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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Outline and explain two ways in which changes to gender roles have affected diversity of family structures (10)

gender roles family diversityQuestion 1 in the A level sociology families and households ‘topics’ exam will be out of 10 marks ask you to ‘outline and explains’ two things (reasons/ ways/ criticisms for example).

In order to get into the top mark band* for these questions you need to do the following:

  • Outline two distinct ‘ways’, and they need to be different to each other – an obvious strategy here for one ‘way’ to focus on women’s roles, and the other on men’s roles.
  • For each ‘way you need to clearly show how a change to a gender role has affected families, increasing diversity.
  • For each reason/ criticism you need to explain the effect showing ‘chains of causality’.

An example of how you might develop ‘way one’ above.

Reason 1 – Changing gender roles

The fact that women want to establish careers first means they put off having babies
Girls have overtaken boys in education, most people in university are girls and most households are dual income households.

This has led to a decline of the traditional expressive role and the idea of women as carers, such that most women now choose to spend their 20s building their careers and have babies in their 30s, meaning there is only time for one or two children rather than two or three. Some women, of course, remain childless.

This is reflected in the Total Fertility Rate – for women in their 30s has declined, but it has actually increased for women in their 30s and 40s because of the above changes.

Other changes to family life include an increase in divorce as women are no longer dependent on men financially – which means an increase in single parent families, mainly headed by women, and single person households mostly inhabited by men, following divorce.

 

AS Sociology – how to answer short answer ‘outline’ (6 mark) questions

Question 3 of the topics section of the AS sociology research methods and topics exam will ask you to outline three reasons/ ways/ or criticisms (for example, you may be asked to outline three consequences, possibly). =

Question 3 has a total of 6 marks, and you need to think of this as 3 lots of 1+1* – this is how they are marked – 1 mark for each ‘partial reason’ and then +1 for each of those reasons developed further – so say something, then explain how, develop it further, basically doing what the question is asking you to do!

Outline three criticisms of the Marxist perspective on the family (6)

below are the ‘identifiers’ , add in more explanation to each point to guarantee 1+1

  • Many families don’t just mindlessly consume products (the family is not automatically a unit of consumption)
  • Radical Feminists argue Patriarchy is more oppressive than Capitalism – Patriarchy preceded Capitalism
  • The nuclear family doesn’t ‘fit’ Capitalism as well as Marxists suggest
  • It is economically deterministic – nuclear families existed before Capitalism

Outline three ways in which family life has become more symmetrical (6)

below are the ‘identifiers’ , add in more explanation to each point to guarantee 1+1

  • More couples are live in dual-earner households
  • Men and women share child care and housework more equally
  • Men and women are more likely today to spend their leisure time together than separately

Outline three reasons why family life has become more child centred (6)

below are the ‘identifiers’ , add in more explanation to each point to guarantee 1+1

  • Women have fewer children
  • Parents are more dependent on their children because of increased uncertainty in every other aspect of social life.
  • Parents have more money to spend on children
  • There are more laws protecting children

*NB this IS NOT CLEAR from the ‘outline’ – I’ve heard some teenagers say they think this is because the AQA examiners have a burning hatred of teenagers, and I’ve heard some cynical colleagues suggest that the lack of clear instruction is just because the examiners don’t get out much and thus haven’t had much practice in receiving or giving clear instructions.

However, it’s also possible that this is deliberate and really just all about differentiation – exams are designed to create winners and losers, and not giving clear instructions about what you should actually be doing to get the marks simply makes it more likely that there are going to be clear losers. 

Using material from item A, analyse two ways in which globalisation may have changed pupils’ experience of education(10)

A suggested model answer to this 10 mark analyse question, a possible question for the AQA’s education with theory and method’s A level paper (paper 7192/1) 

  • Hooks
  • What you need to apply the hooks to

Item A

Globalisation, or the increasing interconnectedness of countries across the globe, creates both challenges and opportunities for the United Kingdom. For example, economic globalisation has resulted in both more opportunities abroad and more competition for jobs for these jobs; and increasing migration has resulted in greater multiculturalism in the UK.

Education has had to adapt to globalization, and as a result, pupils today experience education very differently to previous generations.

Suggested Answer

Point 1 – Economic globalisation means increased competition from abroad, which means British students today are expected to spend longer in education (as evidence by the increasing of the school leaving age. So one change in the experience of education is that students stay in school for longer.

Development  – globalisation has meant that most of the unskilled factory jobs have now moved abroad, and increasingly British workers need to be better educated in order to get jobs at all, thus the expansion of higher education means that more students ‘experience’ higher education and are better qualified than their parents.

Further development – however, ironically, poorer UK students are put off by the fees universities now charge, meaning that the globalisation of HE is possibly resulting in more class inequality.

Further development  – increased competition also means more pressure to succeed, schools are now ranked by PISA league tables, which means even more ‘teaching the test’ and ‘narrowing of the curriculum’, which is a final way the experience of education has changed.

Point 2 – The item also refers to the pressures of increased immigration resulting in more multiculturalism – and British schools have long had multicultural education in response to this, which also changes pupils’ experiences of education.

Development 1 – For example, religious education has long taught about other religions, and increasingly schools and colleges have events such as ‘black history month’ raising awareness of diversity.

Further Development – schools have also introduced compensatory education to help recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, such as extra support for pupils who don’t have English as a first language.

Further development – however, some policies may be seen as potentially divisive, for example, the prevent agenda in schools seems to target Muslim pupils through ‘categorical suspicion’.

Further development – There is also doubt that these inclusive policies are working, many people, especially in working class areas, object to the extra resources being spent on minority groups, and given the fact that it is the white working classes who have the lowest achievement, they might have a point.

A Level Sociology – Outline Questions (4 and 6 Marks, Education Paper 1)

Four and Six mark outline questions appear on the education and crime and deviance AQA A level sociology exam papers. This blog post shows you some possible examples of outline questions which might appear on the Education exam paper, along with some suggested answers.

NB These questions are marked in a ‘1+1’ style – you get one mark for identifying and one mark for developing and explaining further. So to be on the safe side, make a point and then develop it – do this twice for a 4 mark question, and thrice for a three mark question.

Outline two ways in which material deprivation may affect educational achievement (4 marks)

Suggested points, you need to add in the explanations as to HOW these factors have a negative effect on educational achievement.

  • Smaller, overcrowded houses
  • Poor diets and higher levels of sickness
  • Less/no educational books/toys, PC’s
  • Parents can’t afford to support children in education after 16
  • Less access to nursery facilities
  • W/C more likely to have part time jobs.
  • Schools themselves, less resources etc than schools in M/C areas
  • Selection by mortgage
  • Can’t afford private tutors

Suggested full answers (outlining and explaining two ways)

  • (ID) Low income means families will live in smaller houses which could mean there is lack of a private study space, or children may even have to share bedrooms. (EX) This means there is no quiet space for children to do homework, which could result in them falling behind at school.
  • (ID) Children from low income households are more likely to have poor diets, the low nutritional content of which could result in higher levels of sickness. (EX) This could result in them having time off school, which could have a detrimental effect on their education.

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Outline two ways in which cultural deprivation may affect educational achievement (4 marks)

Suggested full answers (outlining and explaining two ways)

  • (ID) Working class pupils are more likely to have immediate Gratification (wanting to work straight after school to earn money immediately) (EX) this explains working class underachievement because working class kids are more likely to be poor thus more likely to want to earn money immediately after finishing their GCSEs, which means they are less likely to stay onto further education
  • (ID) The working classes are more likely to be fatalistic, which is where one resigns oneself to the fact that they can’t improve their lot in life. (EX) This explains working class underachievement because they think they are inevitably going to go into working class jobs so don’t try hard at school as there is no point.

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Outline three reasons why girls are now generally out-performing boys in education (6 marks)

Suggested full answers (outlining and explaining three ways)

  • (ID) Introduction of coursework: (EX) has enabled girls to do better as they are more organised, meticulous, persistent, etc than boys and this is rewarded in coursework.
  • (ID) Changes in the family such as more divorce (EX) has given girls a greater incentive to gain useful qualifications, as they cannot now expect to be full-time housewives permanently provided for by their husbands.
  • (ID) Changes in the labour market such greater numbers of women working and opportunities for promotion (EX) have given girls more role models and the inspiration to achieve qualifications with which to pursue a career. 

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Outline three reasons why girls are less likely to choose science subjects than boys (6 marks)

Suggested points, you need to add in the explanations in most cases.

  • Teacher’s sexist ideas channelling girls into ‘girls subjects’
  • Science taught in a male way using male examples (engines), put girls off
  • Biological differences. Girls better at communication, not much discussion in science subjects
  • Differential parental encouragement
  • Boys more likely to play with technical toys
  • Fewer girls in text books
  • Fewer female science teachers
  • Boys dominate classroom by dominating practical equipment

 Suggested full answers (outlining and explaining three ways)

  • (ID) Teachers may have stereotypical ideas that girls would struggle in male dominated subjects such as physics, (EX) and they may try and put them off, steering them towards other, more traditionally feminine subjects such as English, meaning fewer girls end up doing science subjects.
  • (ID) Science subjects are often taught using masculine examples – for example, physics text books might use cars to illustrate the laws of motion. (EX) This might put girls off doing physics because they have no interest in the masculine examples used to teach these subjects.
  • (ID) Girls are more likely to be socialised into discussing their feelings, (EX) and thus they might be more likely to choose subjects such as history and English where you need to discuss things more, rather than sciences where there is less discussion and ‘one right answer’.