Sociological Research Methods Essays

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 Sociology – for an explanation of what ‘evaluation’ means

AQA Assessment Resources – AS paper 2 has an example of a pure research methods question.  

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Essay on Social Research

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5. In the sciences, there are two major approaches to research: quantitative and qualitative. At the very simplest level, qualitative approaches deal with the subjective qualities of an entity while quantitative approaches investigate their focus through objective quantities. They both offer tools to collect and analyse very specific types of data. These methods serve very different, yet vital, means. These two groups of methods differ in many ways but the greatest amount of difference can be explained by the specific paradigms that the methods subscribe to. Although the paradigms tend to divide scientists, I argue that this should not be the case. Contrary to what I have learned throughout my academic career, I believe that qualitative…show more content…

53). Quantitative research relies on numbers or definite states. In this regard, quantitative research is very neat and clean. When the numbers get messy, they can be rounded up. The social sciences use the quantitative approach to make broad (yet valid) statements about all or parts of society. Quantitative social researchers use tools like surveys and census data to test theories. It is a useful approach for when a study or client needs precise data that can be generalized.
In qualitative research, there is a search for nuance and depth. Qualitative social research involves a subjective approach that looks at symbols and the meanings they represent to those in society. It relies on methods such as focus groups, interviews, and participant observation to gather this data. Qualitative methods are guided by the interpretive and critical paradigms (Bailey, 2007, pp. 54-56). These approaches believe that there is no objective social reality. They are based on the fact that there are multiple social realities that are shaped and formed based on one’s experience. Therefore, a researcher’s beliefs, values and general character are going to influence their research no matter what steps are taken to try to hide it. The topics the researcher studies and how they choose to study is influenced by their values. Despite the accusations that this approach allows too much room for morality-based influence, recognizing and directly addressing of one’s own

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