Posts Tagged ‘methodology’

Clarke and Layder: Let’s Get Real

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Continuing to clear-out the filing cabinet that is fast-assuming legendary status in both my life and the sociological world (pretty much the same thing, actually) I came across a copy of an article by Clarke and Layder originally published in the November 1994 issue of Sociology Review called “Let’s Get Real: The Realist Approach in Sociology”.

While a 23 year-old article’s not usually a source I’d recommend for contemporary students, in this particular case the age of the content’s not especially significant because it deals with the general principles of realist methodology – and these haven’t really changed much over the past 25 years. The article’s also one of the most accessible explanations of sociological realism for A-level students I’ve read or indeed written – although, to be fair, this probably isn’t actually saying that much in terms of the competition.

Be that as it may, if you teach Realism alongside “Other Alternative Research Approaches” such as Positivism and Interpretivism this article should prove helpful, not just in terms of clearly-identifying the key principles of Realism but also in terms of highlighting the key similarities and differences between these competing approaches. And even if you don’t teach Realism, you should find the stuff on Positivism and Interpretivism helpful.

As you might expect, given its age and provenance (it’s been in a filing cabinet for most of the past quarter century…) the actual document is a little bit the worse for wear. This hasn’t been helped, it must be admitted, by the various annotations to the text I presumably added in my “Underline everything and hope something sticks” phase of critical unawareness.

Sociology ShortCuts F’sheet

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

I’ve posted a couple of times about the Sociology Factsheets produced by Curriculum Press –  particularly about how it might be an idea for teachers to get their students to make their own versions as both a revision aid and teaching resource for future sociology students – and I thought it might be interesting to have a go at something along these lines myself: particularly because having written a number of books for different exam boards over the past 10 or so years I’ve accumulated a large stock of words that could possibly be put to some more – and probably better – use as a revision-type resource.

The upshot of playing-around with various words and pictures is my first ShortCuts Sheet on “Approaches to Research: Positivism” (for no better reason than the fact I had some underutilised text lying around that I thought might be easy to adapt to this format).

If you’ve got any comments, suggestions etc. about why it’s brilliant / shite / could be improved please don’t hesitate to let me know…

A Few More Sociology Factsheets

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

A previous post featured a selection of the Factsheets produced by The Curriculum Press  and since this post I’ve managed to collect a few more Factsheets from various corners of the Web.

These, oddly enough, all relate in some way to Research Methods…


Overt Participant Observation

Positivism and Interpretivism

Qualitative Research

Crime statistics

PowerPoint: The Hypothetico-Deductive Model

Monday, February 27th, 2017

This is a simple one-slide PowerPoint presentation of Popper’s classic model of scientific research. The presentation contains two versions:

  1. Click-to-advance: this allows teachers to reveal each element in the model at their own pace. This is useful if you want to talk about each of the elements before revealing the next.
  2. Self-advancing: if you want to just show a class how the model develops this option slowly (there’s a two-second delay before each reveal) displays each element in turn.


If you want to give your students some notes to accompany the presentation the following should help:


Crime, Deviance and Methods: Self-report Questionnaire

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Opportunities for students to link crime, deviance and research methods in a practical way are often limited by the constraints of time and space – but one simple approach that can be used effectively in the classroom is a self-report crime questionnaire. Although there are a few of these kicking around (from Ann Campbell’s onward…) this is a relatively recent one I’ve put together based on questions contained in the UK Crime and Justice Survey.

It can be downloaded as a Word document so that you can amend it easily (you may not want to include all the 40+ questions and you may want to substitute some of your own…). 

The document suggests some possible classroom uses for the questionnaire – from data and methodological analysis if you’re leaning toward research methods to using the data to think critically about official crime statistics based on categories like age and gender.

Seven Sims in Seven Days – Day 5: Trial by Jury

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

sim_trailAs with some of the others in this series, “Trial by Jury” is a building block sim that gives you a basic template that can be used to organise and run a wide range of possible simulations. In basic terms if there’s an area of the Sociology / Psychology course that involves comparing and contrasting two opposing viewpoints it can be adapted to the Trial by Jury format using this template.

As a way of exampling this the package uses the (sociological) example of “Positivism On Trial” (effectively a debate between Positivism / Interpretivism at As-level).

This is quite a time-consuming simulation and it’s probably best-suited to occasional use (unless you’ve completely flipped your classroom, in which case it’s something you could frequently use).

For example, it could be used at the end of a specific teaching session (such as “secularisation”) as a way of bringing all the different arguments and evaluations together. Alternatively you might find it useful for a series of “end of course” sessions as a way of structuring student revision.

Teaching A-level Research Methods: Part 3

Monday, April 25th, 2016
  1. Talk the Walk

At this point students need to get to grips with learning the basics of research methods. How you organise this is up to you, but one way is to get students to take ownership of their learning:

If there are sufficient students, split the class into groups and give each group responsibility for one research method. Give the group a broad outline of how they should proceed in terms of:walk_template

• Brief overview of the method

• Primary / secondary data

• Quantitative / qualitative source / data

• Strengths

• Limitations

One way to do this is to use an evaluation template (this is for Focused (Semi-structured) Interviews – if you want a blank template download it here).


Methods in Context: Crime in England and Wales

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Keeping abreast of the various statistical sources and data on crime can be both time-consuming and somewhat confusing for teachers and students – both in terms of the volume of data and the reliability and validity of different data sources.

For these reasons the Office for National Statistics statistical bulletin is a brilliant resource for a-level sociologists in terms of both crime statistics and the research methodologies underpinning their production (so it’s good for information covering both Crime and Deviance and Crime and Methods in Context).


Psychology: Reliability and Validity

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Reliability and validity are two important methodological concepts in both Psychology and Sociology because they address the problems involved in “doing research” – and while this film is aimed at A-level and AP psychology students (who are required to cover the issues in much greater depth), it should also be useful for sociology teachers who want to firm-up their students’ understanding of these concepts.

This short film looks at the key aspects of these important methodological concepts – from simple definitions, through an understanding of different types to examples of how they can be applied to different types of exam question – in terms of key:

  • definitions: reliability (internal and external),validity (internal and external)
  • examples: different types of validity, Bandura, Rosenhan
  • applications: where and how to apply these concepts in exam answers.

Methods and Methodology

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Jurgenson’s essay “On the cultural ideology of Big Data” will probably need some decoding for A-level students but it’s a worthwhile thing to do because it will:

  1. Give students a contemporary insight to (neo)positivist tendencies in data science.
  2. Provide some contemporary examples of positivism in the shape of “Big Data”.
  3. Introduce students to the concept of large data sets and the analysis of network relationships facilitated by new technologies.