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Podcasts with Pictures: Evaluating Sociological Research Methods

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

Alexandra Sugden’s YouTube Channel contains a load of online lectures, for both GCSE and A-level, covering areas like crime and deviance, education, sociological theory, research methods and a tiny bit of religion.

The Channel’s well worth a visit and a watch if you have the time and inclination and, as with many of the other Channels I’ve featured from time to time on this blog, what’s on offer is basically Podcasts with Pictures.

Alexandra talks students through a range of information using static, illustrative, material that reflects and reinforces what’s being said.

The lectures range in length from the “really short” at around 7 minutes to the significantly longer that can last upwards of 30 – 35 minutes. Although this can be quite a long time for a student to concentrate – either in the classroom or online – I found the tone of each lecture sufficiently confident and chatty to hold my attention. Others may not be as determined or dedicated, however, so if you want to use the lectures it may be useful to check them out beforehand so you can direct students to particular sections if necessary.

In addition to the straightforward lesson content lectures there are a range of revision / exam-preparation films covering things like how to answer different types of question, how to revise using the Revision Clock method and, something that particularly caught my attention for some reason, how to evaluate sociological research methods using the PERVERT mnemonic.

This, if you’re not familiar with it, is a 7-point checklist (Practical, Ethical, etc.) students can apply to a research methods question that helps them cover all the major knowledge, interpretation and evaluation points. The lecture covers each of the Pervert Points in turn, using examples to illustrate where necessary. Some (such as ethics) are covered in greater detail and more-comprehensively than others (such as validity).

As with all such materials it’s possible to be picky about the information they contain (“validity”, for example, is not really about “truth” in research, while, in relation to a different lecture I watched on Broken Windows, Zimbardo’s 1969 “Anonymity of Place” experiment logically couldn’t have been about “testing Broken Windows” – a theory developed in 1982…) but as long as you’re on hand to correct any possible misconceptions all should be well.

Otherwise, the lecture is around 11 minutes long, so probably just enough time to make a cup of coffee while your students Zoom-view the content.

Research Methods: Triangulation

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

Over the past few years the concept of triangulation has become increasingly central to an understanding of both research methodology and methods – their strengths, weaknesses and limitations in particular – at High School and A level and it’s a topic I’ve already addressed a few times in one form or another.

Download the Abridged version…

If you want to check out these resources, you’ll find both textbook chapters (Of Methods and Methodology: 5. Triangulation, The Research Process: Part 4) and Factsheets dealing with different aspects of the general concept – and if these aren’t enough to satisfy your hunger for “Quality Triangulation Resources” (it says here, admittedly because I wrote it) it’s your lucky day because I’ve chanced across an interesting document from the UNAIDS Monitoring and Evaluation Unit you might find useful.

The pdf document – An Introduction to Triangulation – broadly follows Denzin’s (1970) triangulation typography as it looks at four general questions:

  • What is triangulation?
  • What are the different types of triangulation?
  • What are the strengths and weakness of the four types of triangulation?
  • Why do triangulation?
  • As an added bonus there are short sections on different types of data you might find helpful, either in the context of triangulation or research methods generally:

  • The differences between quantitative and qualitative data
  • Quantitative and qualitative data sources
  • Determining the usefulness of data
  • As you’ll notice if you decide to download the document, this is an abridged version that just focuses on the topics listed above.

    The full document is available as an online flipbook if you want it but unless you’re after a very short quiz and a quick glossary of key terms there’s not a lot extra to be had.

    Update

    If you want a visual complement to the above our latest (2021) short film introduces students to Denzin’s four types of triangulation:

    • data
    • researcher
    • theoretical
    • methodological.

    The film – previewed below – outlines and illustrates each type using an example drawn from real-world sociological research and concludes with a brief outline and assessment of the broad benefits and limitations of each of these different types.

    Psychological Research Methods: A Practical Approach

    Thursday, December 17th, 2020

    I know I said the Teacher Guides were the “third and final” post in this series of Psychology Lesson Elements and Delivery Guides but I may have been caught up in the moment and hence guilty of slightly over-exaggerating things, vis-à-vis the finality angle.

    In other words, I’ve found another OCR Resource that both complements the preceding stuff and which, if you teach Research Methods, either as part of OCR or some other Specification – that will be everyone, then – you will probably find useful.

    A Handbook of Practical Investigations provides 14 ready-made Research Examples students can carry-out – online or within the classroom – broken down into the following areas:

  • Laboratory experiments x 2
  • Repeated measures design experiment
  • Laboratory experiment using independent design
  • Self-report methods (questionnaires) x 3
  • Self-report methods (interviews)
  • Observational methods x 3
  • Correlational methods x 3
  • Each section provides a research scenario such as the following for a laboratory experiment:

    “You are asked to design a practical project to investigate whether chewing gum improves concentration. Your project must use an experimental method, must have an independent measures design and must collect quantitative data.”

    Hint: your project could measure concentration by giving participants a page of text to read, and asking them to cross out every letter ‘e’ they read in a fixed time of 30 seconds.

    You will need: Several packs of chewing gum, photocopied page of any text/book.

    The scenario is followed by a series of questions students are required to answer about the research they’ve done. This covers things like the method and procedure of the research, advantages and disadvantages of their design, ethical problems and how they can be resolved and the like.

    If there’s nothing in the provided examples that particularly tickles your fancy you can, of course, provide your own for your students to carry-out, based on the principles outlined in the Handbook.

    And if your students need a little extra preparation before embarking on any, or indeed all, of the research examples, you might want to check-out the following short films, created specifically for A-level / High School Psychologists, that are available to rent (one week) or buy “at very reasonable prices”:

    Experimental Methods

    Experimental Design

    Ethics and Ethical Issues

    Correlations

    Laboratory Experiments

    Non-Experimental Research Methods

    Naturalistic Observation

    Sampling

    Self Report Research Methods

    Research Methods Booklet

    Thursday, May 21st, 2020

    This Booklet was created by Steven Humphrys, based on one of Ken Browne’s many Sociology textbooks. I don’t know which one but since the Booklet’s dated 2018 I chose the most recent.

    Probably.

    I can’t keep up.

    Also, when I say “guessing”, the Word version has a bank page that says “Ken Browne Scan”, which might be considered some sort of a clue.

    Be that as it may, the content covers pretty-much everything a student would need to know and revise about (AQA) research methods (other Exam Boards are available – but since its Research Methods the content’s going to be pretty much applicable across the board, so to speak), organised into a number of discrete sections:

  • Methodologies (positivism and interpretivism)
  • Practical, Ethical and Theoretical research considerations
  • Research design
  • Methods – from experiments to observation via questionnaires.
  • Sampling techniques
  • Triangulation (although this is treated minimally. And then some).
  • Each section is generally presented in terms of two categories:

  • keywords and concepts outlines the basic information required for the exam. This includes the aforementioned (visually signposted) key ideas, some elaborative material and, where relevant, a table of advantages and disadvantages.
  • exam focus provides a range of exam practice questions.
  • As you’ll see from the image I’ve used to decorate this Post, the document formatting is a step up from most booklet’s of this type – and therein lies a slight problem. Word is predominantly a word processor (there’s a clue in there somewhere) and while it has tried to evolve over the years into what it likes to think of itself as some-sort of all-round Desktop Publishing type program, it really isn’t.

    While you can DTP in Word, as this Booklet demonstrates, it’s not ideal because you have to be very careful about the options you set when anchoring text to graphics. To cut a long story short, if you get it wrong and the text moves slightly – which can happen when documents are uploaded to the web – so do the images…

    What I’ve done, therefore, is correct some of the formatting problems that appear in the original Word document and saved it as a pdf file. I haven’t changed any of the text, so both versions are identical (although I’ve removed the blank page from the pdf version). However, if you want a version to edit, choose the original Word one. If you want a version whose contents won’t slide around the page if you cough too loudly, choose the pdf one.

    Of Methods and Methodology 6 | 3: Theoretical Research Considerations

    Thursday, April 30th, 2020

    Theoretical research considerations – from methodological perspective to questions of reliability and validity – form the third part of the P.E.T. (Practical, Ethical, Theoretical) triumvirate of research considerations and they represent an important counterweight to the idea that sociological research simply involves choosing the right tool for the job.

    In everyday life, when faced with a problem like hanging a picture on a wall, most of us would reach for a hammer – mainly because we consider this the most appropriate and efficient tool for the job.

    When carrying out sociological research, therefore, it would make sense to do something similar: choose a research topic and then select the most appropriate method with which to collect data.

    Seeing research methods as tools – what Ackroyd and Hughes (1992) called the “Toolbox Approach” to sociological research – is, on one level, a perfectly sensible approach: if you want to collect quantitative data about some form of behaviour it’s not a great idea to use a method better-suited to collecting qualitative data – and vice-versa.

    (more…)

    Of Methods and Methodology 6 | 2: Ethical Research Considerations

    Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

    Ethics refers to the morality of doing something and ethical questions relating to sociological research involve beliefs about what a researcher should – or should not do – before, during and after the research in which they’re involved. This will, as a matter of course, include a consideration of both legal and safety issues:

  • for the researcher.
  • those being researched.
  • any subsequent researchers.
  • In this respect, therefore, ethical questions cover a range of possible issues, questions and problems relating to the conduct of sociological research that include:

    (more…)

    Of Methods and Methodology 6 | Practical Research Considerations

    Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

    Sociologists do research for a wide range of reasons and in this post we’re looking at a range of practical research considerations relating to, firstly, choice of topic and secondly, choice of method.

    As luck would have it (you didn’t seriously think I planned this stuff, did you?), this all fits neatly into my “5 Things You Need To Know” patent-not-pending revision technique…

    choice of topic

    Decisions about what to study may be influenced by a range of personal and institutional factors:

    1. The interests of the researcher, for example, are likely to be a key influence on any decision about what to study., one that reflects their areas of expertise and specialism. To take a slightly extreme example perhaps, the Glasgow Media Group – and Greg Philo in particular – have specialised in research into mass media bias for over 40 years – from “Bad News” (1976) to “Bad News for Labour” (2019).

    2. A second area of influence involves things like current debates and intellectual fashions: the popularity of different research topics, for example, wax and wane for a range of reasons, not least being the availability or otherwise of research funding – an issue we’ll address in a moment.

    One driver of research choices in this respect, at least in the UK, is that institutional, departmental and personal funding in universities is sensitive to the popularity of a piece of research. An important way this is measured is in terms of how many other researchers around the world cite an individual’s research. The more the citations, the greater the measured popularity and the higher the level of future research funding for a university department.

    A research topic that is currently popular and / or intellectually fashionable may stand a greater chance of attracting citations because the pool of interest – among other researchers, the media and general public – will be that much larger than for a much smaller, more niche, research topic  (Southerton et al’s (1998) “Research Note on Recreational Caravanning” being a personal favourite).

    Money, money, money…

    3.  Funding is one of the more prosaic – but nevertheless hugely important – practical considerations in relation to topic choice. Research, in simple terms, costs money – whether, like Cant et al (2019), you’re emailing a questionnaire to sociology teachers to explore their opinions on the status of sociology in English schools, co-ordinating a group of academics and field researchers in a lengthy study of religion and spirituality (Heelas and Woodhead, 2004) or simply, like Ferrell (2018) or Venkatesh (2009), engaging in extensive and lengthy forms of participant observation.

    While finding the money to fund a piece of research that may last anything from a few weeks to, in Venkatesh’s case around 10 years, may dictate the researcher’s choice of topic – if the funding’s not available, it’s unlikely to be studied – a further dimension are the questions:

    Who pays?

    And why?

    Those who commission and pay for sociological research, from universities, through charities and private Think Tanks to government departments, are likely to want – and in some cases demand -an important say in the ultimate choice of topic to be studied. In both the UK and USA, for example, the trend over the past 30 – 40 years has been to commission sociological research designed to help government policymakers make decisions. If your choice of topic (and method…) doesn’t fit with this brief or aid in this process it may be harder to attract funding.

    There’s more. A whole load More

    Of Methods and Methodology: 5. Triangulation

    Friday, March 13th, 2020

    methodological pluralism

    While it’s necessary, for the sake of illustration, to differentiate between different sociological methodologies, this doesn’t mean positivism and interpretivism simply occupy their own unique social space into which the other cannot enter – an idea reflected in the notion “positivists” would not use qualitative methods for methodological reasons, because such methods “lack reliability”, for example, while “interpretivists” would not use quantitative methods because they “lack validity”.

    Rather than see methodologies as being entities whose basic principles are set in stone, it’s more-useful to see them as mental constructs created for theoretical convenience; to help us understand and evaluate, for example, methodological principles such as reliability and validity. In this respect the question of whether we should expect to meet such methodologies in their “pure forms” in the real world of sociological research may be somewhat wide of the mark given that, as Wood and Welch (2010) argue:

    There is now increasing awareness that both quantitative and qualitative styles of research may have a contribution to make to a project, which leads to the idea of mixing methods“.

    This idea can be expressed as methodological pluralism, something Payne et al (2004) define as “tolerance of a variety of methods”. It refers, in other words, to the idea of combining research methodologies in ways that allow each to complement the other to improve overall research reliability and validity.

    The logic of this argument is that different research methods have different methodological strengths and weaknesses; questionnaires, for example, may produce reliable data, but with low validity (although, once again, this relationship is by no-means set in stone – depending on what is being measured, questionnaires are not methodologically incapable of producing valid data), while the reverse may be true for covert participant observation. 

    Rather than approach research methodology from the perspective of a “design problem” therefore – how to test a hypothesis (positivism) or answer a research question (interpretivism) we can approach it from a methodological perspective – how to collect data that has the highest possible levels of reliability and validity, regardless of the actual methods or data types used. In this respect, if methodological pluralism represents the theoretical justification for using mixed methods – because no research method or data type is intrinsically “positivist” or “anti-positivist” – triangulation is the means through which this theory is put into practice.

    More on Mixed Methods…

    Of Methods and Methodology: 4. Postmodernism

    Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

    A methodology is a framework for research that focuses on how it is possible to collect reliable and valid data about, in this instance, the social world. It’s shaped by two main considerations:

    1. Our beliefs about the fundamental nature of the social world (ontological concerns).

    2. How we believe is possible to construct knowledge about the world (epistemology).

    In turn, these ideas shape our choice of research methods when we come to actually collect data.

    Unlike the three previous posts in this short, but pithy, series (Positivism, Interpretivism and Realism in case you hadn’t noticed) the status of “postmodernism” as a form of sociological research methodology is, at best ambivalent. However, in terms of the basic definition I’ve used to introduce these posts it does represent a perspective on how it’s considered possible to generate reliable and valid information about the world and, for this reason, I’ve decided to invite it to the party.

    Feel free to disagree.

    Basic Principles

    1. A postmodernist methodology is founded on two basic ideas:

    Firstly, the critique of modernism focused on the idea that concepts like ‘universal truth’ and ‘objectivity’ are inherently subjective constructions that need to be considered as narratives within a scientific discourse. In other words, such ideas represent stories that describe the social world from a particular position of power, rather than unequivocal, objective features of that world.

    Secondly, postmodernism is constructivist, in the sense of seeking to describe how narratives and discourses develop and disappear as people construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct the social world. Such constructionism involves thinking about two main types of subjectivities:

    • Personal: how people experience and reflect on the social world in terms of their particular beliefs, values, norms, identities and so forth.

    • Social: personal experience grounded in the experiences and activities of others. Traditionally, for example, one way of expressing this idea is to think about areas like primary and secondary socialisation and how the behaviour of others (such as parents, friends and the media) impacts on how we see both ourselves and the social world. More-recently however we see social subjectivities developing around various forms of social media.

    Postmodernism and the social media rabbit hole…

    2. In an inherently subjective social world it follows that all explanations of that world are relative. Or, as Troest (1999) puts it, “we have no way of objectively distinguishing that which is true from that which is false”. This claim has important ramifications for sociological research because, if true (?) it follows that concepts like reliability and validity are simply social constructs that reflect one view of methodological order. They are, in other words, simply part of one “narrative of science” that is no more – and no less – valid than any other description of science. Taken to its logical conclusion this argument, Curran and Takata (2004) note, means that for postmodernists there is no possibility of ‘a unifying overall truth’ about the social world. That would just be one more metanarrative to add to the expanding list…

    There’s More: Oh God There’s more

    Of Methods and Methodology: 3. Realism

    Monday, March 2nd, 2020

    A methodology is a framework for research that focuses on how it is possible to collect reliable and valid data about, in this instance, the social world. It’s shaped by two main considerations:

    1. Our beliefs about the fundamental nature of the social world (ontological concerns).

    2. How we believe is possible to construct knowledge about the world (epistemology).

    In turn, these ideas shape our choice of research methods when we come to actually collect data.

    Although an understanding of Realist methodology isn’t essential at a-level, if students can grasp its basics it’s very useful as a source of evaluation for alternative methodological approaches, such as positivism and interpretivism.

     It also adds a slightly different dimension to arguments over whether sociology is a science.

    Realism, particularly at a-level, is often portrayed as a kind of methodological hybrid, one that combines a belief in the existence of objective social structures (positivism) with the idea they are subjectively experienced and socially constructed (interpretivism). While this is, in some respects, a valid way of looking at it, realist methodology is perhaps a little more subtle and complex than this simple formulation might suggest – an idea we can explore in the following way:

    1. For Realists, societies consist of social structures that can be objectively studied because these structures have an independent existence from the people who move through them. Social structures, therefore, represent ‘real forces’ that act on, shape and in some ways determine our everyday political, economic and cultural lives.

    2. While the real features of social systems make it possible to establish causal relationships, Realism breaks with positivism because it adds the proviso causality will be limited in time and space: what is true in one society / social context may not be true in another. This follows because for Realists there is a further dimension to understanding human behaviour – a subjective one that recognises and takes on board the importance of human meaning and interpretation.

    (more…)

    Of Methods and Methodology: 2. Interpretivism

    Saturday, February 29th, 2020

    A methodology is a framework for research that focuses on how it is possible to collect reliable and valid data about, in this instance, the social world. It’s shaped by two main considerations:

    1. Our beliefs about the fundamental nature of the social world (ontological concerns).

    2. How we believe is possible to construct knowledge about the world (epistemology).

    In turn, these ideas shape our choice of research methods when we come to actually collect data.

    Basic Principles

    Unlike their positivist counterparts, for interpretivists the crucial difference between the objects of study for social and natural scientists is that people have consciousness.

    This is significant because this awareness of both Self and our relationship to Others gives people the ability to act; to exercise what we might loosely call free will over the choices they make about how to behave in different situations, rather than simply react to external (structural) stimulation.

    People, therefore, are “inherently unpredictable” in the sense they do not necessary react in the same way to the same stimuli. Unlike a natural world governed by linear progressions – A causes B causes C – the social world is a non-linear system that makes individual behaviour difficult to predict. The best we can do is suggest a range of probabilities about what will occur in terms of people’s behaviour in the context of different situations.

    A further complication here is that behaviour is not simply a condition of the Self: that is, someone choosing to do – or not to do – something. Rather, it’s also a condition of the Other. How other people define and interpret someone’s behaviour is just as – if not – more important.

    Read on MacDuff…

    Of Methods and Methodology: 1. Positivism

    Friday, February 28th, 2020
    No.1 Positivism

    A methodology is a framework for research that focuses on how it is possible to collect reliable and valid data about, in this instance, the social world. It’s shaped by two main considerations:

    1. Our beliefs about the fundamental nature of the social world (ontological concerns).

    2. How we believe is possible to construct knowledge about the world (epistemology).

    In turn, these ideas shape our choice of research methods when we come to actually collect data.

    Basic Principles

    As a general approach Positivism argues it’s both possible and desirable for sociologists to study social behaviour using similar methods to those used to study behaviour in the natural world – a belief we can examine by identifying some of the key ideas underpinning this approach.

    1. A basic principle of this methodological approach is that social systems consist of structures that exist independently of individuals.

    Institutions, such as families, education systems, governments and so forth, represent behaviour, at the macro (or very large group) level of society. As individuals we experience social structures as forces bearing down on us, pushing us to behave in certain ways and shaping our behavioural choices. An interesting example of how an institutional structure works is language.

    To be part of a society we must communicate using language, both verbal (words) and non-verbal (gestures). As conscious individuals we exercise some choice over which language we speak, but our freedom of choice is actually limited for two reasons:

    There’s more. Oh Yes…

    Media Methods and Representations: The Bechdel Test

    Friday, November 22nd, 2019
    Alison Bechdel's “The Rule” (1985)
    Alison Bechdel’s “The Rule” (1985)

    The Bechdel Test is a very simple type of content analysis, created by Alison Bechdel in a 1985 episode (“The Rule”) of her comic-strip “Dykes to Watch Out For”, that tests how women – and by extension men – are historically represented in Hollywood films.

    Aside from throwing-up, so to speak, some interesting and frankly-quite-surprising results (the Bechdel test web site has a database of films that passed (or more usually, failed), the Test itself is a simple and efficient way to allow students to “do” some Content Analysis in a context that’s easy to arrange and manage.

    In basic terms, ask each student in your class to watch a film of their choice (in their own time…) and, while their watching, record whether or not it satisfies 4 simple criteria:

    1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?

    2. Do they have names (i.e. are they something more than background extras)?

    3. Do they talk to each other?

    4. Is their conversation about something other than men?

    If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, the film fails the test.

    Applying the Test

    Five Methods of Socialisation

    Thursday, September 5th, 2019
    5 Methods of Socialisation PowerPoint. Click here to download.

    Continuing the dimensions of socialisation theme that began with the Agencies of Socialisation PowerPoint and continued with the Methods of (Gender) Socialisation Knowledge Organiser, this 5 Methods of Socialisation PowerPoint Presentation is designed to introduce the concepts underpinning the latter by providing simple definitions of:

  • Selective exposure
  • Identification
  • Modelling
  • Sanctions (rewards and punishments)
  • Nurturance
  • You can use the Presentation as a simple standalone introduction to different methods of socialisation (the Presentation leans towards examples of gender socialisation within the family but it’s easy enough to change this focus to get students to think about other institutions, such as the media or education, and the impact they have on the general socialisation process) or as an explanation of the Knowledge Organiser categories if you intend to do more in-depth work with your students in this area.

    For continuity purposes the Presentation uses the same backgrounds, icons and Glass Experience™ as the Agencies Presentation.

    Either that or I couldn’t be bothered to create a new design.

    Methods of (Gender) Socialisation: Knowledge Organiser

    Wednesday, September 4th, 2019
    Blank KO Template. Click to download.
    Blank Template

    While putting together the Agencies of Socialisation PowerPoint I came across a related document – a kind of proto-knowledge organiser, circa 2002 – that I must have once worked-on and then, for whatever reason, abandoned.

    In basic terms, the document can be used to organise ideas about, in this instance, gender socialisation (it could probably also be used to organise other forms of socialisation) into four main categories:

    1. Selective Exposure: boys and girls are selectively exposed to different ideas, behaviours and practices seen as appropriate to their sex.

    2. Modelling: boys and girls are encouraged to model their behaviour by observing and to some extent copying the gendered behaviour they see around them – in their families, peer groups, schools, media and so forth.

    3. Rewards and Punishments: although the idea of social sanctions, in the form of rewards for conformity and punishments for deviance, is a standard aspect of our understanding of socialisation processes what might be more-interesting to think about is whether different types of male – female behaviour are rewarded and punished and whether each gender is rewarded / punished differently for displaying the same behaviour?

    4. Identification and Nurturance: Identification and nurturance involve a stronger form of modelling in the sense that where boys and girls are encouraged to identify with adults of their sex, the latter are potentially more-influential in nurturing the social traits and behaviours they see as desirable in children of different sexes.

    (more…)

    Sociological Research Methods On Demand

    Thursday, July 11th, 2019

    3 short films whose aim is not simply to tell students about sociological methods, but to show their strengths and limitations in action by looking at how these methods have been applied in key sociological studies. The films, also available on DVD, are now available to buy as individual titles on our new Vimeo On-Demand site.

    Case Studies [5 minutes]

    If you go and see your doctor or a therapist, you’ll become a ‘case’ to them. They’ll want to know a lot more about you. Similarly, sociological case studies involve putting a social group, an event or a place ‘under the microscope’. This film looks at a classic sociological study, The Spiritual Revolution, to show why case studies are used in sociology, what they provide for the sociologist and the extent to which findings can be generalised.

    Self Report Methods: Interviews and Questionnaires [7 minutes]

    How do school students negotiate the pressures to perform well academically alongside the pressure to popular and cool? Carolyn Jackson combined questionnaires and interviews to research this question and this film uses her study, Lads and Ladettes, to illustrate why these methods are chosen, their respective strengths and limitations and how the strengths of one can be used to offset the limitations of the other.

    Participant Observation [7 minutes]

    Some research questions can only really be studied by sociologists getting out of their offices and interacting directly with the people they want to study. Starting with the famous Chicago School of sociology, this film looks at some classic studies to illustrate why participation observation is used in sociology, its major strengths and limitations and its contribution to sociological understanding.

    Sociological Research Methods DVD

    Monday, July 1st, 2019

    Our first sociological research methods DVD features 3 short films whose aim is not simply to tell students about sociological methods, but to show their strengths and limitations in action by looking at how these methods have been applied in key sociological studies. The DVD features:

    Interviews and Questionnaires [7 minutes]

    How do school students negotiate the pressures to perform well academically alongside the pressure to popular and cool? Carolyn Jackson combined questionnaires and interviews to research this question and this film uses her study, Lads and Ladettes, to illustrate why these methods are chosen, their respective strengths and limitations and how the strengths of one can be used to offset the limitations of the other. (more…)

    Psychology Films 3 | Non-Experimental Methods

    Monday, May 6th, 2019

    The third batch of new psychology films uploaded to the website focuses on the “other side” of research methods with 4 short films looking at non-experimental methods.

    As with Experimental Methods and Issues in Psychology the emphasis is on providing strong introductions to a specific method or concept. Each of the films includes an overview of its chosen topic, how it has been applied in a particular study or studies and an evaluation of its strengths / weaknesses / limitations. 

    Naturalistic Observation 
    4 minutes
    Some research questions in psychology involve getting out and seeing how people actually behave in real life situations and this involves naturalistic observation.

    Using several key studies, this film illustrates different techniques of naturalistic observation, why psychologists use this method, some of the difficulties involved, and the limitations of the method.

    Self-Report Methods 
    5 minutes
    Self-report methods gather data directly from the participants and this film illustrates and compares two types of self-report method: questionnaires and interviews. This involves looking at some of the problems and limitations common to all self-report methods and how they can be avoided or overcome.

    Correlations 
    4 minutes
    Correlations are relationships and this film begins by illustrating how the strength and direction of those relationships is measured.

    It then uses real research studies to illustrate their uses, limitations and how easily correlation data can be misused.

    Case studies 
    6 minutes
    This film uses the well-known case of ‘Genie’, a girl kept in solitary confinement from infancy until she was 13, to illustrate how and why case are used, what they can offer psychological researchers, their limitations and some of the ethical issues that can often arise through their application.

    Psychology Films 1 | Experimental Methods

    Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

    We’ve been adding some new films to the redesigned web site, starting with a batch of four films covering experimental research design and methods.

    Natural Experiments
    Natural Experiments

    The films have been designed as relatively short introductions to a specific method or concept and each provides an overview of its chosen topic, how it has been applied in a particular study or studies and an evaluation of its strengths / weaknesses / limitations.

    Experimental Design
    (7 minutes)
    The film starts with a simple research question – What is the most effective time of day for students to learn new material? – as a way of providing practical illustrations of the strengths and possible limitations of repeated measures, independent measures and matched pairs experimental designs.
    This is subsequently developed by using three classic experimental studies (the Stroop Effect, Loftus’ eyewitness testimony experiments and Bandura’s bobo doll experiments to show why a particular experimental design was used in each case.

    Lab experiments
    Laboratory Experiments

    Laboratory Experiments
    (7 minutes)
    This short film uses a number of well-known psychological studies (Watson, Asch, Bandura, Harlow, Loftus…) to explain the experimental method and illustrate how laboratory experiments are done. This includes evaluating their strengths and limitations and how these limitations do not apply uniformly to all experimental studies.

    Field Experiments
    (5 minutes)
    Three classic studies – Hofling’s study of nurse obedience, Fischer’s test of the cognitive interview and the Pilliavins’ research on good Samaritans – are used to illustrate what field experiments offer psychologists compared to other experimental methods. The film also looks at the difficulties involved with setting up field experiments and examines their strengths and limitations.

    Natural Experiments
    (6 minutes)
    In natural experiments, circumstances present researchers with an opportunity to test the effect of one variable on another in ways that could not be done in a laboratory experiment. This film looks at natural experiments in psychology to illustrate how they work, their differences from other methods, and their strengths and limitations.

    Sociology in Focus for AS: Methods Resources

    Wednesday, March 13th, 2019
    Overview Map

    The final set of resources to accompany the free Sociology in Focus AS textbook is for Research Methods aka “Everyone’s Favourite Module” (Said no-one. Ever).

    Although the textbook is aimed at AQA, everyone, everywhere, does research methods so there’s little here that won’t be familiar, whatever the Specification.

    Probably.
    I’d be inclined to check, though.
    Just-in-case.

    If you’ve been following these posts over the past few weeks (and if you haven’t you might want to think about Registering with the Blog to ensure you’re notified whenever a new post happens along) you’ll be familiar with the format – activity answers, spider-diagrams, worksheets and teaching tips – and so won’t be disappointed that this is exactly what you’re getting here.

    Or maybe you will. Who really knows?

    To be a bit more specific, the bundle features:

    Worksheet

    An Overview Map that sets out the broad content of the Unit in terms of the different Modules. This can be useful as a way of introducing the Unit and giving students a broad outline of the content they will be expected to cover.

    Revision Maps: These spider diagrams map-out the textbook content on a module-by-module basis. This makes them useful for both end-of-Unit revision (the focus is on identifying keywords in the text and relating them to other, linked, content) and for introducing the basic content of each Module.

    Teaching Tips: These include suggestions for some hands-on, “Doing Sociology”, approaches to research methods, plus a general introduction to what was, at the time (around 10 years ago) a new and highly-innovative type of research method called Visual Sociology. It’s moved on a bit in the meantime and while it’s not exactly a mainstream method it’s something you might want to investigate if you have the time and / or inclination.

    Activity Answers: If you set your students any of the activities / questions in the book, a set of standard answers would be quite a handy thing to have. Luckily, I’ve written some handy suggested answers to all the questions so you don’t have to.

    Worksheets: In moderation worksheets can be a useful little weapon in your teaching armoury, particularly for small-group work / flipped learning. The worksheets involve a combination of individual and group-based tasks that can be used to consolidate and check learning.

    Sociology in Focus for AS: Education and Methods

    Saturday, March 9th, 2019
    Overview Map

    Continuing to plough the long and lonely furrow that is AS Sociology, today’s offering is a whole bunch of resources for Education with Research Methods. These complement the Sociology in Focus for AS textbook you can pick-up for absolutely nothing if you click the link and then click another link to download it. You might want to read the text that surrounds the download link, but it’s not mandatory.

    If you follow the AQA Spec. the combination of Education and Methods will be all-too-familiar but if you follow other Specs (such as Eduqas) you’ll be pleased to know that as far as the resources go they’re basically “all about the Education” and you can forget about Methods (at least in this context).

    If you teach / study OCR then you need to be aware these are AS rather than A2 resources.

    If you teach / study outside the UK bubble you may find stuff here and in the textbook that relates to your course of study, but I can’t guarantee it.

    (more…)

    Methods Mat

    Monday, January 14th, 2019
    Methods Mat

    A generic Methods Mat template that might be useful for both Sociology and Psychology A-level Research methods teaching. 

    The Research Methods Tables created by Liam Core got me thinking about how to present a similar level of information in a Learning Mat format (such as Stacey Arkwright’s Sociology Mats, the Psychology Studies Mat or the generic Sociology / Psychology Mat).

    What I’ve come up with is Learning Mat template – an A4 page available as either a PowerPoint or Pdf document – focused on a single research method. I’ve included the PowerPoint version for a couple of reasons:

    Firstly, if you’re in the habit of displaying stuff for your students it’s much easier to do this in PowerPoint.

    Secondly, if you want to edit the template – to create, for example, a worked illustration – it’s a lot less work to do it in PowerPoint.

    Although the Mat should be fairly straightforward to use (it includes space to note the Key Features, Strengths and Weaknesses of a Research Method) I’ve added / adapted a couple of sections from the original:

    The first is fairly minor: the addition of a way to indicate if it’s a primary or secondary research method).

    (more…)

    Research Methods Tables

    Saturday, January 12th, 2019

    I’ve previously posted a couple of pieces of Liam Core’s work (a Sociology Literacy Mat and an A-level Evidence Bank Template) and since these have proven very popular with teachers I thought I’d tap him up for a few more resources.

    Research Methods Table

    And, sure enough, he’s delivered.

    This time it’s a handy research methods table students use to record key aspects of a range of methods (from questionnaires to public documents). The (Word) format’s easy to replicate so if you need to add or subtract different methods before you let your students loose it’s relatively easy to do.

    In terms of completing the table, for each research method students are required to note its:

  • Key features
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Practical issues
  • Ethical issues
  • How you use the table is, of course, up to you but it’s a resource that could be useful for revision, as a prompt sheet for timed essay writing and so forth.

    Methods Mat

    The resource packs a lot of research methods onto a single A4 page and some teachers / students might find this a bit restrictive, so if you decide to use this as a paper-based resource the author suggests you enlarge it to A3 before giving it to your students. Alternatively, if you find A3 materials a little unwieldy, you might like to try this Methods Mat – an A4 document focused on a single method.

    (Knife) Crime, Deviance, Media and Methods

    Monday, October 29th, 2018

    Because. LONDON!

    “Knife Crime” as you’re probably aware, is increasingly in the news, particularly, but not exclusively, in London (because, quite frankly and a little rhetorically, is there anywhere else of any great significance in England?).

    And while there are Definitely | Maybe | Probably (please delete as inapplicable) all kinds of reliability issues surrounding what counts as “knife crime” (and, indeed, how what counts can actually be counted) that you could explore if you were so inclined, a more pressing social (and, as it happens, sociological) problem is “Who’s responsible?”.

    This, of course, is not an idle question and happily, if that’s the right word, both the social and the sociological problem meet around the notion of “gangs” (and “youth gangs” in particular).

    However, before we start to develop some sort of hypothesis that might explain the relationship between “youth gangs” and the increase in serious knife crime (“knife crime with injury”) you might want to try this simple, single question, quiz on your students as a prelude to the serious stuff of explaining the data.

    As befits my sociological inexactitude I’ve formulated the quantitative quiz in either of two ways (one open-ended, the other closed-ended):

    And you call that a Staffie? Really? Sort it out!

    Either:

    Q1. In your own words, what percentage of “knife crime with injury” in London is committed by youth gangs?

    Or:

    Q1. In London, what percentage of “knife crime with injury” is committed by youth gangs?

    1. 45%?
    2. 4%?

    (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).

    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…). 

    I have, for example, marked some of the more problematic questions (such as “Have you made a false insurance claim, deliberately added items or increased the value of items on a claim”) in brown ink. If you want to keep them, just change the ink colour. If you think they’re likely to be irrelevant to your students, just delete and / or replace the questions accordingly.

    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: 7-day rental or to Buy

    Experimental Methods in Psychological Research

    Thursday, December 8th, 2016

    The first in a trilogy of related psychology research methods films (the second looks at Non-Experimental Research Methods and the third goes “Behind the Statistics” to examine how these are socially constructed), Experimental Methods is a three-part film that illustrates different dimensions of experimental research – Laboratory, Field and Natural experiments – using a mix of classic and contemporary studies (Bandura, Hofling, Piliavin, McGuire, Loftus, etc.). Each self-contained film looks at how the method can be defined, as well as assessing their respect strengths and limitations.

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

    A2 Psychology: Research Methods Free Chapter

    Friday, November 4th, 2016

    holt-and-lewisOne of the simple pleasures of Wandering the Web™ for a living, made all the more enjoyable by that intangible sense of the unexpected (I know, I live my life through contradictions), is coming across Stuff That Is Free.

    My not-so-little face lights up at the mere thought of finding Something For Nothing, even though that “Something” invariably ends up stored somewhere on a half-forgotten hard drive, waiting for that magic moment when “it might be useful to someone, sometime”.

    This behaviour, which I’m calling “Simple Squirrelling Syndrome” – because I can – has a yet deeper dimension (I’m toying with the idea of “Simple Squirrelling Syndrome Squared”, but it may need some work). Some years after the initial find-and-save I get to spend further pleasurable hours sifting through multiple hard drives “looking for that study I know I saved somewhere, under a name that made perfect sense at the time but which is now largely meaningless”, during which I rediscover all kinds of things I’d forgotten I had. My pleasure is quite obviously redoubled. Probably. I’m not altogether certain I’ve quite mastered mathematical analogies.

    Anyway, be that as it may, the actual point of this rambling preambling is that I came across this sample chapter on Research Methods from Holt and Lewis’ “A2 Psychology: The Student’s Textbook” and thought of you.

    On the downside it looks like a chapter from the 2009 edition, but on the upside you have to ask yourself when was the last time a textbook said anything startlingly-new about the Hypothetico-Deductive Model? Or “the Research Process”? Sampling? Probability and significance? My case rests.

    The chapter also has a very pretty, colourful, layout, which in my book counts for quite a lot.

    Media Methods

    Monday, May 9th, 2016

    8lqm5uyGOne of the obvious ways to study the media is through Content Analysis and a classic – if now somewhat dated – application of the method was the Glasgow Media Group’s pioneering research, evidenced through a series of books – Bad News (1976), More Bad News (1980), Really Bad News (1982) – that examined “the ‘common sense’ acceptance of the neutrality of television news” and concluded: “Contrary to the claims, conventions and culture of television journalism, the news is not a neutral product. For television news is a cultural artefact; it is a sequence of socially manufactured messages, which carry many of the culturally dominant assumptions of our society”. (more…)

    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).

    (more…)

    Teaching A-level Research Methods: Part 2

    Monday, April 25th, 2016

    Virtual Research in a Real Location

    The idea here is that we use students’ knowledge of a real location as the basis for virtual research: while the scenario is real – a location such as a high street, shopping mall, school or college – students aren’t required to carry-out any real (time-consuming) research. Rather, they use their knowledge and experience of a real-world location to inform their understanding of research methods.

    1. Walk the Talk

    How to prepare the ground for the Border Walking and subsequent teaching is something for individual teachers, but a couple of things can be usefully observed.

    (more…)

    Teaching A-level Research Methods: Part 1

    Friday, April 22nd, 2016

    A few years ago I was asked to deliver a Conference on “Sociology and the Internet” to teachers interested in learning more about what was available on the Web and how to incorporate this material into their teaching. The “one proviso” stipulated by the commissioning company was that “there would not be any access to computers on the day”. I thought long and hard about this for all of 5 seconds before politely declining. Although the money on offer was good, even I’m not that masochistic.

    “So what?” I hear you think (and yes, I really am that perceptive. And also in desperate need of a link between the first paragraph and the next).

    Well, since you ask, I was listening-in on a Twitter chat the other day about the difficulties involved in teaching research methods and I was reminded of the invitation to teach a bunch of people about all the brilliant resources available on the Web without giving them the ability to actually look for them…

    (more…)

    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).

    (more…)

    Experimental Research Methods DVD

    Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

    Our latest Psychology DVD brings together 4 short films designed to clarify and consolidate the meaning of experimental methods by looking at the different ways psychologists carry out and design experiments and evaluate their comparative strengths and limitations. Illustrative case studies are used throughout for application and advice is given on key points of revision and exam technique.

    1. Laboratory Experiments (5 minutes 45 seconds). In the context of three major studies (Bandura, Maguire, the Stroop Effect) the film covers key:
    • definitions (aim, method and environment)
    • concepts (such as dependent and independent variables)
    • evaluations (identifying their strengths and weaknesses)
    1. Field Experiments (7 minutes 5 seconds). Uses a range of classic studies to take you through the key ideas and skills required to produce an excellent exam answer in terms of:
    • knowledge: the experimental method, field and natural experiments
    • applications: Hofling, Piliavin, Fisher and Geiselman
    • evaluation: the uses and limitations of field experiments
    1. Natural Experiments (7 minutes 10 seconds). Uses Costello et al’s Great Smokey Mountains study (Relationships Between Poverty and Psychopathology) as the basis for:
    • illustrating the unique features of natural experiments
    • showing how natural experiments differ from other types of experiment
    • identifying the strengths and weaknesses of this research method
    1. Experimental Design (8 minutes 45 seconds). Uses a real world example (the relationship between learning and time of day) to explore 3 different types of experimental design:
    • Repeated Measures
    • Independent Measures
    • Matched Pairs

    The film explores their respective strengths and weaknesses as each design is applied to the learning example.

    Length: 29 minutes | Price: £17.50 | Order online / offline

    Research Methods: Experiments

    Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

    If you’re looking for contemporary examples of experiments with sociological applications, this recent study might be useful at both AS (Culture and Identity) and A2 (Differentiation) levels.

    In basic terms it’s a simple variation of the classic “discrimination experiment” whereby researchers do things like apply for jobs using a variety of different ethnic names on behalf of applicants with identical CV’s – the dependent (unmanipulated) variable in the experiment being the identical CV and the (manipulated) independent variable being applicant’s name

    In this particular version the researchers, Doleac and Stein, placed a number of identical fake classified advertisements for iPods that “included photographs of the product held by a hand.  Some hands were light-skinned, others dark, and they also included a second potentially stigmatized identity, men with tattoos.  Otherwise the ads were all identical“.

    blog_phone

    You can, rather depressingly perhaps, probably guess what happenned next…

    GCSE Sociology Workbooks

    Wednesday, July 14th, 2021
    Research Methods Workbook

    This is a set of Booklets / Workbooks created, according to the metadata, by Jennifer Croft for the Eduqas GCSE Sociology Specification – a slightly-underwhelming introduction that doesn’t do justice to the scope of the resources and the amount of work that must have gone into creating them.

    In all there are 8 Booklets, covering the Specification in full, although “Research Methods” actually covers two separate Modules (Applied methods of sociological enquiry and Sociological Research Methods) and Crime and Deviance is covered across 3 separate Booklets. Each Booklet is divided into 3 discreate sections:

    1. The body of the resource is given-over to a wide variety of notes, tasks, questions and exercises, some of which refer to “the textbook” by page number – such as when students are asked to provide definitions of key terms. Given there aren’t a massive number of Eduqas textbooks available this will probably be a self-evident reference for most teachers.

    For those using the resources with another Specification (such as AQA, WJEC or a non-UK Syllabus) or textbook, you will have to edit these references accordingly to fit whatever resources you use. For this reason I’ve left the Booklets in Word format to make them easy to edit. You can also add or remove material that you want to include / exclude.

    While, as I’ve been at pains to point-out, these resources have been designed for Eduqas there’s plenty of convergence between this Specification and other Specifications. For teachers of the latter, some judicious editing should bring everything into line with whatever Specification you follow.

    2. Retrieval Practice: This is an increasingly standard form of revision practice and each Booklet has space for students to practice their retrieval techniques – even though this just consists of blank pages…

    3. Additional Notes: There’s further space at the end of each Booklet for students to add their own additional notes to the materials.

    (more…)

    NES Social Science: Free Resources

    Saturday, July 10th, 2021

    One of the things about WordPress blogs is their legendary persistence.

    Once created they just sit there, regardless of whether you decide to move-on to whatever it is teachers move on to.

    PowerPoint Presentations…

    And sometimes this is a Good Thing because it means that even if a site is no-longer being updated there may well be stuff left laying around just waiting for someone to come along and find it.

    Which seems to be the case with this blog whose active heyday seems to have been a four-year spell between August 2015 and February 2019.

    Since when. Nothing.

    There’s not much clue as to who made it. And if I’m not mistaken most, if not all, of the resources have been brought together from a variety of different authors and sources. But this shouldn’t detain us overmuch because what’s been left is a load of resources – mainly PowerPoint Presentations, but also some Word documents – that you’re definitely going to find useful and helpful.

    The main sets of resources are divided into 5 familiar categories, particularly if you follow the AQA Specification, of varying depth and detail:

    (more…)

    Mass Media: Who Owns the UK Media?

    Wednesday, July 7th, 2021
    Click to Download

    Reasonably through and up-to-date information about UK Media Ownership is always a useful resource and this publication, Who Owns the UK Media?, from Media Reform UK (a Pressure Group that promotes reform of UK Media (there’s probably a clue in the name) is something Media Sociology teachers should find helpful for a couple of reasons:

    Firstly,  because it’s only a couple of years old (published in 2019).

    Secondly because it covers a wide range of online and offline media in some detail (including information on things like readership / viewership, income and the like).

    Equally-usefully, this is a revised and updated version of the original 2015 Ownership Report which means it’s possible to track and compare changes in economic ownership over the past 5 or so years in relation to:

  • UK National Newspapers (offline and online versions)
  • UK Local Newspapers
  • The New Digital Journalism
  • New Media Platforms and Intermediaries (e.g. Facebook, Twitter)
  • Share of UK Search
  • Social Media and News Consumption
  • UK Terrestrial TV
  • UK Subscription Video-On-Demand
  • Radio (Analogues and Digital) and Podcasting.
  • (more…)

    Hybrid Knowledge Organisers

    Monday, July 5th, 2021

    Knowledge Organisers (or Learning Tables if you prefer) have become something of a standard teaching and learning tool at both GCSE and A-level and while you may or may not find them helpful, one problem I’ve always found with them is the deceptively-simple one that they focus on knowledge.

    But one of the key things at both High School and A-level is that “knowing stuff”, while necessary, is not sufficient. An important dimension to study at this level is what students are able to do with what they know, in terms of things like applying knowledge to sociological questions, the ability to use some forms of knowledge to criticise others, to draw conclusions from their applications and criticisms and so forth.

    Hybrid Organiser Template

    A potential weakness of knowledge organisers, therefore, is that they have a tendency to encourage students to see “knowledge” as the most important element of study at this level; as long as you “know the right stuff” everything will be okay – a mindset that can difficult for teachers to dislodge.

    In thinking about how to resolve this problem I came across an idea by Paul Moss that combines the knowledge organiser with both retrieval practice and techniques of essay-writing.

    Which, all things considered, is no small achievement.

    And quite possibly an Act of Genius.

    Although Moss originally developed and applied his hybrid Organiser to English Literature A-level I’ve adapted it to what I think fits more easily with the needs of Social Science teachers (although the example I’m going to use here is based on Sociology – because that’s the subject content I’m most familiar with – it’s equally-applicable to subjects like Psychology).

    Where the original focused on a particular text (such as King Lear), my reformulation focuses on theories and theorists as the basis for getting students to organise their knowledge about a particular Module or Unit (most-likely the latter given the large amounts of knowledge content covered by Sociology (and Psychology) students).

    (more…)

    Psychology Transition Materials

    Thursday, July 1st, 2021

    As with their sociological peers, Psychology teachers have also been busy producing a wide range of materials designed, in the main, to ease the transition between GCSE and A-level and this means there’s plenty of resources freely available to either use “as is” or, more-likely perhaps, to inspire the creation of your own transition resources.

    Transition Pack: Prep Work 2

    I’ve tried to provide a fair spread of different types of transition resource, but while some teachers provide materials that take a slightly off-beat and novel approach, most of the stuff is fairly standard, straightforward “research and make notes” material. This doesn’t, of course, somehow make it bad or less useful but I do like to see a bit of innovation…

    Summer Work 2021: This features a simple “complete the table” activity of psychological perspectives combined with 4 exam-style questions that test mathematical understanding.

    The Stanford Prison Experiment: General plan from which students are required to research and write 600-word essay on the SPE.

    Chelmer Valley Transition Tasks: These consist of three types: a Creative Task based on a mini experiments; a Writing Task that involves producing a handout on Milgram’s Obedience Experiment and a Reading Task that involves producing a Mind Map from a specified article.

    Summer work: Students research and answer questions on two major psychological approaches.

    A Level Summer Work 2021: YouTube podcast designed to introduce students to the “Fundamentals of Psychology” while also trying to assess independent study and written communication skills through a range of tasks (from written work to watching YT videos). The podcast makes reference to “study sheets” that aren’t available to the casual viewer but if you find this approach interesting you’ll probably find a way around this problem. If you want to go down the more-traditional transition route, there’s also a short pack available with activities mainly based around research methods.

    Psychology Transition Pack: The basic Pack consists of 4 tasks with varying degrees of difficulty- from researching different approaches, through creating an historical timeline to opening a Twitter account, following a few suggested accounts and making notes on any interesting news that appears relevant to psychology. There are, however, some further optional Packs: Bridging the Gap “gives you a flavour of what A level Psychology is all about” by introducing some core psychological concepts and processes via a range of tasks (do a bit of research, answer some questions…) and exercises (such as designing a piece of research). Prep Work 2 involves a variety of tasks (from 15 minutes to 2 hours…) that variously involves watching things like TED talks and summarising the arguments, producing a handout or PowerPoint and the like. Prep Work 3 offers more of the same (although some of the links are broken).

    Psychology Induction Summer Work: Designed to introduce the skills and some of the content required for A-level, this pack offers a wide range of activities designed to “Introduce Psychology”. There’s also a recommended reading and viewing list for good measure.

    Year 12 Transition 2017: 3 tasks built around researching some key studies and writing about them in a structured way.

    Psychology Summer Work: Another “Time Line” activity (I find it interesting that while Time Line creation features in a lot of the psychology transition materials, it’s something that’s entirely absent from the sociology transition materials) plus creating factsheets to illustrate different psychological theories (from attachment to BoBo dolls…).

    (more…)

    Reflective Revision Diaries

    Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

    A Reflective Revision Diary is a way to organise student revision: to make it more manageable and, with a bit of effort and dedication, easier, less boring and consequently more effective.

    Diary Templates

    Although ideas about revision – what it involves and how to do it – have generally moved-on over the past 25 years or so, one idea that has tended to persist is when to revise.

    For most students (and probably teachers too) “revision” is something that’s (reluctantly) done between the end of a course and the start of their exams. For A-level students this optimistically means 9 – 12 weeks to revise 3 subjects that have been studied for 2 years. In Sociology, for example, this may come down to 3 weeks to revise 6 modules.

    This, by any stretch, is a lot of work.

    And too much work + too little time leads to the adoption of revision techniques – such as passively reading through folders of Notes – that take the path of least resistance. They give the impression of covering the required work while not being particularly effective as a way of actually remembering stuff. Which, when all’s-said-and-done, is probably the point.

    One way to resolve this problem is that rather than condensing a large amount of work into a small amount of time is to spread revision out over the duration of the course. In other words, to encourage students to start their revision at the start of their course and carry it through until the end of the course. At this point they’ll already have done two year’s worth of revision for A-level and they can use the time until the start of the exam much more productively polishing-up on what they already (mostly) know rather than trying to relearn something they did 18 months ago and haven’t looked-at since.

    In a nutshell, the idea here is that when it comes to revision “little and often” pays much higher dividends than “a lot all at once”.

    To understand this involves grasping a couple of important ideas:

    Firstly, the need to change how teachers and students perceive the status of revision: to see it as an integral part of day-to-day teaching and learning rather than something discrete tacked-on at the end of the course once official teaching is over.

    Secondly, the need to operationalise this idea through a coherent and consistent approach to the place of revision in the curriculum. In other words, just as general teaching is organised in particular ways to help students grasp key ideas, revision needs to be integrated into the teaching programme as part of the daily routine.

    Both of these ideas involve teachers and students working together to develop an organised approach to revision.

    And this is where a Revision Diary could help.

    Revision Diaries…

    Gender and Subject Choice: Archer et al (2013)

    Monday, March 15th, 2021

    The relationship between gender and subject choice in post-16 UK education is both persistent and well-known and has produced a range of explanations – some sociological, some not (Skelton et al (2007), for example, note the widespread belief  ‘natural’ differences – babies are born with an inbuilt biological and / or genetic predilection – “push boys and girls towards some curriculum subjects whilst avoiding others” or the argument “boys and girls have different brain structures that result in their gender differentiated skills and abilities”).

    Is “science” associated with a specific (and unappealing) type of masculinity?

    Most recent sociological analysis, however, has tended to focus on gender identities and how concepts of masculinity and femininity, constructed and reconstructed inside and outside the classroom in a reflexive way (how personal identities are influenced and shaped by social identities), contribute to gendered subject choices – and this research is another useful and accessible contribution to the debate.

    Methods

    Analysis was based on the ASPIRES project, “a five-year, longitudinal exploration of science aspirations and career choice among 10–14-year-olds in England”. This involved:

  • a quantitative online survey administered to a sample of over 9000 10/11-year-old students with subsequent phases at ages 12 and 14
  • in-depth, repeat interviews with pupils at age 10/11; 12/13 and 13/14).
  • in-depth interviews with their parents (once when their children are 10/11 and again at 13/14).
  • over 10,000 students from 279 schools (248 state schools; 31 independent schools) completed the questionnaire between October and December 2009. Subsequent surveys took place in autumn 2011 and autumn 2012). After data-cleansing, this left 9319 students in the sample.
  • the sample represented all regions of the country and was roughly proportional to the overall national distribution of schools in England by attainment and proportion of students eligible for free school meals.
  • the completed surveys comprised 51% boys and 49% girls. Ethnically, 75% were white, 9% Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi heritage), 8% Black (Black African, Black Caribbean), 1 % Far Eastern, 7% mixed or other.
  • The survey asked about:
  • aspirations in science
  • attitudes towards school science
  • self-concept in science
  • images of scientists
  • participation in science-related activities outside school
  • parental expectations
  • parental school involvement
  • parental attitudes towards science
  • peer attitudes towards school and towards school science.
  • Selected Findings