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Example CIE AS level answers

Model answer - 24/25

1(a) What is meant by the term interpretivism? (2/2)

It is a sociological theory which claims that in order to understand human behaviour, it is necessary to interpret the meanings and motives of the social actor; They claim that people do not automatically react to external stimuli but rather attach a meaning to each situation before responding.

(b) Describe two advantages of focus groups. (4/4)

In focus groups interviews, there is a usually fairly tightly defined topic on which several individuals, usually sharing the same interests, discuss. Therefore, even if it is a conversation, the researcher is guaranteed to obtain information relevant to his studies. Besides, the interviewer is present to guide the group, preventing any wandering off subject.

Another advantage of using this form of group interview is the multivocality of the results obtained. This refers to the fact that there will be several voices present, thus broadening the research. Results will provide a true picture of the group studied, since it is probable that they will communicate using everyday language and manners. (Bryman)

(c) Explain why a researcher may choose to use semi-structured interviews. (7/8)

A semi structured interview is one halfway between structured and unstructured interviews, therefore combining the advantages of both.

Firstly, these are popular because they represent a flexible compromise between the two types of interviews. There is no rigid and formal structure, and the interview becomes more natural. This in turn contributes to putting the respondent at ease, and facilitates the building of a rapport between the interviewer and the respondent. This is crucial for establishment of trust, and eventually facilitates the process for both parties. Since the tone is casual, the researcher will not have to be extremely professional, and the respondent will be more likely to share his ideas and points of view.

In addition to this, the fact that there is no rigid structure and preset questions avoids the problem of researcher imposition. This means that the research will not be confined to what the researcher thought would be important. There is the possibility for the respondent to add novel ideas that the researcher had not thought of, thus enabling him to develop more hypothesis and broaden the scope of the research. However, there is no risk of deviating from the subject being studied since the interviewer already has a set of concepts already in mind, and can always guide the respondent back on the right track.

Besides, semi structured interviews are a great source of qualitative data. Since respondents are not limited to a particular number of questions, they are free to elaborate on their answers. This therefore provides a more valid and in depth view of social reality. A true picture of what is being studied is therefore obtained. Besides, it benefits both parties since the interviewer is here to clarify any misconceptions and the respondent can make sure that his answers well understood. However, in case it is not enough, the research can always be complemented through use of other methods.

(d) Assess interpretivist arguments against the use of questionnaires. (11/11)

According to interpretivists, questionnaires are not an adequate way of collecting data. They argue that to properly understand human behaviour, one should take the time to understand the ways in which people think. This type of data is only produced by qualitative methodology, which is unlike questionnaires.

Indeed, interpretivists argue that questionnaires, which is simply a list of preset questions provides only a snapshot picture or reality. Therefore, this quantitative method lacks validity, and does not provide in depth analysis of human behaviour. Besides, they argue that answers may not provide explanation and objective truth since people might lie, exaggerate or undermine their actions. Besides it might also be that the memory on which they are relying is faulty, thus misguiding the whole research.

In addition to this, they argue that the problem of researcher imposition cannot be overcome, and is subjective. Indeed, the phrasing of questions itself already reflect the researcher prejudices and this limits the breadth of the research. By presetting questions, they already define what is important to them and thus does not provide the possibility of being open to new theories and hypothesis. Besides, the respondent is also not able to properly explain his answers as he is restricted by choice: he cannot clarify any doubts and on the other hand, his answers might by misinterpreted.

However, it should be admitted that questionnaires still form an important means of collecting data, and is used in countless researches. Positivists, who advocate the use of quantitative methodology, argue that interpretivists are wrong in rejecting the questionnaire. Indeed the questionnaire is extremely practical. Compared to interviews it is easy to design, not expensive to carry out and does not require any particular training. In addition to this, it can be distributed to a large number of people, thus increasing overall validity as well as reliability since it is easy to obtain the same results. Besides, the close ended questions make it easy to answer, and thus less time consuming, both for respondents and interviewers. Therefore, since it is quantitative, it will be easy to analyze and classify data in an objective way.

Despite the fact that questionnaires can be admitted in several ways (postal, email, phone,..), it is usually self completed by the individual, thus reducing interviewer bias. Besides, in the cases where it is anonymous, respondent will be more willing to tell the truth, as they will not fear of being judged. Moreover, as compared to participant observation, there is no danger whatsoever for the interviewer. It also fits perfectly with the positivist way of working, as questionnaires are objective, and rigourously completed.

Therefore, for those in favour of qualitative data like interpretivists of symbolic interactionalists, questionnaires are unfit but for those who advocate quantitative methods, they carry plenty of advantages.

Minimum to pass - 14/25

(a) Define the term dual burden. (2/2)

"Dual burden" refers to the term when a person or an individual is doing a task or a job at the same time. They might be doing it at shifts. For example, a woman in a home might be working full time outside the home but is still fulfilling her duties as a housewife and mother. Thus it is mentioned in the content above that many women experienced a dual burden.

(b) Describe two characteristics of the "new man". (1/4)

The new man can be refers to as with new charcteristics. They are no longer seem to as patriarchal. They come up with new ideas, opinions and thought of the welfare of the society.

(c) Explain in what ways the family might be a dangerous and stressful place for some family members. (6/8)

Faimly can be defined as a group of people living under the same roof sharing relations. They can be connected by blood, marriage or adoption. In the socialization process, family plays a key role in socialising the members of family to be an acceptable member in the society.

However the family might be a dangerous and stressful place for some family members. Feminists argue that there continues to be inequality in the domestic division of labour and in the way in which power is exercised within families. In a family, when both partners are likely to be wage earners, this it may create stress and tension for the woman doing a dual burden.

According to the feminists approach, the family is not necessarily to be safe havens. In patriarchal societies, there is a great deal of power and control which comply women and children both to be docile workers in the future. Women and children are physically abused and tortured by other family members.

Another way is due to domestic violence the family might be a dangerous and stressful place for other members in the family. Women are expolited in the family and thus they suffers from domestic violence. There is the risk of incest or assaults by other members. There can be rape in marriage (martial rape) without the fear of the women's rights.

Furthermore, the family can proved to be dysfunctional to the children. When there is domestic violence in a home, thus it can negatively influenced the child. The family could not become the sole agency responsible in socialising children and providing emotional support for adults. There is organizations provided by the state for the socialisation of children such as pre-primary schools.

On balance, therefore there are some reasons above that may be a dangerous and stressful place for some members especially the children as they may not concentrate in ther studies and thus join into groups which may lead to them negatively such as illegal activities.

(d) Assess the view that family life continues to be patriarchal. (5/11)

The family life continues to be patriarchal. Feminists claim that family life remains patriarchal and there is little evidence to support the emergence of the "new man". According to the feminists perspectives, women are still dominated by the male in patriarchal societies. They are being exploited by the dual burden and are physically and sexually tortured and abused.

The man is believed to be the breadwinner in a house. He is the most superior and decision making is done by himself. And the wife is there to fulfill his duty as a wife and mother, childrearing of children and doing household tasks.

However, the family life does not remains patriarchal nowadays. In the modern industrial societies, both partners are likely to be wage earnings and roles are shared among themselves. They performed the conjugal roles where tasks, decisions are shared.

Women are now more consicous and are aware of theri exploitation. Women are aware of their rights and thus do not let other kind of situation to arise such as domestic violence or women exploitation.

Therefore, the view that family life continues to be patriarchal are now fast dissappearing in modern industrial societies.

Example CIE A level answers

Model answer - 24/25

(a) Explain ways in which youth sub-cultures are represented by the media. (8/9)

Youth subcultures are often negatively portrayed by the media. In his study, Cohen nfound that youth subcultures were perceived as "Folk Devils". Being delinquents, they were shown to be responsible for deviance amplification in the society, hence creating a moral panic. For instance, in Britain, in the 1990s, wearing hoodies were an expression of youth subcultures. Following the negative portrayal of these youngsters by the media, the hoodies were banned and those wearing them were arrested. Hence, youth subcultures are represented as delinquents.

Besides, youth subcultures are portrayed as a threat to the dominant values of the society. Undoubtedly, youth subcultures are often counter cultures, rejecting the norms and values of the society. For instance, the Teddy Boys, the Nods or the Punks posed a threat as they did not conform into the values of the society. Therefore, the media, found in the superstructure, negatively portrayed them.

Also, following the wide representation of youth subcultures, the media decided to popularise and commodify these subcultures to yield profit. In consequence, hard rock or gangsta rap were popularized, advertisments were done on the clothing style of youth subcultures to earn profits. Thus, because of their emergence, youth subcultures were eventually popularised by the media for profit motive.

(b) Assess the view that audiences have the greatest influence on the content of the media. (16/16)

The content of the media has proved to be a contentious issue in socieology. Some perspectives claim that audiences have the greatest influence on the content of the media while others believe the ruling class influences it. Hence, the debate between the Pluralists, Neo-Marxists and Post-modernists will be analysed.

Interestingly, pluralists argue that media contents are governed by the market mechanism. The audience receive those contents which they demand. They have the choice to accept or reject some contents. The production of many soap operas has been stopped because the audience did not appreciate them. To yield the maximum profit, the media have to comply to the demands of the audience. As a result, audiences have the greatest influence over the content of the media.

This view is further supported by the Interpretive model. There is consumer sovereignty such that the audience can retain and interpret only those contents which attract it. Depending on their level of education, individuals can easily do selective exposure, selecting retaining and selective processing. The audiences have the influence on the media.

Post-modernists highlight the extent of choice and freedom audiences possess to influence media contents. Since we are living in a hyperreal world, Baudrillard argues that there is choice. Audiences can "pick-n-mix" those contents which interests them. Also, the emergence of the new media has facilitated this influence. Individuals can produce their own content on the internet and can access a wide variety of media contents. Therefore, audiences possess the greatest influence on the content of the media.

However, neo-Marxists are critical to the views that audiences are the greatest influence on media contents. In the mass manipulative model, Marcuse believes that the media contents are determined by the ruling class. Media barons like Rupert Murdoch or Lord Cliffe are renowned for their interference in the media contents. The media are soporiphic, leading audiences to accept the words of the ruling class. There is no choice.

Similarly, in the hegemonic model, Hall claims that it is rather media professionals who influence the contents of the media. With their ruling class news values, they work in favour of the capitalists. The media is an ideological conditioning device, entailing the domination of the audiences by the media. Hence, audiences do not have an influence on the contents of the media.

This view is further highlighted by the hypodermic syringe model. It states that media contents are directly injected into the veins of audiences. They have no say in the contents of the media and are forced to accept them. This is demonstrated by the studies of Bandura and Belsen. Boys who watch violence on television are five times more likely to use violent in real life. As a result, audiences do not influence media contents.

Finally, in the cultural effects model, we notice that media contents are slowly injected in the audiences. At first, they may actively interpret media messages, but eventually, they accept them. This is known as the slow-drip effect. Audiences deceptively influence media contents but gradually, the latter are imposed on them.

By way of conclusion, audiences have some degree of influence on the content of the media, notably with the growth of the new media. Yet, the ruling class also control these contents such that audiences do not have the greatest influence on the content of the media.

Yet-to-be-asked questions

Here are examples of questions that require knowledge from the syllabus to answer but are yet to be asked.

Useful websites

Homepage of British Sociological Association: http://www.britsoc.co.uk/

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