Links to summaries of the main quantitative and qualitative, primary and secondary social research methods within the social sciences, incorporating Methods in the Context of Education. This is mainly focused on the A Level Sociology AQA 7192 specification, but counts just as well towards the methods content on the AS sociology 7191/1 and 2 papers.
Research Methods at a Glance – Key Concepts
Research Methods Top Ten Key Concepts – start here if you’re all at sea – includes simple explanations of terms such as validity, reliability, representativeness, Positivism and Interpretivism
Research Methods A-Z Glossary – a more comprehensive index of the key terms you need to know for AS and A Level Sociology
An Introduction to Research Methods
Good Resources for Teaching and Learning Research Methods – simply links (with brief descriptions) which take you to a range of text books and web sites which focus on various aspects of quantitative and qualitative research methods. NB this post is very much a work in progress, being updated constantly.
Research Methods in Sociology – An Introduction – detailed class notes covering the basic types of research method available to sociologists such as social surveys, interviews, experiments, and observations
Factors Effecting Choice of Research Topic in Sociology – detailed class notes on the theoretical, ethical, and practical factors effecting the choice of research methods
Factors Effecting Choice of Research Method in Sociology – detailed class notes covering theoretical, practical and ethical factors and the nature of topic. NB choice of topic will affect choice of research method. Choice of topic and method are different issues!
Positivism and Interpretivism – very brief summary revision notes outlining the difference between positivist and interpretivist approaches to social research.
Positivism, Sociology and Social Research – detailed class notes on the relationship between The Enlightenment, industrialisation and positivist sociology
Stages of Social Research – detailed class notes covering research design, data collection and analysis.
Outline and explain two practical problems which might affect social research (10) – A model answer to this exam question, which could appear on either paper 7191 (1) or 7191 (3).
Primary Quantitative Research Methods
An Introduction to Social Surveys – a brief introduction to the use of different types of survey in social research, including structured questionnaires and interviews
The advantages and disadvantages of social surveys in social research – detailed class notes covering the theoretical, practical and ethical strengths and limitations of social surveys. Generally, surveys are preferred by positivists and good for simple topics, but not so good for more complex topics which require a ‘human touch’!
An Introduction to Experiments in Sociology – a brief introduction covering definitions of key terms including hypotheses, dependent and independent variables and the Hawthorne Effect. NB sociologists don’t generally use experiments, especially not lab experiments, but you still need to know about them!
Laboratory Experiments in Sociology – detailed class notes on the strengths and limitations of laboratory experiments. Sociologists don’t generally use lab experiments, but examiners seem to ask questions about them more than other methods – one hypothesis for why is that sociology examiners have a burning hatred of teenagers.
Field Experiments in Sociology – detailed class notes on the strengths and limitations of field experiments. Field experiments take place in real life social settings so are more ‘sociological’ than lab experiments.
Seven Examples of Field Experiment for Sociology – class notes outlining a mixture of seven classic and contemporary field experiments relevant to various aspects of the AS and A level sociology syllabus
Primary Qualitative Research Methods
Primary qualitative research methods tend to be favoured by Interpretivists as they allow respondents to speak for themselves, and should thus yield valid data. However, because qualitative methods tend to involve the researcher getting more involved with the respondents, there is a risk that the subjective views of the researcher could interfere with the results, which could compromise both the validity and reliability of such methods.
Qualitative research methods also tend to be time consuming and so it can be difficult to to them with large samples of people.
Overt and Covert Participant Observation – Participant Observation is where researchers take part in the life of respondents, sometimes for several months or even years, and try to ‘see the world through their eyes’. Overt research is where respondents know the researcher is doing research, covert is where the researcher is undercover. The later isn’t done much in sociology, because of the ethical problems associated with it.
Interviews in Social Research – This post consists of detailed class notes focusing strengths and limitations of mainly unstructured interviews, which are like a guided conversation that allow respondents the freedom to speak for themselves.
Some recent examples of sociological studies using participant observation – including Pearson’s covert research into football hooligans and Mears’s research into the modelling industry.
Non-Participant Observation – detailed class notes on non-participant observation. This is where the researcher observes from the sidelines and makes observations. Probably the most commonly used form of this is the OFSTED inspection.
Secondary Research Methods
Official Statistics in Sociology – class notes on the general strengths and limitations of official statistics, which are numerical data collected by the government. Examples include crime statistics, school league tables and education statistics.
Evaluating the Usefulness of Official Statistics – the UK government collects a wide variety of statistics, the validity of which can vary enormously. This post explores the validity of Religious belief statistics, crime and prison statistics, and immigration data, among other sources of data.
Secondary Qualitative Data Analysis in Sociology – class notes covering public and private documents. Public documents include any written or visual document produced with an audience in mind, such things as government reports and newspapers, whereas private documents refer to personal documents such as diaries and letters which are not intended to be seen by their authors.
Content Analysis of the Media in Social Research – class notes covering formal content (quantitative) analysis and semiology.
Sociology, Science and Value Freedom (Part of A2 Theory and Methods)
Sociology and Value Freedom – Detailed class notes
Methods in Context – Research Methods Applied to Education
Field Experiments applied to Education – are Chinese Teaching Methods the Best? This is a summary of a documentary in which some students at one school undertook a Chinese style of teaching for 3 months, involving 12 hour days and ‘teach from the front techniques’. The students were then tested and their results compared to students from the same school who stuck to the traditional British way of teaching. The results may surprise you!
Participant Observation in Education – focusing on the work of Paul Willis and Mac An Ghail.
Non-Participant Observation in Education – focusing on OFSTED inspections, as these are probably the most commonly used of all methods in education!
The Strengths and Limitations of Education Statistics – This post discusses the strengths and limitations of results statistics. NB these may not be as valid as you think!
Evaluating the Usefulness of Secondary Qualitative Data to Research Education – there are lot of documents sociologists may use to research education, including school promotional literature and web sites, policy documents, written records on students, and, if they can access them, personal messages between students referring to what they think about school.
Focus on the AS and A Level Exams
Research Methods Essays – How to Write Them – general advice on writing research methods essays for the AS and A level sociology exams. This post covers the PET technique – Practical, Ethical and Theoretical.
Assess the Strengths of Using Participant Observation in Social Research (20) – example essay, top mark band.
Methods in Context Essay Template – a suggested gap fill essay plan on how to answer these challenging ‘applied research methods’ questions.
Methods in Context Mark Scheme – pared down mark scheme – easy to understand! It may surprise you to know that you can get up to 12/20 for just writing about the method, without even applying it to the question!
Other Relevant Posts
How old are twitter users? – applied sociology – illustrates some of the problems us using social media to uncover social trends.
Twitter users by occupation and social class – applied sociology – illustrates some of the problems us using social media to uncover social trends.
Other posts and links will be forthcoming throughout 2020, check back soon!
Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle
If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of A level sociology papers 1 and 3.
- 74 pages of revision notes
- 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
- Five theory and methods essays
- ‘How to write methods in context essays’.
Best value is my A level sociology revision mega bundle – which contains the following:
- over 200 pages of revision notes
- 60 mind maps in pdf and png formats
- 50 short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
- Covers the entire A-level sociology syllabus, AQA focus.