You and your A-level Sociology students will be collaborating on a research project.

Research methods isn’t the most interesting or popular topic within A-level Sociology. However, sociology teachers make it exciting for their students. Many students struggle to see why research methods is so important in sociology . Every module has students engaging with sociological research. Students should be confident in their ability to evaluate research methods.

In a pre-Covid world I set my students an independent sociology project towards the end their summer term. Even though this is not an A-level requirement, active learning strategies really bring research methods to life for students and give them the opportunity to put the learning into practice.

I usually conduct this research project towards the end, so students can ground their research questions in the topics they have covered. This gives them an opportunity to explore more about a topic they are interested in. Students can put their learning and experience to use in order to determine which research method or subject is best for them.

My students leave this research project feeling more knowledgeable and confident about research methods. This can be a great benefit to revision and exams. Students can draw from their own experience and recall the strengths, limitations, and how to write essays. It is a great way for students to refer back to their research projects when they write their university personal statement. This helps them stand out in the crowd and demonstrates their independent learning.

Most students aren’t in school at the time of this writing. Social distancing, therefore, is crucial. While I was unable to make the project work in a virtual setting, I still managed to have a positive effect on students’ learning. Below is how you can conduct a sociology research with your A level students, either in class or online.
Research project setup

I like to present the project to students using a PowerPoint presentation. It outlines the details of my research project. What are you doing to set this task? What should you expect from your students in this task? Here’s your chance to show creativity and to tell the story of why they are doing this type of research. Their research is essential for world peace. To encourage students to do their own research, it’s important to show them the benefits.

In this presentation, it is important to outline the research timeline. This will help students know what they can expect at each stage. This doesn’t necessarily have to be detailed; it could look like this:

Aim/hypothesis creation
Research proposal writing, with particular consideration for ethics
Write a literature review of your topic’s research (this can be optional but may be mandatory for high-ability students).

-Research proposal approved-

Authorizing consent forms
You should conduct your research

-Distributing, gathering and storing your data

Analyse data

Completing the report and creating a summary PowerPoint ready you to present findings

It is important that the PowerPoint includes a checklist or timetable so students can plan and know what to complete in each session. This will also help them manage their time and project. Although my research project takes two weeks to complete, you can adapt it to suit the needs and interests of your students.
Research questions

After the presentation of the research project, students spend the remainder helping me to develop their research ideas. I provide examples of research questions to students, such as “Do sixth-form gender roles exist?” and “What is the impact of the ethnocentric curriculum of ethnic minority students?” These examples were taken from past students’ research projects.

I provide students with a list that includes topics that we have covered so far, and future topics. They can use this list to aid in their decision making process. I also provide them with a list containing current topics. You can also get free school meals, lockdown, digital deprivation education, divorce rates or lockdown. So that they can begin their research proposal, students should leave the session with a research query.
Research proposal

It is a good idea to have your students write a brief research proposal before you start conducting your research. Research proposals allow students to be critical about the methods they choose before they begin the actual research process. It also allows them to use their knowledge and experience with research methods in choosing the right method to address their subject matter. It allows students to plan their research before they actually start. Writing research proposals is similar to doing research at university. Students get valuable experience and insight into the career of social researchers.

Research proposals can consist of a series or questions that students answer. My students know that if their proposal is not properly completed or ethically sound, then they will be refused funding and will need to submit a new proposal. Similar to what social scientists face, researchers can lose funding or their research proposals due to a breach in ethics or if the funding body does not approve.

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