Research Methods

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 A-Z Glossaryan index of the key terms you need to know for AS and A Level Sociology

Research Methods Top Ten Key Conceptsstart here if you’re all at sea – includes simple explanations of terms such as validity, reliability, representativeness, Positivism and Interpretivism

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 Interpretivismvery 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

Interviews in Social Research – detailed class notes focussing mainly on the strengths and limitations of unstructured interviews.

Overt and Covert Participant Observation  – detailed class notes on overt and using covert participant observation in social research. 

Some recent examples of sociological studies using participant observationincluding 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.

Secondary Research Methods

Official Statistics in Sociology – class notes on the general strengths and limitations of official statistics. 

Evaluating the Usefulness of Official Statistics

Secondary Qualitative Data Analysis in Sociology – class notes covering public and private documents. 

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?

Participant Observation in Education – focussing on the work of Paul Willis and Mac An Ghail.

Non-Participant Observation in Education – focussing on OFSTED inspections.

The Strengths and Limitations of Education Statistics – distinguishes between different types of statistic within education.

Evaluating the Usefulness of Secondary Qualitative Data to Research Education – distinguishes between publicly available documents and private documents. 

Focus on the AS and A Level Exams

Research Methods Essays – How to Write Themgeneral advice on writing research methods essays for the AS and A level sociology exams.

Assess the Strengths of Using Participant Observation in Social Research (20) – example essay, top mark band.

Methods in Context Essay Template – gap fill essay plan.

Methods in Context Mark Scheme – pared down mark scheme – easy to understand! 

Other Relevant Posts

Learning to Labour by Paul Willis – Summary and Evaluation of Research Methods

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 classapplied sociology – illustrates some of the problems us using social media to uncover social trends.

Other posts and links will be forthcoming throughout 2016-17, 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.

Contents include:

  • 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’.

Mega Bundle CoverFor better value I’ve bundled all of the above topics into six revision bundles, containing revision notes, mind maps, and exam question and answers, available for between £4.99 and £5.99 on Sellfy.

Best value is my A level sociology revision mega bundle – which contains the following:

  1. over 200 pages of revision notes
  2. 60 mind maps in pdf and png formats
  3. 50 short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  4. Covers the entire A-level sociology syllabus, AQA focus.