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China In Your Hand: Gig Economy Research

Monday, November 1st, 2021

Avid consumers of this blog (anyone?) will be aware that from time-to-time I get the chance to post examples of the research work done by Dean Aldred’s A-level students from the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and this post is given-over to two short pieces of research into the lives and experiences of gig economy workers in Chinese society.

1. Annie Tang: Are takeaway workers being exploited in China?

This examination of the Gig Economy in China looks at the Takeaway industry and, more-specifically, the hours, personal and family life of the workers involved. This was achieved using semi-structured interviews involving a combination of open and closed questions to generate both quantitative and qualitative data.

The research describes in some detail the lives and working conditions of the 4 male participants in the study and while the sample size was small – making it difficult to generalise to wider populations of age, gender and ethnicity, for example – how Tang arrived at her (snowball) sample is an interesting example of research problem-solving when things don’t go as initially planned. It’s an important takeaway (pun sort-of intended) for students evaluating different types of research methods and methodology.

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Podcasts Without Pictures: The Sociology Show

Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

Educational podcasting – both with and without pictures – has become increasingly popular over the past few years as the wider availability of computer audio equipment, plus the ease of uploading and hosting content, has made producing such resources much quicker and easier.

The Sociology Show.
In case the branding’s not clear.

We’ve featured some examples of these podcasts in the past and while most are aimed at various types of revision – both for exam and as a catch-up resource – the latest podcast to pique our interest offers something slightly different, while also offering something slightly similar.

The Sociology Show, created and hosted by Matthew Wilkin, has been around since April 2020, during which time it has amassed a library of nearly 150 episodes ranging in length from 10 to 45 minutes (give-or-take), depending on what’s being covered and by whom.

By this I mean there are broadly, three types of podcast:

1. An academic talking about their research. These tend to be longer than average – around 30 – 45 minutes – mainly because academics like to talk slowly, and at great length, about the things that interest them. Mainly their research and themselves, although not necessarily in that order. Probably.

Overall there are an impressive number of sociologists you might have heard of (Hobbs, Hakim, Venkatesh…) and a substantial number who, it’s certain to say, you won’t. And while it’s a little serendipitous, listening to a few of the latter may well reap dividends when it comes to greater understanding of a topic. And Sociology as a whole, come to that.

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Attitudes to Marriage in China

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018
Click to download a pdf copy.
Download the Report

As you may be aware, from time-to-time I’ve featured a variety of short pieces of research, on a range of topics, carried-out by Richard Driscoll’s students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China.
This latest study by Elim Wu (“What are High-School Girls’ Attitudes Towards Marriage in China’s International High Schools?”), a high school sociology student at the school, is well-worth the read for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it gives an interesting glimpse inside a non-European society that UK students in particular should find useful as a way of broadening their knowledge and understanding of contemporary societies.

Secondly, it’s a relatively simple piece of research (in the sense that it doesn’t try to be over-ambitious in what it can realistically achieve with the time and resources available) carried-out by an A-level student.

The study looks at female attitudes to marriage and the various pressures surrounding the development of such attitudes, with a particular focus on parental and wider cultural attitudes to marriage in contemporary China. The study has three main sections (although some of these are sub-divided):

1. Background reading about marriage in China that’s used to set the context for the study, in terms of outlining some of the traditional social pressures faced by young women. In addition the material notes some of the contemporary attitudinal changes creeping into a Chinese society undergoing rapid modernisation.

Click to download a pdf copy of the research.
Download the Report

2. The Methodology section provides information about the research method (semi-structured interviews), sample and pilot study. There’s a helpful discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the method A-level students should find useful. Discussion of the plot study also provides an interesting reflection on the research, in terms of things like how questions evolve in the light of researcher experience. Again, this is useful information that gives students an insight into how “real-life” research changes to meet unexpected problems and conditions.

3. Final Findings sets-out the qualitative data collected from the interviews. This is worth reading for both the content – the author interviewed a number of perceptive and articulate respondents – and the clarity with which the data is linked to the various research questions.

While the study clearly has limitations, both in terms of the subject matter and the methodology (only 6 respondents were interviewed, for example) this makes it a useful piece of research on which A-level students can practice skills such as evaluation – to which end the author has included a helpful final section in which they evaluate the work they’ve produced.

New Media: WeChat and the Chinese New Year.

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

One of the nice things about running Dorset’s Most Popular Sociology Blog (*) is that from time-to-time we get to feature the work of Richard Driscoll’s students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China.

Previous posts have, for example, examined ideas as diverse as Cultural Capital, Parental Involvement in Education, Social Identity and Matriarchy as these relate specifically to Chinese society.

This particular piece of research, by Adelaide Han, is a qualitative examination of the impact new media, in the form of WeChat,  a hugely-popular Chinese social media messaging app (used by an estimated 900 million people each day), has on traditional forms of behaviour in the shape of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

As ever, you need to keep in mind the research was carried-out by an A-level student so you should see it as suggestive rather than definitive; it’s useful, nevertheless, for the way it looks at the relationship between new technology, in the shape of social media apps, and highly-structured traditional forms of behaviour.

Disclaimer

* While there’s no actual evidence to support this Proud Boast, we’re making it on the entirely-ridiculous basis that since there are no other Dorset-based Sociology Blogs (probably) we are, by default, the “most popular”. QED.

How does Cultural Capital Work in Chinese Society?

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

This research, created and carried-out by one of Richard Driscoll’s students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China applies the concept of cultural capital to an understanding of the relationship between class, status and education in contemporary China.

As such, it’s a useful teaching resource for both the way it applies the concept of cultural capital to an understanding of Chinese parents’ “hopes and fears” for their off-spring’s education and for its sympathetic use of in-depth semi-structured (“focused”) interviews to elicit a fascinating insight into the thoughts and behaviours of two sets of Chinese parents from two different areas and social classes in China.

Although the research shouldn’t necessarily be taken as representative of all Chinese parents across all social classes – this is, after all, simply a piece of research conducted by a then a-level student (she now studies at the LSE in London) – it is nevertheless a very-rewarding read, both for its careful construction and the insights it gives into the thoughts and behaviours of two very different families living in contemporary China.

Richard is Head of Humanities and can be contacted on Twitter.

Chinese Parents’ Involvement in Children’s Education

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that from time-to-time we’ve been able to feature research done by Richard Driscoll’s Sociology A-level students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and the latest study to come our way, by Ma Jia Ying, looks at the involvement of Chinese parents in decisions made by their sons and daughters about what to study in higher education.

The research should be interesting to UK teachers and students for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it gives a comparative cultural insight into family relationships and educational processes in an area that will be familiar to many UK students – the extent to which family pressures impact on the choices made by individual students in terms of their future educational careers.

Secondly, another interesting dimension is the construction and implementation of the research itself: this is made manifest in areas like the choices made by the researcher in terms of sampling, research methods, reliability, validity and so forth, their awareness of methodological uses and limitations and their evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of their research.

If you want to get in touch with Richard about this research, his students or maybe to make a fruitful contact between your school / college students and his – you can contact him via his Twitter account

Culture and Identity: Caught Between Two Worlds?

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Richard Driscoll teaches A-level Sociology at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and you may recall an interesting piece of research – The Last Queendom of Women?  – carried-out by one of his students, Hecate Li, that provided a contemporary example of an alternative to the “conventional nuclear family”.

In this latest piece of research by one of his students, Sarah G. Zhang applies two complimentary research methods, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, to examine the question “How do experiences in different countries affect the social identities of American-born-Chinese (ABC) students” – a piece of research UK teachers and students should find useful for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it covers the respective strengths and weaknesses of two different research methods and shows how they can be applied to a substantive research area. The use of quantitative and qualitative methods / data is also a useful example of research triangulation.

Secondly, the research gives a fascinating insight into questions of culture and identity by choosing to look at “precarious identities” – young people “caught between two very different worlds” – expressed through a wide range of cultural concepts: language, family values and relationships, work ethics, identity and social relationships.

If you want to contact Richard Driscoll about this research you can do so through Twitter.

An Alternative to the Conventional Nuclear Family

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Finding good, contemporary, examples of alternatives to the “conventional nuclear family”  is never that easy so I thought I’d pass-on this example from Sociology teacher Richard Driscoll. It’s a piece of primary / secondary research carried-out by one of his students, Hecate Li, on the Mosuo Tribe in China.

The short, beautifully-produced and clearly presented report touches on a wide-range of concepts, including: family structures, marriage, divorce, motherhood, fatherhood and social status, sexuality, old age and family size

Download The Last Queendom of Women