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Posts Tagged ‘research methods’

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 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 Flipbooks

Saturday, April 20th, 2019

A Flipbook is a way of displaying a pdf document online so that it has the look-and-feel of a paper-based magazine, one whose pages you can turn using a mouse (desktop) or finger (mobile).


A Flipbook.
Not Actual Size.
Unless you’re using a mobile.
Then it might be.

That’s it, really.

I could talk about stuff like whether this creates a greater sense of engagement among students than the bog-standard static pages of a pdf file, but since I’ve got no idea (and I don’t know of anyone who’s bothered to try to find out) that would just be me trying to find a deceptively- plausible way to encourage you to try them.

So, if this Big Build-Up has piqued your curiosity and / or whetted your appetite for Flipbooks you’ll be pleased to know I’ll be adding a variety of the little blighters to this page on what might be charitably termed an ad-hoc basis (translation: whenever I can be bothered or can find the time).

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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.

Free Textbook: Sociology in Focus for AS

Friday, February 8th, 2019
Sociology in Focus: Families and Households

For those of you with long(ish) memories, the original Sociology in Focus textbook first appeared in the mid-1990’s and I remember being quite taken by its novel(ish) attempt to reinvent “The Textbook” as something more than just a lot of pages with a lot of text.

Although it did, with hindsight, actually have “a lot of text” (they were much simpler times) it also had colour pages (if you include pale blue, black and white as “colour”), pictures (even though they were black and white, they still counted), activities and questions.

A lot of questions.

None of which had answers.

You had to buy a separate resource if you wanted answers (something I casually mention in an apparently throwaway fashion that at some point in the future you will look back on and think “Ah! Foreshadowing).

Anyway.

Around 2004 Sociology in Focus was reinvented as a fully-fledged “Modern Text” with colour-coded sections, colour pictures and less text.  A lot less text.

Although it was basically the same format laid-down by the original (activities, questions…) with a more student-friendly “down with the kids” vibe, it was now split into two books, one for AS-level and one for A2.

Which brings me to 2009 and the emergence of a “2nd edition” (that was really a 3rd edition, but who’s counting?), suitably reorganised to take account of yet another Specification change that no-one asked for but which everyone got anyway.

I’m guessing you’ll not be that surprised to know the format was pretty much the same (and by “pretty much” I mean “exactly”) because it clearly worked, although by this stage I got the distinct impression that most of the production effort was being put into what the text looked like and rather less effort was being placed on the task of updating it.

While the new edition did reflect further changes to the AQA Sociology Specification – Mass Media, for example, was moved to A2 – there is actually little or no difference between the “AS Media” text of the 2nd edition and the “A2 Media” text of the 3rd edition…

If you decide to use this textbook with your students – and it does actually have a lot going for it in terms of design and presentation – you need to be aware that the level of information in some sections (looking at you, Mass Media) may be slightly lacking in terms of depth of coverage. In addition, given yet more changes to the A-level Specification, some of the areas covered in the text are no-longer present in the latest Specification and one or two newer inclusions are obviously not covered.

Having said that, I do think this is a worthwhile text to have available for your students and, given that it’s out-of-print, one of the few ways they’re ever going to be able to read it.

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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).

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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.

    Attitudes to Marriage in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Interactive Ethics

    Friday, October 12th, 2018

    Following-on from the previous post where I suggested how it might be possible to spin-off a discussion of research ethics from a naturalistic observation simulation, my attention was drawn towards this interesting offering from the Open University – an online “interactive challenge” designed to help students understand “why research ethics is really a researcher’s best friend”.

    As you may have noticed, the OU Marketing Department seems pretty gung-ho in they’re advocacy of ethical considerations in social research.

    And rightly so.

    Probably.

    Anyway. In this simple interactive challenge you’re “taken through a case to look at where and when you think the ethics committee might step in and why this would be necessary. Meet a fictional committee and become a member!”.

    In other words, you’re introduced to a range of characters who might conceivably be part of a University Committee and then asked to give your opinion, based on the evidence presented, as to whether the research submission under consideration (“the role of the police and their attitudes towards sex worker ‘zones of tolerance’ i.e. the way sex workers may be allowed to operate in certain controlled areas in some UK cities) is ethical across four main criteria:

    • Valid Consent
    • Do no harm
    • Data Protection
    • Researcher safety

    In basic terms you’re presented with some text about the proposed conduct of the research and then asked to give an opinion about its ethicality (a word I may just have invented) in relation to any of these categories.

    The challenge only takes a few minutes (probably 15 at the most) and it’s a really neat way to introduce students to ethics, ethical issues and the role of an ethics committee.

    It’s also Quite Good Fun.

    Not words usually associated with a lesson on Ethics.

    (more…)

    Naturalistic Observation Lesson Plan

    Thursday, October 11th, 2018

    I’m a firm believer that when it comes to teaching research methods you can never have too many examples of lesson plans that either simulate the process of “doing research” or, as in the case of Bernard C. Beins (Counting Fidgets: Teaching the Complexity of Naturalistic Observation), turn it into a simple, but effective, lesson activity that:

    • is easy to set-up and run
    • requires very few resources
    • involves very little pre-preparation
    • is unobtrusive and relatively short
    • produces a large amount of data for discussion, analysis and evaluation.

    While the lesson plan is explicitly aimed at psychology students it’s equally useful for sociologists, because the overall objective is simply to provide a context – the classroom activity – that can be used to analyse and evaluate naturalistic observation in terms of its strengths and weaknesses.

    And if you want to introduce your students to these ideas you could always throw a short video into the pre-discussion mix: Naturalistic Observation is available On-Demand to buy or rent as well as being available on our Non-Experimental Research Methods DVD that also includes Self-Report Methods, Correlations and Case Studies.

    (more…)

    Longitudinal Studies: Animated Explanations

    Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

    Although longitudinal studies, such as Wikstrom’s PADS (“Peterborough Adolescent Development Study”: 2002 – 2010) research – designed to understand how families, schools and communities shape young people’s social development – are a well-established and hugely-valuable source of comparative data, teaching them as part of an a-level Sociology research methods course can be a little, shall we say, dry?

    To make things a little more interesting, therefore, you might want to have a look at this series of five, short (around 1 minute each), animated films designed to provide an easy introduction to the joys of longitudinal research.

    Overview: This Introduction to longitudinal studies is probably a good place to start, both because it’s basically the beginning and it outlines what they are, what they do and how they can be used. In this respect, the animation introduces three basic ideas:

    • different types of longitudinal study (such as cohort studies and household panel studies).
    • how data is collected.
    • how studies can be used (specifically in relation to social policy).

    Subsequent films pick-up and develop these general ideas in terms of:

    design – with a focus on sampling.

    types of longitudinal study.

    data collection tools.

    How longitudinal data is used for research.

    Throw-in a few limitations of longitudinal studies –

    • Time: the PADS study, for example, was carried-out over a 10-year period.

    • Cost and management: Wikstrom’s study involved managing a diverse group of around 30 student investigators and academic collaborators.

    • Attrition rates – over a long period of time people may gradually leave the study.

    • Sample degradation: although you may begin with a representative sample this may degrade over time as and when people leave. This may gradually erode the study’s representativeness.

    – and you’ve got the basis for a complete longitudinal lesson.

    Don’t thank me.

    Someone’s got to do it.

    Update

    ASPIRES 2 is a contemporary example of a longitudinal study designed to “study young people’s science and career aspirations”.

    It’s of interest sociologically because a major objective has been to “understand the changing influences of the family, school, careers education and social identities and inequalities on young people’s science and career aspirations.”

    New Media: WeChat and the Chinese New Year.

    Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

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

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

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

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

    Disclaimer

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

    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 and You. Too

    Friday, May 4th, 2018

    A later (circa 2008) version of this American High School textbook that has a clean, attractive, design and some interesting content. Might well be worth considering as supplementary material to your existing resources, particularly because it is free…

    I’ve previously posted an earlier version of this American High School textbook that seems to have gone through a number of different editions, the latest of which may have been around 2014 before being “retired” (as they say in Contract Killer circles and also, apparently, American Publishing).

    This version dates from around 2008 and uses the same chapter categories as its predecessor. There are however design changes, although these are fairly cosmetic (a new picture here, a different typeface there) and, more importantly, changes to the text that brings it a little more up-to-date. Given it was originally published around 10 years ago, it’s never going to completely replace your current textbook / resources. Where it covers all the “standard stuff” (research methods, classic studies and theories…) this isn’t really a problem and I’d consider using it to supplement existing resources. There are, for example, opportunities for discussion, self-assessment and the like sprinkled liberally through the book.

    One thing you’ll probably note is that, by-and-large, there isn’t a great deal of depth or breadth to the coverage of different topics. This is partly a consequence of the design – the liberal use of pictures, graphics and tables allied to the “Creative Use of White Space” ethos leaves a lot less space for text – and partly, I assume, the level at which it’s aimed. On the other hand, some ideas / topics are dealt with in rather more depth than you might expect. A section on Ritzer and McDonaldisation in one of the Focus on Research sections, for example, goes into some depth and detail about the concept and it’s application to developments in Higher Education – something you’re not likely to see in the majority of UK textbooks.

    The sections I’ve read (admittedly not that many – I’m a Very Busy Person and I have “people” do that sort of thing for me) strike me as both interesting and very readable. Although most of the examples and illustrations have, understandably given the target audience, an American focus this might be turned to your advantage at times by providing students with a comparative edge to their studies. Alternatively just ignore them or replace them with UK alternatives… (more…)

    Sociology and You: A Free Textbook

    Monday, April 30th, 2018

    This American High School textbook just scrapes into the “published in the 21st century” criterion I set myself for finding free, out-of-print sociology texts, but I’ve included it because although it’s obviously a little dated – at least in terms of content if not necessarily design – Sociology and You (2001) was probably one of the first to push at the boundaries of textbook design for “Grades 9 – 12”. This, by my calculations, means 15-18 year olds and if you’re wondering, as we probably all are, how this fits into the UK grading system I’d say the text equates to “high GCSE” / AS-level. But this is only a rough guess – there are bits that could fit into A2 – so if you want to use it with your students it’s probably a case of suck-it-and-see before you let them have copies.

    The book itself exhibits most of the features we now take for granted in contemporary textbooks: short bursts of text, lots of big colourful pictures, key terms identified and defined, tables, boxouts, short readings, simple assessments and white space.

    Lots and lots of white space.

    In other words, anyone familiar with UK A-level texts over the past few years will see this as very familiar territory.

    Except, of course, most of the examples and illustrations are drawn from North America. Which is okay if you’re North American (or are really into comparative sociology / North Americana) but not quite so brilliant if you live and study elsewhere.

    Keeping this in mind, if you decide to have a look at the text I’ve made it available it as either a complete textbook or by chapter. I’ve provided the latter option because there are some chapters, such as those on “Sport” or “Political and Economic Institutions”, you may not need or want: put bluntly, you’re probably not going to teach stuff that’s not on the A-level Spec.

    You can also use the chapter option to see if or how the text might fit with your teaching because, as I’ve noted, judging the level is a little problematic given differences in both the US and UK grade system and the skill levels each requires of its students at different ages.

    (more…)