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Posts Tagged ‘research methods’

New GCSE Sociology Knowledge Organisers

Saturday, October 23rd, 2021

Following from a safe distance the recent batches of A-level Knowledge Organisers (A Few More A-level Sociology Knowledge Organisers and Even More Sociology A-Level Organisers) comes something similar for GCSE. These are largely for AQA but there is one set aimed specifically at Eduqas.

Chase Terrace Academy: Although I’ve previously posted Organisers for Crime and Deviance, Families and Methods, this set seems to have been revamped and rebranded.

Sociological Approaches and Methods

Families and Households

Crime and Deviance

Social Stratification

The Highfield School

What Is Sociology?: Indeed.

Hugh Christie School

GCSE Sociology Knowledge Organiser: A beautifully-crafted booklet created by Daryl Taylor for the Eduqas Specification that covers Key Sociological Concepts, Processes of Cultural Transmission, Social Change in the UK, Research Methods and Families.

Meridian High School: Despite the rebranding as “A Journey” and a fancy front page, be assured this is, at root, just a neat set of Organisers .

Learning Journey (Year 10)

Learning Journey (Year 11)

Samuel Whitbread Academy

Families

Education

Research Methods

Crime and Deviance

Social Stratification

Mascalls Academy

Families and Households

Families and Households 2

Education

Social Stratification

Crime and Deviance

Stoke Damerel Community College

Families and Households: A booklet built around a Knowledge Organiser with all kinds of extras, such as space for Note-taking, question-answering, revision cards etc.

A Few More Sociology Knowledge Organisers

Monday, October 18th, 2021

I think it’s probably fair to say that Knowledge Organisers / Learning Tables have become a well-established part of the A-level Sociology curriculum these past few years and while I’ve only posted one new set of examples over the past couple of years (the aptly-named New Selection) plus a rather-brilliant variation on the theme that is the Hybrid Organiser, it was probably time to see if I could dig-out a new batch for your teaching and learning edification.

Which I clearly have. Obviously.

Or you wouldn’t be reading this post.

The new batch of contenders is, as ever, a mixed bag, but there’s bound to be something here that you’ll find helpful or, indeed, inspirational.

Complete (AQA) Specification: Haggerston School

I’d like to pretend that we’re starting as we mean to go on but this set of Organisers combines a clear and attractive design with a lot of concise, well-organised, information that marks it out from the run-of-the-mill competition. If, indeed, it is a competition. Which it’s not. Clearly. But if it were…

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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.

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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:

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Doing Nothing as Deviance

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021
Doing Nothing…

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing”

“No, really. What are you doing?”

“I’m. Doing. Nothing”.

While breaking social norms is always a fun and interesting way to get students to think sociologically about the world in which they live and generally take-for-granted, it’s not always something that’s easy to do / demonstrate in a safe and secure way.

People, for example, tend to get upset and unpredictable if you mess around with their normative expectations and while this, somewhat perversely, is precisely the effect you want to see and study it’s not always possible or desirable to take the risk.

Unless, of course, you get your students to “Do Nothing”.

While this, in my vast experience, is a suggestion most students are generally open and amenable to doing, there is a catch.

For this sociological experiment your students must actively “Do Nothing” for 10 – 15 minutes…

What You Need To Do…

When you think about it, “doing nothing” in a public place is actually very rare. People in such spaces are usually “doing something” (even if it’s just “hanging around” or “waiting for someone”). So what happens when you literally “Do Nothing” in public?

That’s what your students are going to discover in a simple sociological experiment that requires little or no preparation, costs nothing (except 10 minutes or so of your time) and can be carried-out anywhere there’s a reasonable level of foot traffic (such as a school or college grounds).

Keep in mind that this probably isn’t something you want to do out in the big wide world – such as a busy shopping mall – because you need to be able to observe and control the behaviour of your students. In this respect, the optimum place to create the experiment is in school or college grounds if you have reasonable access to such a space.

When you’ve chosen the space you’re going to use, get your students to chose somewhere where they can stand completely still. This should preferably be somewhere they don’t cause undue obstruction to people passing by (for reasons you can profitably discuss if you want when you debrief the experimenters).

Ask them to maintain complete stillness for around 10 – 15 minutes. The only exception to this rule is if anyone approaches them and asks them what they’re doing. They should always reply to any question with the phrase “I’m doing nothing” (again, the reason for this standard response is something you might want to discuss later in the context of experimental research methodology in terms of variable control).

For the purpose of the experiment it might be useful, if you can, to split your class into participants and observers. While the former are “doing nothing” it would be helpful for the later to record their observations about how passers-by behave when they see students “doing nothing” (take pictures of their facial expressions, make notes of what they say and so forth).

And if this process isn’t clear, perhaps the easiest way to explain it is to show it being done…

And After You’ve Done it…

Back in the classroom there are numerous opportunities to reference this simple experiment right across the Sociology Specification – from a simple introduction to norms and normative disruption, to the social construction of reality, research methodology (particularly but not exclusively, experiments – including Goffman’s breeching experiments), concepts of crime, deviance, conformity, social order and the like.

In terms of the latter, for example, an obvious question to ask is why might standing still and “doing nothing” be seen as deviant behaviour whereas if the students had been sitting down “doing nothing” it probably wouldn’t?

Reference

Halnon, Karen Bettez (2001) “The Sociology of Doing Nothing: A Model “Adopt a Stigma in a Public Place” Exercise

The Impact of Social Media

Monday, February 15th, 2021
Student Pack…

This set of free resources is the outcome of a collaboration between the Hong Kong University Department of Sociology (who may just take the prize for “Worst Designed Home Page. Ever”. Take a look, if you dare and tell me it doesn’t make you feel queasy) and the UK’s Very Own OCR Exam Board.

Aesthetics aside, what’s on offer from this collaboration is a set of free teaching resources focused on the sociology of social media, the most-immediately useful of which, for UK-based teachers, are likely to be the Teacher (available as pdf or docx files) and Student Packs (similarly available in pdf or docx format).

UK OCR Resources

The Teacher Pack offers an overview of the resources in terms of things like the aims and objectives of the Project, how the materials link to the OCR Specification and suggested ways to use the resources) while the Student Pack provides a range of questions and activities, many of which are linked to the University of London’s “Why We Post” research on the uses and consequences of social media. 

PowerPoint Presentation…

The third element to the resource is an extensive (44-slide) PowerPoint Presentation containing a whole host of interesting information, videos and activities based around the notion of “Seeing society through social media”.

While the Packs and Presentations are all (obviously) focused on the OCR Spec. there’s plenty here for teachers of other Specs. to use, either “as is” or with a bit of judicious tweaking to fit them to the requirements of the course you’re teaching.

HKDSE Liberal Studies Resources

There are further resources available to support the HKDSE Liberal Studies course, focused around the idea of “Conducting Independent Enquiry About Social Media”. While the general focus of these resources – students producing “a report of not more than 4,500 words” (something that gives me a flashback to the old OCR Research Report) – is no-longer applicable to UK Specs (more’s the pity…) there are still some useful resources on Research Methods (operationalising concepts, choosing a research method, quantitative and qualitative data…) that might be worth a gander to see what might be usefully cannibalised.

HKDSE Resources

A-level Sociology Organisers: A new selection

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

It’s been a while since I last posted any A-level Sociology Knowledge Organisers – a combination of both being a bit busy and a relative paucity of resources – and although this is something of a mixed-bunch, some fairly bog-standard stuff plus some rather more interesting efforts – unless you try them you won’t know if they’ll work for you and your students.

Crime / Globalisation / Theory and Methods

Crime and Deviance

Crime and Deviance Questions: less a conventional Knowledge Organiser and more a set of questions with “knowledge answers” (trust me, they’re difficult to accurately describe but you’ll know what I mean when you see them). Covers lots of different areas, from perspectives through globalisation to media

Crime and Deviance: King Charles 1 School: Again, not your standard Knowledge Organiser, this one combines elements of a glossary with key facts and figures and interesting stuff about crime and class, age, gender and ethnicity (key theories and research, in the main).

Families and Households

Sociology Revision Notes: As the name suggests, less an Organiser, per se, and more a set of Organised Notes. These cover a lot of different areas but the Notes themselves are fairly sparse (and not a little superficial in places).

Structures, family functions and diversity: Clearly constructed Organiser that identifies some of the main features of family life with the emphasis on diversity. There’s also stuff on marriage and divorce, conjugal roles and family change.

Education

Perspectives and Categories: Neatly constructed Organiser that identifies some of the main ideas students need to cover in terms of perspectives like Functionalism and Marxism and categories like class, gender and ethnicity.

Education

Learning Tables: These are laid-out as a set of Notes covering a couple of aspects of education – Marketisation / Privatisation plus Ethnic Differences in Educational Achievement. There’s also a reasonable Table looking at Researching Education that’s useful for methods in context.

Methods

Evaluating Research Methods: In the main, a set of tables that cover the advantage sand disadvantages of different research methods.

Miscellaneous

Crime / Globalisation / Theory and Methods: Extensive set of Learning Tables that, judging by the different designs, have been constructed by different teachers (or the same teacher at different times…). Most are colourful and interesting in terms of how they display essential ideas and information. One or two are just bare-bones efforts but overall, well-worth the download…

GCSE Sociology Knowledge Organisers

Friday, February 5th, 2021

Over the past couple of years I’ve posted a whole load of Sociology Knowledge Organisers (or Learning Tables as they’re sometimes known) and they continue – along with their Psychology counterparts – to be some of the most-popular posts on the site.

Which must mean something.

The last batch, however, seems to have been posted nearly 2 years ago, which means I either lost interest or, more-probably, exhausted the supply.

In either case – and they’re probably not mutually-exclusive – you’ll be glad to know that while I was at a loose-end I decided to have a look around to see if there was anything new available and was pleasantly surprised to find there was.

It seems schools and colleges have been busy encouraging teachers to create Knowledge Organisers like they were going out of fashion (although, by the time I get around to posting this, they probably will have).

While there’s probably a sociological debate to be had about this, this is not the place and I’m not the person to initiate it. So, whatever your particular take on the question of Knowledge Organisers – as “just-another-tool in the teacher’s toolkit” to “a management tool that will revolutionise learning” – you can rest-assured that all you’re going to get here are a load of links to a variety of different types of Organiser.

The twist, this time, is that these are all for GCSE Sociology (AQA mostly) because, unless I’m very much mistaken (unlikely I know) I haven’t previously posted any Organisers for this level…

Click to see the Organisers

PowerPoint Lessons: Sociology

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

I chanced upon this series of “PowerPoint Lessons” from Eggbuckland Community College while looking for Knowledge Organisers (as you do) – and while the promised Organiser has either disappeared or was never posted the page contains a load of useful resources for those teaching Crime, Health, Media, and Research Methods (a rare outing for the Oxford Comma, in case you’re interested and, quite coincidentally an opportunity to create a tangential link to one of my favourite tunes…).

These take the form of the aforementioned PowerPoint Lessons – sets of PowerPoint slides organised into topics that follow the (AQA) Spec. Crime and Deviance, for example, has 15 Lessons covering things like perspectives (Functionalism, Marxism, Interactionist), prevention, corporate and environmental crime, gender, ethnicity and a great deal more.

The Lessons themselves generally consist of slides designed to encourage class discussions / research around specific ideas and topics – there’s a liberal sprinkling of questions and activities within each topic – rather than simple didacticism (although, having said that, some of the slides are explicitly designed to impart specific ideas and information).

In general terms, therefore, I’d tend to see the Lessons as broadly indicative of the kinds of areas and information to cover on a particular topic rather than necessarily providing that information.

This, of course, is No Bad Thing because it allows teachers working in different schools to add their own materials to the Lessons – one of the advantages of using something like PowerPoint is the ease with which it allows this to happen.

Judging by the changing templates used these resources seem to have evolved over a period of years (the earliest seems to date from 2014), with their appearance becoming progressively more professional over time.

The latest lessons on Research Methods, for example, look particularly attractive, even though this section is somewhat incomplete when compared to the Crime, Health and Media sections: currently (2021) there’s only coverage of three areas (Choosing a Method, Experiments and Questionnaires) – although it may, of course, just be the case that no-ones got around to adding further lessons yet.

To round things off there are a few further resources on offer, such as guidance on how to approach different-mark exam questions (very useful) and a Revision Checklist and Health Mind Map that isn’t (not useful).

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.

    Psychology: Teacher Guides

    Thursday, December 10th, 2020

    The third – and final – OCR A-level Psychology offering complements the two previous posts on Lesson Elements and Delivery Guides in the shape of a set of Teaching Guides designed to help teachers (yes, really) get to grips with essential course information.

    Criminal Psychology Guide…

    While the majority of Guides focus on providing detailed overviews of key psychological research studies (in terms of areas like methods, sampling and key findings) you’ll also find help on relating the core studies in the Specification to different areas and perspectives, question banks on different areas of the course and a couple on teaching and learning techniques.

    As ever, even if you don’t follow the OCR Psychology Specification there’s a load of stuff here that’s worth a rummage because some of it will undoubtedly relate in some way to whatever A-level / High School Specification you’re teaching.

    The Guides

    Areas and perspectives in a nutshell

    Core studies overview and how they provide new understandings of behaviour

    Child psychology key research guide

    Criminal psychology key research guide

    Environmental psychology key research guide

    Guide to core studies

    Guide to core studies (part 2)

    Relating core studies to psychological areas and perspectives

    How the contemporary study changes our understanding of individual, social and cultural diversity

    Issues in mental health key research guide

    Sport and exercise psychology key research guide

    Question bank: Psychological themes through core studies

    Question bank: Research methods

    Spaced review and interleaving

    Guide to flipped learning

    Psychology: Lesson Elements

    Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

    As with its sociological counterpart – except more-so, this set of resources from the OCR Exam Board is designed to support teaching and learning for their A-Level Specification and while some of the resources may fall outside the scope of other Specifications there will probably be plenty here that doesn’t.

    Ethics

    In other words, you can easily fill-your-boots with these Lesson Elements, whether or not you happen to teach OCR Psychology.

    And by “lesson elements” we basically mean small(ish) group and individual tasks, relatively simple classroom activities and worksheets.

    Lots of worksheets (although if you want to lighten the load a little I’ve added links to our Psychology films that I think might fit well with the worksheet. These are available to either rent or buy).

    A little oddly some of these are provided as “blank” activity sheets (i.e. questions are asked and the space for student answers is left empty) while others consist of instructions for teachers with sample answers (i.e. they contain suggested student answers). There’s probably a way around this problem, but’s its probably one that should have been easily avoided.

    But what the heck, this stuff’s free and we maybe shouldn’t quibble too much about what’s on offer, particularly when there’s so much of it (around 3 times more than what’s been provided for sociologists, by my calculations) distributed across three broad categories:

    Click for Lesson Elements,,,

    Study Skills Resources

    Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

    The Welsh Exam Board site seems to have undergone a rather drastic culling of it’s once-outstanding sociology resources – all I could find was a rather sad Flash movie on gender socialisation that will cease to function on January 1st 2021, some interesting and extensive Crime and Deviance resources that are definitely worth digging around and a Research Methods section that’s quite substantial, looks very nice in all its html5 glory but which, when all’s-said-and-done, doesn’t actually offer very much more than you’d find on the (static) pages of a textbook.

    A Functional PowerPoint

    There is, however, an interesting Study Skills section – a mix of Word and PowerPoint documents – that seems to have survived and even though most of the documents were created a good few years ago (and then some – although we are at least talking 21st century) there’s no reason why some – or indeed all – couldn’t happily find a place in your teaching.

    The materials broadly cover things like essay-writing, evaluation and revision and while they’re clearly aimed at WJEC students they’re generic enough to apply to other exam boards.

    Although the materials are fairly basic in terms of presentation (and occasionally weirdly-strident in tone – the Guide to Revision reads like it was written by a teacher who was particularly frustrated by their students inability to follow simple instructions and is writing on the verge of some sort of apoplectic explosion…) but they’re generally functional enough and the PowerPoint’s in particular are informative and helpful.

    More Podcasts with Pictures: Ms Sugden’s Online Classroom

    Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

    If you’re looking for video resources for online teaching or flipped learning (or possibly even a combination of the two) Alexandra Sugden’s YouTube Channel is worth checking-out if you’re teaching any or all of the following:

  • Crime and Deviance
  • Research Methods
  • Theory
  • Education
  • Religion and Beliefs
  • The Channel’s aimed at the AQA Spec. but some, if not necessarily all, of the films will be useful for other Specs (Research Methods, for example, is fairly uniform across most College / A-level Specifications).

    The format is a familiar “podcasts with pictures” one with Ms. Sugden narrating a series of static slides in a lecture-style format, with individual films ranging from 3 – 30 minutes, depending on the topic and what’s being discussed.

    This covers everything from general topic teaching to applying the PERVERT method to Research Methods exam questions or constructing example paragraphs when answering essay-type questions (although, personally, I’m not convinced by the claim students can apply strain theory to white collar crime using the concept of relative deprivation. It’s an innovative argument, perhaps, but one that stretches things just a little too far…).

    Free Online Psychology Course

    Friday, September 11th, 2020

    In a previous post I drew your attention to the free online Saylor Academy Sociology 101: Introduction to Sociology course and you might be interested to know (or know a colleague who is) there’s also a free online Psychology 101: Introduction to Psychology course available.

    Free Online Course

    Although, as with the Sociology course, it’s aimed at American Community College students  – and the various credits and certifications available for completing the course will only be meaningful and useful to US students – this doesn’t mean that actually completing the course won’t help UK a-level students because the overall level is broadly in line with a-level studies. A quick look through the equally-free Open-Stax course textbook that accompanies the course should confirm this for you.

    Alternatively, have a quick trawl through the course syllabus that covers a number of Units that should be broadly familiar to a-level teachers (although whether the actual content is the same / similar is something you’ll need to check):

  • Unit 1: The History and Methods of Psychology
  • Unit 2: Neuroscience
  • Unit 3: Sensation and Perception
  • Unit 4: Learning and Memory
  • Unit 5: Development
  • Unit 6: Personality
  • Unit 7: Social Psychology
  • Unit 8: Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Unit 9: Health and Stress Psychology
  • Unit 10: Psychopathology
  • In addition to “read stuff from the textbook, think about it, make some notes and maybe answer some online comprehension questions” there are a number of other resources (such as PowerPoints and short Video Tutorials) liberally spread throughout the Units that might be useful even if you don’t want to go the whole hog with the online course.

    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…

    Sampling Selection

    Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

    Continuing the clear-out of stuff-I’ve-found-but-never-posted, today’s offering covers sampling techniques (plus a bit on questionnaire design if you’re interested).

    Sampling Jelly Babies
    Sweet.

    The 4 Presentations are from “various authors” (one of whom must remain anonymous for the deceptively-simple, but hopefully-plausible, reason that I’ve no idea who they are) and contain a variety of ideas and information – from time-saving Notes and Diagrams to practical ways to teach sampling (using everyone’s favourite jelly-like sweets).

    Click For the Presentations

    Family Death Rates: The Grandmother Problem

    Friday, November 29th, 2019
    Click to download the Shocking "Grandmother Problem" research.

    While the study of Family Death Rates (FDR) is probably not Number 1 on most people’s list of “Favourite Sociology Topics”,* research by Mike Adams, a biologist at Eastern Connecticut State University, Connecticut, has injected a certain frisson of excitement – and, it must be said, controversy – into a rather dull and theoretically-moribund corner of the Family Specification through his identification of a peculiar and perplexing phenomenon amongst American college students. As he puts it:

    It has long been theorized that the week prior to an exam is an extremely dangerous time for the relatives of college students. Ever since I began my teaching career, I heard vague comments, incomplete references and unfinished remarks, all alluding to the “Dead Grandmother Problem.” Few colleagues would ever be explicit in their description of what they knew, but I quickly discovered that anyone who was involved in teaching at the college level would react to any mention of the concept”.

    Sensing he may have chanced upon a way of getting a hefty grant from his University authorities significant and hitherto-unstudied field of research – one with serious implications for the health, safety and, not-to-put-too-fine-a-point-on-things, longevity of vulnerable family members – Adams did what any self-respecting scientist would do: he reformulated the suspicion into a hypothesis he could test:

    A student’s grandmother is far more likely to die suddenly just before the student takes an exam, than at any other time of year.”

    And test it he did.

    In an equally scientific kind of way.

    And what he found broke a lot of ground.

    Click Here for more Shocking Stuff

    Ms. Rives’ AP Psychology Site

    Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
    Go to web site
    Example PowerPoint

    The eponymous Ms. Rives teaches AP (Advanced Placement) Psychology at the delightfully named Harmony School of Ingenuity, a charter school based in Houston, Texas, and she’s created a very handy web site containing all kinds of useful information.

    Whether or not it’s still being updated is, however, a moot point (the site refers to the year 2017 – 2018), but this doesn’t really detract from the fact that there’s a wide range of resources on offer here, from Notes, through PowerPoints to Videos and links to further resources / information. There are even some (slightly dodgy in both quality and intent) scanned book chapters from the Myer’s Psychology for AP 2nd edition textbook.

    For those not familiar with it, American Advanced Placement courses are roughly equivalent to UK A-levels (although probably closer to Year 2 than Year 1 in terms of their overall standard) and the site has resources across a range of areas that will be broadly familiar to UK students and teachers:

    Approaches

    Methods

    Biopsychology

    Learning

    Sensation and Perception

    Abnormal Psychology

    Development

    Consciousness

    Social Psychology

    Personality

    Individual differences

    Cognition

    Motivation and emotion

    As with all such things, how long the site will remain active is anyone’s guess (I may be good, but I’m not that good…) so if you fancy rifling through the resources, I’d be inclined to get ‘em while they’re going.

    Before they…err…go.

    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).

    (more…)

    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.

    (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.

    Attitudes to Marriage in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    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

    Longitudinal studies

    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.

    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…)

    Psychology Students YouTube Channel

    Thursday, April 12th, 2018

    I came across this Channel after following a Twitter link to one of its videos (Experimental Design in Psychology – well worth a watch if you’re interested in knowing more about Independent Groups, Repeated Measures or Matched Pairs designs).

    Overall, the Channel offers three types of video:

    1. “To Camera” video lectures, which although quite long at times held my attention through a mix of presenter and on-screen graphics. Since this is (quite literally judging from the setting) a home-made affair the camera angle, lighting and cutting are a little suspect, but I’ve seen a lot worse and they don’t detract from what’s being taught.

    2. Screencasts that consist of a series of static, narrated, text and graphics. These work well and the technical limitations (sound is always a problem with this type of presentation) aren’t too intrusive.

    3. Short, To Camera explanations of different types of variables that have been “SnapChat” filtered in a way that is, quite frankly, scary. As some sort of weird experimental films these might have had some currency; as video lectures I think the best that can be said here is that the medium definitely obscures the message. And then some. I may have nightmares.

    Despite this – and there are only three such films on the Channel to avoid – there’s a lot of useful, well-presented, A-level Psychology information here.

    And it’s all free.

    The Sociological Detectives: Hiding in Plain Sight

    Friday, April 6th, 2018

    In this third outing in the Research Methods series, the Sociological Detectives investigate Overt Participant Observation through a simple piece of hands-on research.

    This PowerPoint Presentation – the 3rd in the Research Methods series (the others being The Research Process and Non-Participant Observation) – combines a hands-on approach to doing Overt Participant Observation with a classroom-based evaluation of the method.

    Students take-on the role of Sociological Detectives which, in this instance, means they are set “a Task” to complete (it’s probably no great secret that this involves doing a simple bit of Overt Participant Observation) outside of class time.

    Students can then use their (brief) experience of using the method to inform the evaluation work they then do inside the classroom.

    While actually doing the Observation is not essential (the Task Options document that outlines some suggestions for how the Observation might be carried-out includes a simple Thought Experiment option for classrooms where, for whatever reason, students can’t physically carry-out this type of observational research) it does, I think, represent a useful teaching and learning device.

    It is, in this respect, a relatively simple – and hopefully interesting – way for students to bring their personal experiences to bear on the more-theoretical aspects of sociological research. (more…)

    The Sociological Detectives: BOLO

    Monday, April 2nd, 2018

    In this research methods simulation students take on the role of Sociological Detectives to investigate formal and informal norms using non-participant observation.

    In the second simulation in the Research Methods series – the first, Trial and Error,  introduced the Research Process – students again take-on the role of Sociological Detectives. This time, however, they are investigating and evaluating a specific research method, Non-Participant Observation and the simulation offers two ways to do this

    1. Field research involves students actually carrying-out a short – typically 30-minute – observational study of their choice (although they are encouraged to check its appropriateness and safety with you). Once you have accepted their choice this is something they should be able to complete outside the classroom, in their own time. The remaining part of the sim – evaluating non-participant observation as a research method – can then be completed in class time when you’re available to provide help and assistance if necessary.

    Alternatively, you can run the sim as a whole-class exercise by looking at the respective strengths and weaknesses of non-participant observation as a class, with individual students able to illustrate key ideas with examples drawn from the observation they’ve done.

    (more…)

    More GCSE Sociology Revision Stuff

    Sunday, March 4th, 2018

    While it’s possible to put-together a very reasonable – and reasonably comprehensive – set of revision resources from stuff that teachers have put on the web, there are a couple of things you should do before committing yourself to using these materials:

    1. Check they are for your Specification – you don’t want to be revising the wrong Spec.

    2. Check the Specification year / series to which they refer, particularly if it’s changed recently (over the past year or so). In other words, check the resources cover the newer required material and exclude older, newly-irrelevant material, from your revision.

    Guides

    These comprehensive resources combine things like notes, activities and advice and generally cover a number of different areas of the GCSE Specification. Three I’ve found are worth a look:

    1. Whole Course Revision 2018: This is a serious, 100-page, GCSE Revision Guide, put together by Ian Goddard, that covers:

    • Introducing Sociology
    • Research Methods
    • Family
    • Education
    • Crime and Deviance
    • Social Inequality
    • Power and Politics

    Unlike a lot of the previous GCSE resources I’ve posted [link] this is primarily a revision schedule rather than a simple list of revision notes (although these are also included). In this respect the Guide covers:

    • How to revise
    • Revision schedule
    • Personal Learning Checklist [link]
    • Basic study notes to supplement other reading (the Guide refers to “Collins Revision GCSE Sociology” but if you don’t use this text substituting your usual textbook will be fine)
    • Keywords
    • How to answer questions
    • Past question practice

    2. Sociology Revision Guide: Although not as ambitious or comprehensive as the above – the focus is on key terms and Notes covering Methods, Family and Education, plus a short section in exam advice – this Guide by Debbie McGowan is nicely designed and makes a welcome addition to your revision armoury. Presupposing you have one. If not, you can start one with this.

    3. Revision Guide for Students: A nicely-designed and cleanly laid-out hyperlinked pdf by Jonathan Tridgell that covers:

    • Research Methods
    • Socialisation, Culture and Identity
    • Family
    • Education
    • Mass Media

    While the focus is on brief revision notes the Guide also includes information on:

    • Course structure
    • Exam technique
    • Revision Tips.

    (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.

    Yet More Sociology Knowledge Organisers

    Thursday, February 15th, 2018

    The Learning Tables and Knowledge Organisers we’ve recently posted were all for the AQA Specification and while there’s a good deal of crossover between this Specification and OCR I thought it would be helpful to those following the latter if they had some KO’s to call their own.

    These Organisers, all produced by Lucy Cluley, are, however, slightly different in that while some – mainly those for Research Methods – are complete, the remainder are blank templates. That is, while the author has designed various categories in areas like Crime Reduction Techniques or Research Methods, the actual content is up to you – and / or your students – to create.

    While this has an obvious downside (someone else hasn’t done the work…) it does open-up interesting possibilities for revision work with your students, either individually or as a whole class.

    In relation to the latter you’ll note that most of the blank templates are in PowerPoint (PP) format but if you want to use them with individual students simply use the PowerPoint Export function to save them as pdf files.

    (more…)

    More Sociology Knowledge Organisers

    Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

    Knowledge Organisers, you may or may not be surprised to learn, are the classroom requirement de nos jours and while some (looking at you Michaela Community School) may like to casually lay claim to the concept / format as being something radically new and different they’ve developed, it really isn’t.

    Here, for example, is one I made earlier (about 20-odd years earlier…) and if past experience is anything to go by I probably stole the idea from someone else (or, as I like to think, my efforts were influenced by those of others).

    Be that as it may, if you’ve landed here looking for Knowledge Organisers, here’s another batch I’ve managed to find using my finely-tuned Sociological Sensibility (or “typing stuff into Google to see what I can find” as it’s more-commonly known. Probably).

    These KO’s are slightly different to the various Learning Tables (LT) we’ve previously posted, but they are, to-all-intents-and-purposes, the same in terms of what they exist to do.

    You will find, if you compare the two (otherwise you’ll never actually know), this batch is a little less ambitious in scope and design than the previous LT’s, so it may be a case of choosing which suits you and your students and sticking with those. Or not as the case may be.

    Although the original files I found were in pdf format, I’ve converted them to Word so that you can more-easily edit them if you want to. The only difference between the two files is that rounded bullets in the pdf file have been converted as square bullets in the Word file.

    (more…)

    PsychoPepper: Approaches in Psychology

    Saturday, January 6th, 2018

    I first came across this Blog via a PsychoPepper Twitter post drawing attention to the availability of this Approaches in Psychology booklet that’s hard to sum-up in a simple statement. It mixes a range of formats – textbook, revision book, workbook – into something rather wonderful and, dare I say, exceptionally useful for both students and teachers.

    The closest thing I can compare the booklet to is the Psychology Teacher’s Toolkit although even here the comparison falls short; whereas the latter is a collection of lesson ideas loosely grouped around different themes the former is a coherently-structured 50-papge+ document focused on the notion of different psychological approaches. The blog’s well worth a visit just to get your hands on the booklet alone, but once you’re there take a bit of time to have a look around at the other free resources on offer.

    Classroom Resources, for example, contains Lesson Plans for a number of areas (such as Research Methods, Aggression and Biopsychology) that, at the very least, will save you a lot of time and effort.

    The Teaching Blog section, on the other hand, focuses on planning and pedagogy – schemes of work, teaching tips and so forth.

    There’s also a handy “Glossary” of key terms and a “Marking and Feedback” section designed to help students understand what they are being asked in exam questions and how to provide the answers…

    Update

    I’ve since managed to find four more high-quality booklets from the same source. As with their Approaches counterpart, these are professionally-produced and pack in a shed-load of useful information:

    Psychopathology

    Research Methods 1

    Research Methods 2

    Aggression

    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)