With your A-level Sociology Students, run a research method project

While research methods may not be the most exciting or popular topic in A-level Sociology, sociology teachers try to make it fun for their students. Research methods is often overlooked in the slew of other exciting topics. Each sociologyresearchtopics.com module involves students in sociological research. It is therefore important that students feel confident in evaluating research methods.

In a preCovid world, I often set my students a research project in sociology towards the end the summer term. This is an optional requirement in the A-level specification. However, it really brings research methods alive for students and gives them a great chance to put what they have learned into practice.

The research project is typically conducted at the end of each academic year. Students can then ground their questions in topics they have studied. This allows them to continue exploring a topic that interests and intrigues them. Students are able to put what they have learned and do research on the subject.

My students finish this project feeling more confident with their knowledge of research methods. This helps with revision and exams as students are able to draw from their own experiences to help them remember the strengths and limitations and write an essay. When writing their university personal statements, students can refer to their research project. This shows their independence and research skills and helps them stand out from others.

Social distancing is a key component of the current student population. This has meant that I had to adapt the research project so it could be used online. However, the positive impact I made on students’ learning has not been diminished. Below, I’ll show you how to conduct a research project in sociology with your A-level students either in person or virtually.
Establishing the research project

I enjoy introducing the project to my students by giving them a brief PowerPoint presentation that details the research project. Why did you set this task? What can you expect of your students? Here is your chance to be creative. Tell them why you are doing the research. The world’s future depends on the results of their research to ensure world peace. Students should be encouraged to conduct their own research in order to gain support.

This presentation should outline the research timeline so that students are clear about what to expect at each stage. This doesn’t need to be lengthy; it could look something like the following:

The creation of an aim/hypothesis
Your research proposal should be written with an emphasis on ethics
You can write a literature review about past research that is relevant to your topic. This is optional but could be required for students of high abilities.

-Research proposal approved-

Signing consent forms
Do your research

-Distributing or gathering your data

Analyse data

Completing your summary PowerPoint and creating a report ready to present findings

Students should have a checklist or timetable in their PowerPoint. This will allow them to plan what they need to do and helps them manage their time. This research project will last for 2 weeks. But, it can easily be modified to fit the needs of your students.
Research questions

After the presentation about the research project, I spend most of the session helping students to develop their research ideas. I give examples to students of research questions. I always give students examples of research questions, such as “Do sixth-form gender roles exist?”, or “What is the impact on the ethnocentric curriculum of ethnic minor students?”. These are all examples that I have taken from previous students’ research projects.

Students are also given a list of topics that they have already learned and those they will learn more about. This list can be used to guide them in a process of elimination, which will help narrow down their research question. I also give them a list with current topics, e.g. Free school meals and lockdown, digital education and deprivation, divorce rates, lockdown and etc. This session should be completed with a research question for students to begin writing their research proposals.
Research proposal

You should ask your students for a mini research plan before they begin their research. There are many reasons why I recommend this. It allows students to critically consider the method before actually doing the research. Students also have an opportunity to apply their knowledge of research methods when selecting the right method for their subject matter. The proposal also allows students to plan the process of their research before actually starting. It is a simulation of conducting research at university. This gives students an early insight into the career path of a social researcher.

Students can create a research proposal by answering a series questions before sending it to me for review. Students are advised that if their research proposal isn’t ethically sound or executed effectively, they may be denied. Similar to social researchers, their funding requests and research proposals may be denied due to ethical breaches or failure to meet funding requirements.

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