Your A-level Sociology students can run a research methods project together

Although research methods isn’t the most popular or glamorous topic in the A-level Sociology specification it is still a very important subject. Sociology teachers work hard to make it interesting for their students. Students often find it difficult to understand how research methods are a crucial component of sociology, even among the more exciting topics. Students engage in sociological research throughout each module. Therefore, it is important for students to feel confident when evaluating research methods.

Pre-Covid, I would usually assign my students a sociology research project at the end of each summer term. While this is not required by the A-level specification but it does bring research methods to life and allows students to put their learning into action.

This research project is usually run at the end the academic year. It allows students to base their research questions on the topics they have learned. This gives them the opportunity to further explore a topic that interests them. Students have the opportunity to put their knowledge and experience into practice and determine the best research method and subject.

This research project helps my students feel more confident in their research skills. Students can use their personal experience to recall the strengths and weaknesses of a research method, and then write essays. This is a benefit for revision and exams. This demonstrates students’ independent learning and research skills and makes their application stand out from the rest.

Most students are not at school, so social distancing and education are important. Although I had to modify the research project to be done online, it has still had a positive impact on students’ learning. Here are some steps to help you conduct a sociology project with your students at A-level.
The research project should be set up

My students love to see a PowerPoint presentation that outlines the details of the research project. What is the purpose of this task? What are you expecting from your students? This is your chance to let loose and tell a story about why they are doing this research. Their research is crucial to world peace. To get students’ support, it is important to highlight the benefits of doing their own research.

It is important that students understand the research timeline in their presentation. It doesn’t have to be long. You could look at the following:

Create an aim/hypothesis
Write your research proposal with special attention to ethics
A literature review of past research on your topic is an optional, but it can be mandatory for students with high academic ability.

-Research proposal approved-

Consent forms must be signed

-Distributing your data and gathering it-

Analyse data

Complete your report and create a summary PowerPoint ready for presentation

A timetable/checklist should be included in the PowerPoint. This will help students plan their sessions and make it easier to manage their research time. My research project lasts for two weeks. However, this can easily be adapted to meet the needs of your students.
Research questions

After the presentation, I spend the rest of the session supporting students in developing their research ideas. Students are always given examples of research questions, such as: These examples are based on my research projects with students.

To aid with brainstorming, I give students a list containing the topics we have studied so far and the topics they will be learning about in the future. They can then use this list to help narrow down their research question by using the list as a basis for a process called elimination. They also receive a list of current topics (e.g. I also provide them with a list of current topics, e.g., free school meals and lockdown; digital deprivation, education, and divorce rates and lockdown. Students should take away a research question to help them start their research proposal.
Research proposal

For many reasons, I encourage you to ask students to create a mini-research proposal before they start their research. Students can think critically about the research method before they actually do it. They also have the opportunity to use their knowledge of research methods to choose the best method for their topic matter. Students can also use it to help plan the research process before they start. This allows students to simulate conducting research at university and gives them an insight into the career as a social researcher.

A research proposal is a set of questions students answer before submitting it to you for approval. My students are warned that their proposal must be ethically sound and completed well before they can submit another proposal. Similar to what social researchers go through, funding requests or research proposals can be denied if they are not ethically sound or completed effectively.

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