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Examiners are human too!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Before we get onto examiners, I hope you have all carefully read the beautifully crafted revision notes, written by my colleague. A real plus for our readers and apparently his in-box is jammed with notes of thanks from grateful students so best wait a while before you send yours. Now, some thoughts on how to please the examiners:

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The Sociology of Opinion Polls

Thursday, April 29, 2010

While colleague Mark Gillard is delayed reflecting on the merits of kippers, let me entertain you will some thoughts about opinion polls. Coming to the end of a general election campaign when, as usual, we have been regaled with the views of numerous experts and pundits, its worth pausing to reflect on how much we can trust the opinion polls. Accurately done, polls can be very useful tools. But the trouble is, it is hard to do them well - one of my pet points - students always think research is easy - just dash out a questionnaire or cobble a few interviews together.  Wrong.  And here is C4’s Gary Gibbon, explaining why the polls may not be quite as valid (technical sense) as some claim.

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Sociology Revision - Methodology, Positivism and Interpretivism

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The last sections of our material on methods.  The sections on positivism and interpretivism can be used to help you tackle the question of whether sociology is a science. It’s not a complete answer, but it does a lot of the work needed to get you there.

After that you will see a section on three vital concepts. If you know these well you can use them on a variety of questions - although that isn’t an invitation to keep repeating material. I don’t mean ‘know’, I mean ‘understand’.  An understanding of validity, reliability, and representativeness can be applied to questions throughout the exam paper.

Enjoy.

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Revision- Methods, PO and Non PO, Case Studies and Official Stats

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More methodology revision materials today. The stuff on observation PO and Non PO I confess has been posted before, but anyway, this might be easier to find.  Also tacked on to it is some stuff about Official Statistics and a brief mention of Case Studies.

Tomorrow - some stuff you can use on the hardy perennial, is sociology a science.

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Revision - Methods Basics and Sampling

Monday, April 26, 2010

More of our revision materials for methodology.  Sorry it’s appearing in rather random order. I will see if we can get a whole handout posted up somewhere.

Today - the basics and sampling.

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Read the Papers

Friday, April 23, 2010

Those of you who are doing AS Media and even those of you who are not might like to check out what the papers are saying in the lead up to polling day.

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Revision Note: Interviews

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Interviews are generally considered as more of an interpretivist method, although sociologists taking a more positivistic and quantitative approach do also use them. The more positivist inclined sociologist would be likely though to favour a structured interview, where all interviewees were asked the same questions, in the same order, thus making it more reliable and easier to record and analyse the results.
Sociologists taking a more interpretivist approach would be likely to rely more on the unstructured interview or a partly-structured interview.  These two forms of interview simply mean that there are few or no fixed questions which have to be asked or asked to all interviewees. This might mean for example, that a researcher interviewing drug users, would ask questions on broad themes, e.g. ‘tell me how you got involved with drugs’, and this could lead to all sorts of supplementary questions. Indeed, the supplementary questions might vary between different respondents.

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Revision Note: Questionnaires

There are two main types of questionnaire – fixed response and open-ended.  Fixed response questionnaires ask a series of questions, but only permit the respondent to answer in a certain way – by for example providing several answers, e.g. a), b) or c).  These are called ‘coded answers’.  Open-ended questions leave a small amount of space and allow the respondent to fill it in as they please. With the last type of questionnaire, it is harder for the researcher to categorize, or code, all the answers.

Questionnaires of both types have various advantages and disadvantages:

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Revision Materials

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The exam season is almost upon us.  As I posted a while back, we are aiming to provide more notes and resources. In the next day or so, you should be able to find a new handout on research methods for AS students. It’s around 6 pages long and aims to cover over the key material.  Hope you like it.  More to follow as quickly as I can manage. The next priorities will be Families and Households and Education for AS.  Sorry all those A2 students out there, but while you are waiting we have got a number of posts on crime and deviance which seem to be quite popular and serve well as revision notes.

Social Capital

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

There’s been a lot of talk about social capital in AS/A sociology for a while now. So I’ll take this opportunity to suggest some reasons for caution in using the concept.

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Families or Friends?

Monday, April 19, 2010

The idea that our family will look after us when we get old is an attractive one, for perhaps obvious reasons and maybe it has always been a bit of a myth. Now a study by psychologists suggests that maybe it is friends, not family, who are more important in later years. It seems to me that you can use the evidence from this article to add to evaluations of the functionalist account of the changing role of the nuclear family.

‘How to win the TV debate

Friday, April 16, 2010

For an interesting analysis of the art of the TV Debate you might check out Michael Cockerell’s programme on the subject. Saturday 8.30pm BBC 2.

Politics, politicians and presentation

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tonight a small but significant piece of political history will be made. For the first time in a British General Election the leaders of the three main political parties will be together in a studio answering questions from the electorate. At first sight it looks like it might be a bit of a bore. The Parties have agreed on no less than 72 rules to govern the event , no cheering or booing from the audience , candidates may not ask questions of each other , no interrupting blah de blah. And yet…... the leader of the Liberal Democrats , Nick Clegg , when asked whether he might break the rules replied “You bet”. So does tonight’s debate matter?

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Gender, Family and Happiness

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Research into well-being (or more crudely, ‘happiness’ ) is all the fashion in psychology. Now sociologists have got in on the act and some new research has just been published by sociologists from the University of Cambridge in a new book titled, Gender Equality in the 21st Century, suggesting that men and women associate personal happiness with the happiness of their families, although they do so in different ways.The Cambridge study was carried out by Professor Jacqueline Scott, Dr. Anke Plagnol and Dr. Jane Nolan and appears in a new book, Gender Inequalities In The 21st Century, published by Edward Elgar.

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More League Tables

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Well, in today’s Guardian check out this fascinating table of international university rankings.  Students - I side with the comments on The Guardian which cast considerable doubt on this heap of massaged statistics.  Your task is to explain why these statistics are probably, most likely, sorely lacking in both validity and reliability

. I’ll even allow you to use the posted comments as a source of ideas.

CEP Research Paper on the Politics of Crime

Monday, April 12, 2010

The second Centre for Economic Performance Election Analysis describes UK crime trends and research evidence relevant to the parties’ proposed policies - available here

More on voting and the perils of psephology

Friday, April 09, 2010

David talked of the validity of polling yesterday. Some historical context might be useful here. In the 1992 Election there was a general consensus that Labour should win, borne out by the majority of polling. The Election results demonstrated that the polls had been wrong, with the Tories winning relatively decisively. So what went wrong with the polls?

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Changing Conjugal Roles

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Here’s some useful new evidence to throw into the pot on conjugal roles.  Of course, the findings have to be put firmly into context - the majority of men are not the primary carer for their child or children, but they do suggest social change is occuring and that there is more flexibility and variety in arrangements.

Class and the General Election

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

How can social scientists get a representative sample of the population and gauge the outcome of the General Election? Newsnight has some ideas and so do we.

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Declining Religion?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

We’ve posted on this before I know, and a general election has just been called (no doubt more on that later), but this week’s Thinking Allowed has some provocative stuff on secularisation, so I’ll give it a plug here.

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Is Sociology a Science?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Many of you at present will be doing the Theory topics , one of which is the old chestnut above. I hope you’ve realised that its rather difficult to answer it without a view on how ‘scientific’ science is.
  Fortunately we’ve some empirical material to look at after we’ve staggered through Bacon , Popper , Lakatos , Kuhn and the rest of the gang!

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