AS AQA Sociology Research Methods

detailed set of notes, with in context section

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Researching pupils:
Power and status
Children have less power than adults; may struggle to get opinion across (group interviews may help to overcome this
Lack language, self expression skills and confidence ­ cannot express abstract concepts and ideas needed in
Need consent and know what the research entails
Researching teachers:
May see researcher as an intruder in classroom
May be uncooperative
Stressed from being overworked
May change behaviour
May put on a front and change behaviour because they are being inspected and scrutinised
Researching classrooms:
High levels of control operate in the classroom
Noise, time, behaviour, language etc
Closed setting
Classroom may not reveal true thoughts and feelings
Experienced at hiding feelings from each other (need to be professional etc.)
Peer pressure may affect response to being researched
May need to supervise when filling questionnaires out
Researching schools:
Hierarchy and rules
Head teacher holds great power
Can refuse access
ATKINSON&BEYNON: note teachers steer researchers away from sensitive situations
School records are confidential
May not be given access to some documents
Researching parents:
How they raise children may influence what goes on in education
More difficult to contact
Outside of the school
Social class and ethnicity of parents plays important role in schooling
Some may be more willing to participate in research
E.g. ­ m/c who are pro school

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To discover cause-and-effect relationships, we divide the sample into two groups:
1. Experimental group: may manipulate the variables to measure for any change
2. Control group: keep variables constant and measure any change
Control over experiments means they can be replicated, improving reliability
Identify and measure behaviour patterns quantitatively
However... they note that often it is impossible or unethical to control the variables and that small-scale lab
experiments may be unrepresentative
So may use the comparative method instead.…read more

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Preparing to conduct a survey:
Questionnaires or interviews…read more

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Closed-ended or open-ended questions
1. Choosing a topic:
Must choose appropriate/suitable method for investigation
2. Formulating an aim/hypothesis:
Formulate a hypothesis ­ a general statement of what a sociologist intends to study and hopes to achieve
Gives direction to research ­ can gather evidence to try and support claim
3. Operationalising concepts:
`operationalising' = the process of converting a concept into something that can be measured
Have a working definition of key idea or concept
4.…read more

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Postal, email, or completed in person and collected on the spot.…read more

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Structured interviews:
Standardised questions and answers produce reliable data ­ can be replicated
Pre-coded responses allow us to produce quantitative data, identify and measure behaviour patterns, and establish
cause-and-effect relationships
Large scale and often more representative
Practical issues
Relatively cheap to train interviewers
Structured interviews can cover large numbers
Useful for gathering factual information
Easily quantified and for testing hypothesis
Response rate
Large numbers = representative
Usually have higher response rate ­ find it hard to turn away
Call backs can help…read more

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Labov ­ studied language of American black importance and probe further with an appropriate
children and by adapting an informal style, they line of questioning ­ adds to cost
opened up and spoke more freely) Representativeness
Interviewee's view Smaller numbers because of time element means
Given opportunity to speak about what they feel is that it is less representative and so harder to make
important ­ produces a fresh insight and valid data valid generalisations
Checking understanding Quantification
Interviewer and interviewee can check each other's…read more

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Conducting a participant observation study:
1.Getting in
Must first gain entry to group
Initial contact may depend on numerous factors
Patrick got into the Glasgow gang because he looked young and knew one of the members
Researchers must gain trust and acceptance
Role ideally should not disrupt the groups normal patterns but offer a good vantage point for observations
2.…read more

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Gain more of a valid picture of people's actions and Time consuming ­ limits number that can be carried
way of life out
Insight Representativeness
Verstehen = understanding comes from putting The group is usually small and selected haphazardly ­
yourself in another person's place e.g by a chance encounter.…read more



In the 'interviews' section, the second subheading needs to be changed to 'unstructured', as it says 'structured' and lists information on the exact opposite. Otherwise, this is perfect!

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