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.

Research Methods Essays – How to Write Them

Essay planning and writing for the AS and A Level sociology exams – hints and tips

The research methods section of the AS sociology 7191 (2) exam (research methods and topics in sociology) consists of one short answer question (out of 4 marks) and one essay question (out of 16 marks).

You should aim to spend approximately 20-25 minutes answering this essay question

This longer methods question will nearly always ask you to evaluate either the strengths or limitations of a particular method, for example ‘Evaluate the strengths of using social surveys in Social Research’.

This means that you will need to evaluate either the strengths or the limitations of the particular method as directed in the question.

You should always use the following structure whether talking about strengths or limitations of the method. Remember that you will need to emphasis the relevant sections depending on whether you are asked to evaluate strengths or limitations.

  1. Define the method

  2. Explain why Positivists like or dislike the method

  3. Explain why Interpretivists like or dislike the method

  4. Validity – explain why the method has good or bad validity

  5. Reliability – explain why the method has good or bad reliability

  6. Representativeness – explain how easy it is to get a large, representative sample

  7. Practical factors – explain what practical strengths or limitations the method has

  8. Ethical issues – explain any ethical problems associated with the method, or talk about the ethical strengths as appropriate

  9. Say what kind of topics this method is useful for researching and why

  10. Say when you wouldn’t use this method and why

  11. Compare the relative strengths and weaknesses of different types of the method.

  • It is good practice to use examples of actual examples of research studies that have used the method under examination, preferably woven into the body of the essay.

  • It is also good practice to distinguish between different ways of doing the method throughout, as you are asked to do in number 11.

  • You can remember the above 11 point plan by memorizing the handy acronym DPIVRRPETTC

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like to purchase more of the same…


Related Posts 

Methods in Context Essay Template

Assessment Objectives and Key Skills in A Level Sociologyfor an explanation of what ‘evaluation’ means

AQA Assessment ResourcesAS paper 2 has an example of a pure research methods question.  

AS Sociology Exam Advice (AQA)

A brief podcast I put together which provides an overview of the two AS Sociology exams (AQA syllabus)



Final Assessment of AS Sociology – 2 Exam Papers

Paper 7191 (1) 90 minutes, 60 marks

Education and Methods in Context

Paper 7191 (2) – 90 minutes, 60 marks

Research Methods and Families and Households

Paper 7191 (1) 90 minutes, 60 marks

Education and Methods in Context

Paper 7191 (2) – 90 minutes, 60 marks

Research Methods and Families and Households

Education (5 questions)

Define the term…

(3 min) (2 marks)

Using one example, briefly explain…

(3 min) (2 marks)

Outline three ways…

(9 min) (6 marks)

Outline and explain two…

(15 min) (10 marks)

Applying material from Item A and elsewhere, evaluate…

(30 mins) (20 marks)

Methods Applied to Education (1 question)

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using xxx method to research xxx issue in education

(30 min) (20 marks)

Research methods (2 questions)

(Q01) Outline two….

(6 mins) (4 marks)

(Q02) Evaluate… Something about research methods

(24 mins) (16 marks)

Families (5 questions)

(Q08) Define the term…

(3 mins) (2 marks)

(Q09) Using one example, briefly explain…

(3 mins) (2 marks)

(Q10) Outline three…

(9 mins) (6 marks)

(Q11) Outline and explain two….

(15 mins ) (10 marks)

(Q12) Applying material from Item A and your knowledge, evaluate…

(30 mins) (20 marks)

Relevant Links 

The AQA Sociology Hub Site

Specimen Sociology exam papers and mark schemes from the AQA

If you like this sort of thing then you might like to purchase my extensive no-nonsense revision notes – over 50 pages of accessible, user friendly, exam-focused notes for only £0.99* – from iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

Research Methods Coverv3
Purchase on iTunes for only £0.99*

*Price will fluctuate with the dollar exchange rate


Further Revision Notes to Follow


Is Marxism Still Relevant Today?

A summary of eight possible ways in which some aspects of Marxist Theory and concepts might still be relevant today…

This is a summary of this more in depth post which goes into much more detail on why we should all be Marxists!

Eight ways in which Marxism is still relevant today

  1. A class based analysis of global society is still relevant if you look at things globally.
  2. Exploitation still lies at the heart of the Capitalist system if you look at the practices of many Transnational Corporations.
  3. If you look at the recent bank bail outs it appears that those with economic power still have disproportionate influence over the superstructure.
  4. If you look at how individualised we have become it appears that many people are still under ideological control – but we don’t realise it.
  5. Work is still Alienating for many people.
  6. Economic crises are still inherent to the capitalist system and that in recent years these crises have become more severe and more frequent.
  7. Capitalist exploitation is so bad in some parts of the world that there is vehement resistance to it.
  8. In Britain there are tens of thousands of people who call themselves Communists and who sympathise with Marxism and the wider anti-capitalist movement. Left Wing criticisms and the anti-capitalist movement is still very much alive today.

Signposting and Related Posts

This material is relevant to any sociology students revising for the social theories part of their A Level Theory and Methods with Crime and Deviance Exam.

Other related posts include:

The Traditional Marxist Perspective on Society 

Eight Criticisms of Traditional Marxism 

Eight Ways in Which Marxism is Still Relevant Today – the more in-depth version of this post.

The Marxist Theory of Society Revision Notes – a summary of all of the above.

Inequalities between children in the United Kingdom

There are several inequalities between children including those based around social class and income, gender and ethnicity.

The March of Progress view of childhood argues that childhood has gradually improved over the last century or so.

However, conflict theorists argue that this view is too rose tinted. It ignores the fact that there are significant inequalities between children. Social policies designed to benefit children have not helped all children equally. 

We can point to at least the following significant inequalities between children…

  • income based inequalities
  • gender based inequalities
  • Inequalities related to ethnicity
  • Inequalities in child protection services.

The effects of income inequalities on child development 

Nearly 80% of children from the richest fifth of households are read to daily at age 3, compared to only 40% of children from the poorest fifth of households (2).

bar chart showing how many hours parents read to children.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (1) these inequalities which start at home persist through education:

  • Only 57% of English pupils eligible for free school meals reached a good level of development at the end of Reception in 2019, compared with 74% of their better-off peers. 
  • Only 40% of disadvantaged pupils go on to earn good GCSEs in English and maths compared to 60% of the better-off students.
  • Ten years after GCSEs, just over 50% of the richest fifth of students have graduated from university compared to fewer than 20% of the poorest fifth of students

Gender inequalities in childhood 

Girls suffer more problems in childhood than boys

In the year ending March 2019, the CSEW  (3) estimated that women were around three times as likely as men to have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 16 years (11.5% compared with 3.5%).

Some more historical evidence shows that girls have to negotiate the psychological pressures of ‘objectification’ much more than boys:

  • A 2016 survey found that 29% of girls reported having experienced unwanted sexual touching in school. 
  • The same report found that 70% of girls and boys reported hearing on a regular basis  words such as ‘slag’ or ‘slut’ to shame girls 
  • A 2007 survey of Brownies aged 7-10 were asked to describe ‘planet sad’ – they spoke of it being inhabited by girls who were fat.
  • A 2009 survey found that a quarter of girls thought it was more important to be beautiful than clever. –
  • 16% of 15 -17 year old girls have avoided going to school because they were worried about their appearance
  • One further consequence of objectification is that girls face sexual abuse from boys. (nspcc)

Ethnic inequalities in childhood 

Exclusion rates are higher for White Gypsy and Roma pupils (0.39%), Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils (0.27%), Black Caribbean pupils (0.25%) and Mixed White and Black Caribbean children (0.24%) (4). 

Exclusions for racial incidents in schools were up 40% in 2020. 

Based on a recent poll of 400 BAME teachers, 54% said they had experienced actions they believed were demeaning to them because of their ethnicity. (4)

Child Protection services fail to protect many children from harm

The most horrific example of this is from the town of Rotherham where gangs of Asian men groomed, abused and trafficked 1400 children while police were contemptuous of the victims and the council ignored what was going on, in spite of years of warnings and reports about what was happening.

A recent report commissioned by the council, covering 1997 to 2013, detailed cases where children as young as 11 had been raped by a number of different men, abducted, beaten and trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England to continue the abuse.

It said that three reports from 2002 to 2006 highlighted the extent of child exploitation and links to wider criminality but nothing was done, with the findings either suppressed or simply ignored. Police failed to act on the crimes and treated the victims with contempt and deemed that they were “undesirables” not worthy of protection.


This post has been written primarily for A-level Sociology students, studying the Families and Households module. Many of the examples above are related to the topic of Toxic Childhood.

Please click here to return to the homepage –


  1. IFS (2022) Lack of progress on closing educational inequalities disadvantaging millions throughout life.
  2. Nuffield Foundation (2022) Little Change to Early Childhood Inequalities
  3. CSEW 2022  Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales. 
  4. Barnardos: How systemic racism affects young people

The Effects of Material Deprivation on Education

material deprivation means poor kids are more likely go hungry and get sick from living in cold houses which harms their education.

Material deprivation can be defined as the inability to afford basic resources and services such as sufficient food and heating. Material deprivation generally has a negative effect on educational achievement.

Material deprivation is very strongly correlated with low income and poverty. The lower the wealth and income of a household the more likely that household is to suffer from material deprivation.

Material Deprivation and Educational Achievement

Material Deprivation and Education

Gibson and Asthana (1999) pointed out that there is a correlation between low household income and poor educational performance. There are a number of ways in which poverty can negatively affect the educational performance of children. For example –

  1. Children in poor homes are more likely to live in cold and even damp conditions which results in higher levels which in turn will mean more absence from school and falling behind with lessons. This is especially the case since the cost of living crisis and soaring energy bills.
  2. Worse diets. They are more likely to skip meals, for example, which means they will be unable to concentrate in school.
  3. Less able to afford ‘hidden costs’ of free state education: books and toys are not bought, and computers are not available in the home.
  4. Children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to be living in smaller homes and having to share a bedroom with a brother or sister. This means they will lack a private study space and not to be able to homework free from distractions.
  5. Tuition fees and loans would be a greater source of anxiety to those from poorer backgrounds.
  6. Poorer parents are less likely to have access to pre-school or nursery facilities.
  7. Young people from poorer families are more likely to have part-time jobs, such as paper rounds, baby sitting or shop work, creating a conflict between the competing demands of study and paid work.
  8. Poorer parents will only be able to afford houses in poorer areas which tend to have higher rates of crime and other social problems. Schools in those areas will have to devote more of their resources to tackling these social problems rather than teaching children, so results will suffer.


Those households suffering from material deprivation in the United Kingdom today are likely to be in relative poverty rather than absolute poverty, but nonetheless some of the above factors can work together and combine to make the experience poverty worse.

For example low income can lead to debt which leads to lower income because of the interest payment on those debts.

Low income can lead to poor diet, which can lead to illness, which means time off work, which means lower income.

The flow chart below shows how multiple factors related to poverty can lead to reduced educational opportunities for children:

Material deprivation is not the only form of deprivation. In A-level sociology the term material deprivation refers to tangible, material things which can usually be bought with money, and is usually contrasted to cultural deprivation which refers to lack of appropriate norms and values. The two often work together.

Evidence for material deprivation

There are three classic pieces of sociological research which explored this issue:

  • Stephen Ball (2005) points out how the introduction of marketisation means that those who have more money have a greater choice of state schools because of selection by mortgage
  • Conner et al (2001) and Forsyth and Furlong (2003) both found that the introduction of tuition fees in HE puts working class children off going to university because of fear of debt
  • Leon Fenstein (2003) found that low income is related to low cognitive reasoning skills amongst children as young as two years old

There is also a lot of contemporary evidence from organizations such as the Sutton Trust which documents the continued impact of material deprivation on education….

Poor kids going hungry…

In 2019 the National Education Union conducted a survey of 8000 teachers and school leaders focusing on how poverty was affecting their children’s learning and achievement.

Among the findings were:

  • Over 75% reported their students had experienced hunger of fatigue and difficulty to concentrate on schoolwork due to poverty
  • Over 50% reported students had been ill and missed schoolwork due to poverty.
  • Over 30% reported their students had been bullied because of poverty.
  • Nearly all schools reported that the Pandemic harmed poor students more and that poor parents and parents relied on schools for support more during that time.
  • In general poverty has a negative affect on the mental health, well being and educational achievement of poor pupils.

There were 1.9 million pupils eligible for Free School Meals in 2022, but the Child Poverty Action Group estimates that there are an additional 800 000 pupils from working poor households who are going hungry but do not qualify for Free School Meals because their parents fall just above the threshold line and so do not qualify for them (1) . This situation has been accelerated with the Cost of Living Crisis.

Poor kids in cold houses

The Institute of Health Inequalities (3) estimated in 2022 that one in five households with children under five are in fuel poverty (see * below for a note on the definition), but projected that the numbers could easily treble into the winter of 2023.

Whatever way you look at it, there are increasing numbers of children living in households which are struggling to pay their gas and electric bills and thus struggling to keep their housing warm, which means more children living in cold and possibly damp houses.

The institute notes that 1.7 Million school days are lost in the EU due to illnesses related to damp and mold, and the UK has the highest rate of all member states, with a rate 80% above the average.

Living in a fuel poverty household can also mean it is more difficult for children to do homework as everyone is more likely to cram into one or two heated rooms (the ‘heat one room’ strategy).

Poverty and university students

The impacts of material deprivation are also felt by university students. According to a survey of 1000 students in January 2023 conducted by the Sutton Trust 33% of students from working class backgrounds reported skipping meals compared to only 24% of students from middle class backgrounds, and 10% (working class) compared to 4% (middle class) of students reported having moved back home with their parents to save money (5)

The Cost of Living Crisis

The recent rise in gas and electricity prices mean that many more households have been pushed into relative poverty in 2022 and 2023.

As a result hundreds of thousands, if not millions more children are experiencing some form of material deprivation, as families choose between heating or eating.

Evaluations of the role of material deprivation

  • To say that poverty causes poor educational performance is too deterministic as some students from poor backgrounds do well. Because of this, one must be cautious and rather than say there is a causal relationship between these two variables as the question suggests, it would be more accurate to say that poverty disadvantages working class students and makes it more difficult for them to succeed.
  • There are other differences between classes that may lead to working class underachievement. For example, those from working class backgrounds are not just materially deprived, they are also culturally deprived.
  • The Cultural Capital of the middle classes also advantages them in education.
  • In practise it is difficult to separate out material deprivation from these other factors.

Possible policy solutions

There are plenty of things governments can do to help those in poverty at the school level.

Most schools provide text books and basic education resources for free to students, and all schools have access to computers and schools staying open for longer in the evenings and homework clubs can help combat lack of computers at home and cold houses.

One thing being trialed in London now is Universal Free School Meals – the idea behind making them universal is that this removes the stigma behind claiming them.

Schools have also increasingly taken it upon themselves to combat child poverty through setting up foodbanks and breakfast clubs, for example, recognizing that hungry children don’t learn effectively.

The problem with all of the above is that these initiatives require money from central government, and funding has been cut in real terms by 14% since 2010 under the neoliberal Tories.

It is also unlikely that policies at the school level can do anything to combat the wider structural inequalities that ultimately result in poor kids doing worse than rich kids in state education. The government is not going to legislate to prevent ‘selection by mortgage’ for example, which gives a huge advantage to rich kids.


This is relevant to the sociology of education module.

Related Posts

The Effects of Cultural Deprivation on Education

The Extent of Material Deprivation in the UK

Evaluating the extent of material deprivation in the UK


(1) The Guardian (September 2022) Hungry Children Miss Out on Free School Meals

(3) The Institute of Health Equity (2022) Fuel Poverty, Cold Homes and Health Inequalities in the UK.

(4) National Education Union (2021) Child Poverty the Facts


Channel Four News Report (September 2022) Children coming to school hungry