GSCE Sociology Studying Society Revision

Notes and revision from a GSCE sociolgy revision texct book, hope this helps :)


Defining Sociology

What is sociology?

The study of society or the social factors that shape human behaviour.

Sociologists look at how society affects our daily lives.

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Social Structures

Social Structures - These are the groups and institutions that make up society.

Examples are:

- Families

- The education system

- The legal System

- The social stratification system

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Social Processes

A social process is process's in which something takes place in society.

Processes such as....

- Primary Socialization

- Gender socialization

- Seondary Socialization

- Labelling

- Formal and informal social control

- Discrimination 

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Social issues

Social issues are the issues and problems that affect individuals, groups and communities in their daily lives.


- Teenage parenthood

- Educational underachievment

- Knife crime

- Teenage crime

- Poverty

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Difference between Sociology and Psychology

Contrasting Sociology and Psychology

You need to know the difference between them.

What is Psychology?

- Psychologists look at indivdual behavior and science of the mind. They look at topics such as mental illness.

- Sociologists study the social influences on human life. They focus on group (rather than indivdual behavior)  

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Difference between Sociology and Biology

Contrasting Sociology and Biology

- Biologists look for biological causes or characteristics when studying human behavior.

- Sociologists view behavior as social or cultural rather than biological    

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Difference between Sociology and Journalism

Sociologists and news journalists sometimes research into similar social issues. However, journalist's research is less thorough and reporting may be biased or one-sided.

Sociologists must select and use evidence in a balanced way or their research may be criticized by other sociologists.  

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What is culture?

Culture -  A culture is a way of life of a society including its values, norms, beliefs or language.

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Carrying out Sociological Research

Sociologists carry out research to collect information in an organized way. This information gives them the evidence they need to explain the social world. The process of research involves several key stages. 

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Stages in the Research process - First Stage Devel

Developing research aims and hypothesis - Research aims set out what the researcher intends to investigate and they provide the study's focus.

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Second Stage - Carrying out a pilot study

Carrying out a pilot study - A pilot study is a small-scale trial run carried out before the main research.

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Third Stage - Selecting a sample

Selecting a sample - Rather than study the whole population, a researcher often selects a sample. This is done by using a sampling technique such as stratified random sampling or snowball sampling.

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Fourth Stage - Collecting the Data

Collecting the data - Sociologists collect data using primary research methods such a questionnaires or observation. They may also use secondary sources such as official statistics or mass media reports. Data mat be etiher quantification or qualitative.

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Fifth Stage - Analysing the Data

Analysing the data - Data analysis involves interpreting or making sense of the information and presenting the main findings or results. 

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Last Stage - Evaluating the study's aims, methods

Evaluating the study's aims, methods, findings and conclusions - Sociologists write articles about their research in journals and present papers at conferences. These articles and paper are reviewed and evaluated by other sociologists. This is known as a peer review. 

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Sampling Techniques

Different Types of Sampling Methods:

  •  Simple Random Sampling
  •  Systematic Sampling
  •  Stratified Random Sampling
  •  Snowball Sampling 
  •  Opportunistic Sampling
  •  Quota Sampling 
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Random Sampling

A small Group selected from a sampling frame when everyone had an equal chance of being chosen.

You give a number to each person in your sampling frame and allow a computer to choose at random. 

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Systematic Sampling

Researchers take every 'nth' item from the sampling frame, for example every 20th name from a school register/

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Stratified Random Sampling

Researchers divide the populatin into strata (subgroups_ according to characteristics such as age, gender and ethnicity. 

They randomly draw a sample from each subgroup in proportion to the numbers of the population.

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Snowball Sampling

Snowball Sampling is through contact with one member of a population, the researcher is introduced to, or identifies others in the same population. 

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Opportunistic Sampling

This is not particually Representative, type of sampling technique. 

This involves just giving your questionnaire to anyone available. 

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Quota Sampling

You set your quota controls such as age, gender, ethnicity, social class and then you set about finding people to fit into these slots. Market researchers might try and stop you on the street because you are female aged about 16 who is listening to an expensive iPod. 

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Quantitative Methods

Social Surveys

These are used to collect information from a large number of people. Based on Questionnaires or on Questionnaires interviews.

Questionnaires consist of standardized questions so all respondents answer the same questions in the same order. 

Different Types:

 Postal Questionnaires - self - completion, sent by post or email. Each respondent completes a cop of the questionnaire and returns it to the researcher. 

Hand-Delivered questionnaires - Hands to respondent and returns to collect completed questionnaire.

Structured (or formal) Interviews - Trained interviewer asks set questions and records the respondent's answers. Face-to-face or telephone.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Structured Intervi


- Trained interviewers can explain what question means

- Standardized questions , all respondents answer same questions - compare respondents answers.

- Identify connections between different factors.

- Structured interviews can be replicated or repeated to check reliability of findings.


- Pre-set questions assumes that the sociologist has the skills to decide, before the interview takes place, what question need to be asked.

- Interviewees have few opportunities to raise new issues. 

- The interview effect - interviewees may give answers that are socially acceptable or show them in a postive light. NOT RELIABLE.

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