation Project? How does this effect how you write?
  • Do your family and friends know that you participate? Is it a particularly personal activity or do you like to share and discuss the Directive questions?



  • Several writers submitted diaries throughout the pandemic. Do you have a preference between writing diaries or responding to Directives? Please share your thoughts on why.

Please share anything further we have not covered in this Directive on your writing experience with Mass Observation.


Part 3: The COVID-19 Vaccine

When the first COVID-19 submission reached us in March 2020, it felt as if a vaccine was a long way off and ‘lockdown’ was the new normal. However, since our last Directive in autumn 2020, the NHS has been delivering a large-scale vaccination programme. It seems as if more and more people that we know are receiving the vaccinations. In Part.3 we would like you to share your thoughts on the vaccine. Some prompts for you to consider are below, but we welcome wider comments on the COVID-19 vaccine and wider vaccination programmes.

If you have had a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Please describe your experience of going to get the vaccine. Where did you go for the vaccine? Who administered it? What was the atmosphere like? How did you travel to and from the vaccine centre?

Which vaccine did you receive? (e.g Pfizer, Oxford or Moderna)

How did you feel after the vaccine? Did you experience any side effects?

Are you still following the government guidelines on reducing the spread of COVID-19 (e.g social distancing, wearing a mask, staying at home etc)? What are your thoughts on the latest guidelines and timescales on restrictions ?

Are you concerned about the safety of the vaccine, if so, what worries you?

If you have not received a COVID-19 vaccine

Will you accept an invitation to book the vaccine when it is offered to you? Please share your motivations for your decision. 

Are you hoping to receive a particular vaccine? (e.g Pfizer, Oxford or Moderna)

Will you follow the government guidelines on reducing the spread of COVID-19? (e.g social distancing, wearing a mask, staying at home etc) as more people receive the vaccine. What are your thoughts on the latest guidelines and timescales on restrictions?

Are you concerned about the safety of the vaccine, if so, what worries you?

The vaccine programme

How is the vaccine programme being delivered in your local area? Please share any comments on the roll out of the vaccine programme.(e.g priority groups, planes to vaccinate key workers).

Where do you get your information about the vaccine? Please share any thoughts on the publicity and media coverage, health advice, or misinformation about the vaccine. 

Making vaccines mandatory

Cyprus says it will open its doors from May to UK tourists who have had both Covid-19 jabs.

It's prompted debate on whether "vaccine passports" could become a feature of foreign travel, and even be used within the UK to allow entry to places like pubs or sports stadiums. Please share your thoughts on this topic.

Are there any vaccinations that should, or shouldn’t be, mandatory?

 JS/KP Spring 2021 Directive/No. 121