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Introduction to Research Methods

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Pages from the University of Portsmouth suitable for a-level sociology students. The resources mainly cover research methods (questionnaires, interviews, observation…) and a little bit of methodology…

Over the past few months you may, or more-probably may not, have noticed that I’ve posted a range of crime and deviance resources on theories of crime, policing and so forth from the University of Portsmouth.

Despite the well-documented problems encountered in tracking-down and assembling these resources, I decided to have a look around to see if there were any further resources available on other topics suitable for a-level students. As luck – or what I prefer to call good solid detective work – would have it, there were. On the flipside, however, is the fact they relate to most people’s least favourite module, Research Methods (or as the Unit is self-described, an Introduction to Research Skills).

As with the majority of the resources across different topics, they’re a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to content and presentation: some pages and modules seem to have had a lot of care and attention lavished on them, while others are just a page or so of plain text. Whether this reflects a deliberate policy or the fact that money and / or enthusiasm for the project ran out I’ve no idea. The resources are, however, generally pitched at a level suitable for a-level students and could be used in a variety of ways (such as flipped learning) to help students get to grips with research methods. (more…)

Sociology Revision Booklets: 2. Theory and Methods

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

The second batch of a-level revision booklets covers that ever-popular topic, theory and methods.

As with previous offerings, both design and content can, at times, be a little variable and for this I take no responsibility whatsoever. Because I neither designed nor wrote any of the content. I am technically distributing it for your revision pleasure, however, so I do feel a modicum of responsibility for the materials.

Not enough, obviously, to indemnify you in any way, shape or form for any losses you may occur through using any of these resources. But enough to advise you it’s something of the nature of the beast that there’s frequently a trade-off between getting your hands on free resources and the currency of those resources. You need, in other words, to go through the resources you decide to use to check they conform to your current Specification: things, as they are wont to do, sometimes change. You also need to make sure you find ways of covering newer material that may not be included in these revision booklets.

That said, I’ve picked out some resources I think you might find useful and, where known, I’ve credited the appropriate source. Some might say this is so you know who to complain to if there’s anything you don’t like or understand but I would respond that it does you no credit to think that I might think like that. Or something.

Anyway, without further ado, you can if you so choose pick-up these free resources:

(more…)

Knowledge Organisers: Media and Methods and Education

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Back by popular demand and with a brand-spanking new set of Tables covering media, methods and education. Each Unit is by a different author and the quality is, at times, variable.

Media

These are pdf files so unless you’ve got a programme that will edit them you’re stuck with the information they have to offer. That said, they’re fairly recent (2015) and so are probably reasonably up-to-date and in line with the latest Specifications. There is, unfortunately, no indication of authorship…

Ownership of the mass media
New media, globalisation and popular culture
Selection and presentation of news and moral panics
Mass media and audiences
Representations of the body
Representations of ethnicity age and class

Methods

These are a little older (2009) and again authorship is a little hazy. On the plus side they’re in Word format so they can be easily edited if necessary.

Experiments and Questionnaires
Interviews
Observation and Secondary Sources

Previous Tables you might find useful:

Table 1.

Table 2.

Table 3.

Education

Again, not sure who created these or indeed when they were created. However, they are in Word format if you want to edit them.

Functionalism and Marxism
Feminism, New Right, Interactionism
Cultural and Material Factors

Previous Tables you might find useful:

Table 1.

Table 2.

 

More Learning Tables: AS Research Methods

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

Today’s Table offering is everyone’s favourite revision topic (research methods in case you actually need to ask) and all of the Tables were written / assembled by Miss K Elles, except for those that weren’t.

The Tables cover the major research methods plus a little bit of research methodology (positivism and interpretivism plus stuff on choice of method, value-freedom, objectivity and subjectivity) and mainly focus on knowledge with little bits of application and evaluation thrown-in.

If I had guess – which I do because I don’t know for sure – I’d say these were early-version Tables where the more-complex structure of later Tables hadn’t been established.

Alternatively they may just have been knocked-out quickly to fulfil some necessary teaching and learning void.

Either way, you and your students may find the following Tables useful:

Secondary Sources
Experiments
Surveys
Sampling
Observations
Positivism and Interpretivism 1 (Georgia Banton)
Positivism and Interpretivism 2 (Georgia Banton)
Factors influencing choice of method (Isaac Carter-Bown)
Value-Freedom (S Dale)

Methods, Mobiles and Media

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Research Methods can be a little abstract and dry (teacher-speak for dull), particularly when opportunities to experience and apply what’s being taught are limited by things like time and a lack of easy access to suitable research subjects.

This is where Steven Thomas’ “Patterns of Mobile Phone Use” article might help. The research example it suggests takes advantage of a ubiquitous resource – student ownership of mobile phones – to promote a relatively simple and straightforward way of applying and evaluating a range of methods, from questionnaires to participant observation.

It does this by suggesting students (loosely) replicate Maenpaa’s (2001) examination of the impact of mobile phones on social interaction through a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods designed to monitor mobile phone use in a small case study scenario. The article suggests a set of general areas to study – from the simple quantitative, like the length of time people spend on their phones each day, to more qualitative questions relating to how people behave when using their mobiles.

Media: Context / Background

Although the article is mainly designed to help students get to grips with research methods, if you’re teaching media there is an additional aspect to the research you might find interesting: evaluating the social impact of new media.

The concept of “New Media” appears somewhere on all Sociology a-level Specifications, frequently in conjunction with an instruction to examine its role / impact / significance in contemporary societies, both local and global:

AQA: New media and their significance for an understanding of the role of the media in contemporary Society

OCR: The impact of digital forms of communication in a global context

WJEC: New media and globalisation

CIE: The impact of the ‘new media’ on society.

In Thomas’ article the student research is based around a contrast between Negreponte’s slightly gung-ho and highly-individualistic “digital optimism” and Maenpaa’s more-nuanced approach to communication and interaction.

One interesting aspect of Negreponte’s work is the claim that in a digital society of “email, fax and answering machines” (the fact he only said this in 1995 shows how rapidly the technology has changed) the world will become asynchronous. That is, in order to participate or communicate people do not need to be interacting at the same time. As he predicted (Wired, 1998):

“We’ll all live very asynchronous lives, in far less lockstep obedience to each other. Any store that is not open 24 hours will be noncompetitive. The idea that we collectively rush off to watch a television program at 9:00 p.m. will be nothing less than goofy. The true luxury in life is to not set an alarm clock and to stay in pajamas as long as you like. From this follows a complete renaissance of rural living. In the distant future, the need for cities will disappear”.

One way in which new media has become increasingly ubiquitous is through the exponential growth of mobile / cell phone ownership and you would think that if any technological development has created or expanded asynchronous interaction it would be this one: technology that even a few years ago could be used to symbolise wealth and social status is now pretty-much everywhere.

While Negreponte’s arguments have a ring of truth about them – a certain face validity as it were – others have not been so sure. Maenpaa’s (2001) examination of the impact of mobile phones on interaction is a case (study) in point, with his key findings summarised by Thomas.

Methods

If you just want to use the activity as a way of teaching research methods, researching mobile use could be used to devise and apply methods such as:

  • Questionnaires / Structured interviews
  • Unstructured interviews
  • Observation – non-participant
  • Participant – overt and covert

  • Equally you could use a combination of quantitative / qualitative methods if you wanted to illustrate concepts of triangulation.

    If you don’t have the time, opportunity or inclination to do this as a practical exercise, try doing a thought experiment where students have to imagine what it would be like to do the research. This particular route can be instructive if students already have a good grounding in different methods, their strengths, weaknesses, uses and limitations and you want to explore a range of more-theoretical issues (different research methodologies, different aspects of triangulation and so forth).

    NotAFactsheet: Miscellaneous Methods

    Friday, May 5th, 2017

    Another small batch of NotAFactsheets covering a miscellaneous melange of methods-related stuff – some essential, some less so (but probably nice to know, just in case you want to impress the examiner with your wide-ranging and perceptive grasp of all things methodological. Or maybe not).

    M9. Quantitative and Qualitative Data

    M10. Strong and Weak Feminist thesis

    M11. Types of Triangulation

    M13. Objectivity, Subjectivity, Value-Freedom

    Methods in Context: Overt Participant Observation

    Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

    For some reason I thought I’d already blogged this document, but it seems I’d put it on the Sociology Central web site but not here.

    To rectify the omission, therefore, this document uses Sudhir Venkatesh’s “Gang Leader For a Day” study as the basis for an outline and evaluation – the advantages and disadvantages – of the following key methodological concepts in overt participant observation:

    Access.
    Recording Data.
    Validity.
    Depth and Detail.
    Going Native.
    Observer Effect.

     

    NotAFactsheet: Interpretivist Methods

    Thursday, April 20th, 2017

    Continuing the Research Methods theme of recent posts, these NotAFactsheets focus on a range of methods associated with Interpretivist research:

    M4a. Research Methods: this outlines different types of interview: semi-structured, unstructured and focus groups.

    M4b. Research Methods: observational methods are one of the staples of Interpretivist research and this outlines non-participant observation, covert and overt participant observation.

    M4c. Research Methods: while experimental methods are not conventionally associated with Interpretivism there have been a number of very interesting and influential field and natural experiments carried-out over the years. This NotAFactsheet outlines these and also provides an outline of documentary sources (with a bit of content analysis thrown-in for good measure).

     

    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.

    Non-Experimental Methods in Psychological Research

    Friday, December 9th, 2016

    The second in a trilogy of related psychology research methods films (the first looks at Experimental Research Methods and the third goes “Behind the Statistics” to examine how these are socially constructed), Non-Experimental Methods is a three-part film that illustrates different dimensions of non-experimental research – Naturalistic Observation; Self-Report methods and Case Studies – using a judicious mix of classic and contemporary studies (Rosenhan, Hartup, LaFrance and Mayo, Phineas Gage, Genie Wiley…). Each self-contained film looks at how the method can be defined, as well as assessing their respect strengths and limitations.

    Non-Experimental Methods can be used in a number of ways inside and outside the classroom to promote student engagement with and understanding of how real psychologists use these methods to inform their work.

    Non-Experimental Methods is available on-demand: 48-hour rental or to Buy