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Flashcards in Unit 1 Studying Society Deck (28)
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What is the SOCIOLOGICAL approach to research?

Sociology explores the social factors that shape human behaviour and how society influences our daily lives. Sociologists must select and use evidence in a balanced way or their research may be criticized by other sociologists. They focus on GROUP (rather than individual) behaviour and discuss the SOCIAL INFLUENCES on human life believing that age, gender and race are a SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION (created by society and culture rather than a product of biology).


What is the PSYCHOLOGICAL approach to research?

Looks at personality and identity and uses research e.g. experiments focusing on INDIVIDUAL e.g. factors leading an individual to be racist such as personal experiences.


What is the BIOLOGICAL approach to research?

Believe that gender behaviour is down to sexual differences. Racial differences explain different behaviour and achievement. Human behaviour is down to instinct and genes – it’s nature.


What is the JOURNALIST approach to research?

Less systematic (following methods and planning) due to tight deadlines and PROFIT MOTIVE. Can be biased towards a political point of view e.g. newspapers (Daily Mail– Conservative, Daily Mirror – Labour). Tends to SENSATIONALIZE stories, rather than look for truth.



Culture – Whole way of life of a society including norms and values. Cultural relativity is the differences between cultures e.g. roasted guinea pig a delicacy in Peru but guinea pigs kept as pets in UK.



Groups and INSTITUTIONS that make up society such as families, the education system and the social stratification system e.g. the class system.


What are social processes?

Processes such as socialization, social control, labelling, institutional racism.


What are social issues?

Issues and problems that affect individuals, groups and communities in their daily lives such as fear of crime, inequality and poverty.


What is meant by social stratification?

The way society is structured/divided into hierarchical strata with the most privileged at the top and the least privileged at the bottom.


Describe 4 methods of sampling.

1. SIMPLE RANDOM sampling: Each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected.
2. SYSTEMATIC sampling: Researchers take every ‘nth’ item from the sampling frame, for example every 20th name from a school register.
3. STRATIFIED RANDOM sampling: Researchers divide the population into strata according to characteristics such as age, gender and ethnicity. They then randomly draw a sample from each strata in proportion to the numbers in the population.
4. SNOWBALL sampling. Non-probability sampling method - through contact with one member of a population, the research is introduced to, or identifies others in the same population.


What is a cross-sectional survey?

Takes a cross section of the population and questions them on relevant issues only once. Good as can be a cheap way of gathering a lot of information. for but only gives us a snapshot view of what people think at one particular point in time.


What is a longitudinal study?

A study of the same group over time e.g. Robert Winston's 'Child of Our Time'. Good for seeing social change over time but can be time consuming and expensive.


What is a social survey?

Primary research method used to obtain quantitative data. A survey produces statistical information that counts/measures something. The results are presented as graphs & tables of statistics with the sociologist’s comments and analysis.


What are the 2 key types of social survey and how are they carried out?

1. Self-completion questionnaires.
2. Structured interviews.
The questions are STANDARIZED so all respondents answer identical questions in the same order. Survey questions can be ‘OPEN-ENDED’ or ‘CLOSED’.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of postal questionnaires?

- 1 of cheapest, quickest ways of getting info from many people.
- Researcher not present and so, respondents may be more willing to answer personal or sensitive questions.
- Questions standardized so sociologists can compare respondents’ answers
- Can be replicated to check RELIABILITY of findings (consistency = reliability)
- Questions cannot be explained face-to-face so some may be misunderstood or skipped
- May not have been completed by person it was sent to
- Not appropriate for some populations (e.g. homeless)
- LOW RESPONSE RATE. Those who respond may not be representative or typical of the population being studied. If so, researcher cannot generalize from the sample to the population.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of structured interviews?

1.Trained interviewer can explain questions for respondent
2.Questions standardized so sociologists can compare respondents’ answers
3.Can be replicated to check RELIABILITY of findings (consistency = reliability)
4. Sociologists can GENERALIZE from reliable results taken from representative sample.
1. Interviewees have few opportunities to raise new issues
2. INTERVIEW EFFECT: in a formal interview setting, interviewees may only give answers that are socially acceptable to show them in the most positive light. The results LACK VALIDITY.
3. INTERVIEWER EFFECT: Interviewer’s personal or social characteristics may influence the interviewees’ responses so LACK VALIDITY.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of unstructured interviews?

1. Trained interviewer can rephrase questions and clear up any misunderstandings
2. Interviewer is not constrained to pre-set questions and so can ask follow-up questions to explore complex issues
3. Interviewees can develop answers and explain views in detail
4. Give an in-depth and rich account of the topic being studied giving a more VALID picture of the topic.
1. More time consuming, expensive for the amount of data that is collected
2. Interviewer needs necessary SKILLS needed to keep conversation going, encourage interviewees to ‘open up’
3. INTERVIEWER EFFECT: Interviewer’s personal or social characteristics may influence the interviewees’ responses so LACK VALIDITY
4. INTERVIEWER EFFECT: Interviewer’s personal or social characteristics may influence the interviewees’ responses so LACK VALIDITY.
5. Not standardized so difficult to replicate in order to check reliability
6. Sample size is smaller so it is difficult to generalize from sample to wider population


What is non-participant observation?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of Non P.O?

In Non P.O. the sociologist simply observes the activities, but doesn’t take part in them.
1. By reducing level of interaction between the researcher and the participants you can reduce the risk of the OBSERVER EFFECT. However, this only happens if the observation is COVERT.
2. It is also easier to record information and observations if you are not participating, so you can record data more easily
1. If the observation is OVERT you are more at risk from the Observer Effect as people know they are being watched
2. You do not gain as much information as participant observations as you are not so submerged in the group you are observing.


What is participant observation?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of P.O?

With participant observation (PO), the researcher studies a group by becoming a full member of the group and participating in its daily life.
1. Removes the observer effect, so findings more valid
2. Often suitable for ‘difficult to reach’ groups or those groups or institutions which don’t welcome the presence of observers for whatever reason
1. It can be hard to get into a group - it takes a lot of time and effort, pretending to be something that you are not, getting contacts, and so on
2. Researcher may have to become involved in criminal or dangerous activities, particularly where the research is studying a 'deviant' social group e.g. gangs.
3. Researcher has to employ a level of deceit, since the researcher is essentially lies about the nature of her presence within the group - moral/ethical issues.
4. It can be both expensive and time consuming for the amount of data gathered
5. . It would be difficult to repeat a PO study in order to check reliability of the findings


What are the 4 key ethical issues for sociologists to consider when carrying out research?

1. INFORMED CONSENT - Before agreeing to take part in research, participants should be told clearly what the study is about and why it is being done.
2. ANONYMITY - Personal information about the participants should be kept private. Participants should not be identified by name or in other ways in books or articles about the research.
3. CONFIDENTIALITY/PRIVACY - Researchers have a responsibility not to discuss anything that respondents say or do. The information they give should be kept confidential.
4. WELFARE/Well-being of participants - Safeguarding participants’ emotional, mental and physical health – e.g. avoid disclosing information given in confidence which might get the person into trouble, or cause them embarrassment.


What is secondary data?
What are the different types and how are they useful to sociologists?

Secondary data, such as official statistics or mass media reports, are collected and put together by other people, or organizations such as government agencies.
QUANTITATIVE secondary data: presented as statistical information that counts or measures something. Examples include results of OPINION POLLS and OFFICIAL STATISTICS such as numbers and rates of marriage and divorce.
Useful for relating study to what is happening in society. From this information, spot trends in order to create questions about social attitudes to these changes so questions are informed rather than random.
QUALITATIVE secondary data presented in visual or verbal form, for instance as words. Examples include newspaper and magazine articles, TV documentaries, diaries, letters, notes, memos, emails, photographs, school inspection reports, college prospectuses, internet websites, novels and autobiographies.
Useful as a source of background information and through internet can be an accessible and cheap source BUT careful with media material as it can be exaggerated and biased.


What are opinion polls?

Opinion polls can be a useful source of secondary data. They are a type of survey that uses fixed-choice questions to find out people’s voting intentions or their opinions on topical issues. Organizations such as Gallup are often commissioned to carry out surveys of voting intentions and political attitudes. These opinion poll findings on political issues are regularly published in newspapers in the coming months before a general election.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of official statistics?

1. Relatively cheap, easy to access and cover many aspects of social life
2. Can be one of few sources of data available on a topic
3. Examine trends (that is, increases or decreases over time) related to issues such as divorce, teen pregnancy, crime and poverty
4. They can be used with primary sources of data to get a fuller picture of a topic. For example, in research on ethnicity and educational attainment, official statistics on GCSE exam results could be used alongside classroom observation and unstructured interviews with teachers
1. Sociologists cannot VALIDITY of official statistics. E.g. official stats may not give a true measurement of classroom violence
2. They are ‘SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED’ – result of decisions and choices made by the people involved in their construction. For example, stats on domestic violence are published as statements of fact. However, they are the outcome of decisions made by people such as victims or police officers. The victims, for instance, must decide whether or not to report violent incidents to the police. As a result, domestic violence is likely to be under-reported to the police.


What are advantages and disadvantages of different sampling methods?

STRATIFIED RANDOM sampling is the best way of obtaining a CROSS-SECTIONAL, REPRESENTATIVE sample from which sociologists can make GENERALISATIONS.
SIMPLE RANDOM and SYSTEMATIC are not CROSS-SECTIONAL so no guarantee they are representative.
SNOWBALL might be only way of obtaining a research population if researching criminal or deviant groups but not going to be representative.


What does VALID/VALIDITY mean?

How truthful, accurate, in-depth. detailed is the data.


What does RELIABLE mean?

Findings can be checked by another researcher, how easily the research can be REPLICATED, in the same way to get the same results.


What does REPRESENTATIVE mean?

When data can said to accurately represent the research population e.g. gender and age.



When data gathered from a sample can be applied to the whole population.