Research Methods – 4 Mark ‘Outline’ Questions for AS Sociology

One of the questions (worth 4 marks) in the research methods section of the AS sociology 7191 (2) research methods with families and households paper will ask you to ‘outline’ 2 things about any aspect of research methods – below are a few possible questions and some suggested answers….

Each point of your answer to a short answer ‘outline question’ is best thought of as consisting of ‘1+1’ marks -make a point and explain it… as you can see below, each point has two sentences.

Remember it’s always better if you think up these for yourself rather than just reading and copying out the answers from here…

Outline two practical advantages to the researcher of using social surveys in social research (4)

  • Surveys are a quick and cheap means of gathering data from large numbers of people, across wide areas. They are an efficient method because computers can analyse pre-coded answers and quantify the data instantaneously.
  • You don’t need ‘people skills’ to use social surveys, thus anyone can use them to do research. This is because they can be written in advance, and put on-line or sent by post, and thus sociologist’s personal involvement with respondents can be kept to a minimum.

In either paper 1 or paper 3 of the A level sociology exam you might get this exact same question as a 10 mark question, in which case you’re expected to develop both points further, and possibly evaluate it. To see how you would do this, please click here for the 10 mark answer to A level sociology question.

Outline two theoretical problems sociologists might face when using social surveys to conduct research (4)

  • The imposition problem—closed questions limit what respondents can say. Interpretivists argue respondents have diverse motives and it is unlikely that researchers will think up every possible response, thus questionnaires will lack validity.
  • Self-completion surveys can also suffer from poor representativeness – those with low literacy skills are less likely to return them as they are unable to do so, thus resulting in a narrow, biased, self-selecting sample.

To see how you might turn this into an A level answer (papers 1 and 3), please click here for the 10 mark answer to A level sociology question.

Outline two ways in which a researcher might improve the response rate of postal questionnaires (4)

  • You could include an incentive, which people could claim when they return them, such as entry into a prize draw. This means people would be motivated by the money to complete and return the questionnaire.
  • You could remind them via phone a few days after the have received the questionnaire. They may have ignored or forgotten the questionnaire, and people may be more likely to respond because of the personal contact from the researcher.  

Outline two ways in which sociologists might ensure respondents do not misinterpret the questions they are being asked in postal surveys (4)

  • You could make sure questions are clearly worded in simple language to reduce misinterpretation. Here a pilot study with an interviewer present might be a useful way of assessing what wording is the easiest to understand.
  • You could make sure the survey is carried out as a structured interview, or if a postal survey, have a phone-line where people can ask questions – this way a researcher could explain the correct way to interpret any difficult questions.
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