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SociologyExchange.co.uk Shared Resource

  1. 1. Crime and Deviance exam questionsCrime questions – Qu. 1 & 2 – both worth 21 marks.You should spend 30 minutes on each question and each should have a traditional essay structure (include an introduction and a conclusion, at least twosides of the argument, two or more theories, relevant studies and as much evaluation as you can cram in!). You also need to show ‘conceptual confidence’– this just means that you should make it clear to the examiner that you know and understand the important concepts, e.g. anomie, relative deprivation.Make sure you make reference to the item – both essay questions will have their own item. You can often use the information in the item as a springboardinto the essay in the introduction. However, you will be penalised for ‘overuse of the item’, so don’t just copy it out. You can use short quotes or statisticsfrom the item though.Question: What to include:Assess the view that ethnic differences in crime This question is essentially about the presence (or not) of institutional racism in the police, courts andrates are the result of the ways in which the criminal penal system. You will need to compare the importance of this as opposed to explanations thatjustice system operates. argue that ethnic minorities do commit more crime - either as a result of relative deprivation (left realism) or poor upbringing, absent fathers, etc (new right). Try to include some stats, reference to patterns of offending, stop and search, ethnic make- up of prisons. There may well be some in the item for this question. Black people make up 2.8% of the general population, but 11% of the prison population. 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than the white population. Police racism – Phillips and Bowling – oppressive policing of ethnic minority communities – leads to these communities having less faith in the police. The Macpherson Report after death of Stephen Lawrence. Canteen culture. Sentencing – ethnic minority offenders given longer sentences, even when severity of crime and previous convictions taken into account. Left realism – Lea and Young – Ethnic differences in the crime rates reflect real differences in the levels of offending. Relative deprivation, subculture and marginalisation lead to higher offending rates among ethnic minority groups. Acknowledge that the police often act in racist ways but this cannot fully explain the stats. Neo-Marxism – the statistics do not reflect reality, they are the outcome of a process of social construction that stereotypes ethnic minorities as inherently more criminal. Gilroy (1982) and Hall (1979) Could also include Bourgois and reference to the exclusion of ethnic minority groups leading
  2. 2. to them setting up alternative economies. Statistical artefact approach – the higher rates are simply a result of a younger ethnic minority population who are more likely to live in the inner city and other deprived areas.Assess sociological views of the relationship Explain that the news media gives a distorted picture of crime: over-represent violent andbetween crime and the mass media. sexual crime, portray criminals and victims as older and more middle class than they actually are, exaggerate police success, exaggerate the risk of victimisation. Cohen and Young – the news is manufactured. Notion of news values. Media as a cause of crime – horror films (Childs Play and James Bulger killing), violent video games, concerns over lyrics in rap, imitation (copycat crimes), etc. Effects of TV on children. Fear of crime – media creates unrealistic fear of crime – Gerbner et al, Schlesinger & Tumber. Moral panics – probably the most substantial part of the essay. Cohen – Folk Devils and Moral Panics – make reference to the mods and rockers example of trouble in British seaside towns in the 60s between the two groups. Know and understand the elements of a moral panic and be able to give modern examples. Evaluate – modern audiences are much more sophisticated and are able to question what they see, hear and read. Much less susceptible to moral panics, etc. McRobbie and Thornton – moral panics are now so common that they have very little impact. Could also make reference to new forms of crime – global cyber crime – news types of media have led to new crimes – Cyber trespass, Cyber-deception and theft, Cyber- pornography.Assess the usefulness of subcultural theories in This is a relatively straightforward question, which I would probably approach chronologically,explaining subcultural crime and deviance in society making sure that you point out how each theory is still relevant or useful in today’s society and howtoday. each theory has grown out of those that came before it. Make sure you point out the subtle differences between the theories as this is where the high marks for interpretation and analysis will come from. Good starting point always Merton. Explain how this grew out of Durkheim’s work on anomie (though Merton referred to it as ‘strain’ theory). Although carried out in 1930s America, can still see this theory reflected in the actions of young people in the recent inner city riots in the UK. You should give contemporary examples of the five responses to strain. Criticise Merton as assumed these were individual responses so ignored the subcultural element. Move on to Cohen and status frustration. Again you should give modern examples of this –
  3. 3. how those who fail in education are much more likely to commit crime. Was much more interested in the subcultural element as he saw the gang as an alternative way of gaining status. Cloward and Ohlin – the three subcultures – provide an explanation for different types of working class crime – still relevant to the types of crime seen in modern society. Miller agrees deviance is widespread in the lower class, but he argues that this is not an attempt to achieve mainstream goals, but to achieve their own goals or focal concerns. Matza – most delinquents are not strongly committed to their subculture but drift in and out of delinquency due to subterranean values. Good evaluation of subcultural theory. Can reference Bourgois and Nightingale to bring it completely up to date.Assess the effectiveness of crime prevention This question is asking you to look at what makes people conform and what can be done to preventstrategies in reducing crime. them from deviating. Which crime prevention strategies have been successful and why? You should show theoretical awareness, e.g. that Zero tolerance is associated with New Right. Situational crime prevention – reducing opportunities for crime, e.g. CCTV, security guards, burglar alarms. Assumes the criminal acts rationally and makes rational decisions. Felson’s example of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York. Displacement – criticism of situational crime prevention – just moves the crime elsewhere. Evaluation – SCP works in reducing certain types of crime, ignores white collar, corporate and state crime. Assumes criminals are rational – unlikely if violence or alcohol involved. Ignores the root causes of crime. Environmental crime prevention – Wilson and Kelling – Broken Windows – environmental improvement strategy & Zero-tolerance policing. Had great success in New York. Again, don’t tackle the social causes of crime. Social and community crime prevention – Remove the conditions that make people commit crime in the first place – tackle poverty, unemployment and poor housing, social reform programmes (Left realist view). All of these strategies ignore the crimes of the powerful and environmental crimes. Also, no reference to the impact of punishment as a strategy for crime prevention – deterrence, rehabilitation and incapacitation. If you had time you could look into sociological theories on the functions of punishment, but it is unlikely you’d be able to do this in any depth.Assess different Marxist perspectives of the This question is asking you to look not only at the explanations for working class crime, but the
  4. 4. relationship between crime and social class. reasons why middle class crime is more likely to go undetected and unpunished. You should also reference the crimes of the powerful and the traditional Marxist perspective that capitalism is both criminogenic and criminal in its own right. Quick explanation of Marxism and the view that capitalism is a system based on inequality and competition and therefore crime is inevitable. Capitalism is criminogenic because it is based on the exploitation of the working class = poverty and alienation. Gordon – crime is a rational response to the capitalist system. Chambliss – laws are made to protect private property. Made in the interests of the ruling class. All classes commit crime, but the laws are enforced selectively – police and courts tend to ignore the crimes of the powerful. Give examples of the crimes of the powerful which have not led to prosecution, e.g. Bhopal, P&O ferries, Enron. You could also mention the failure to introduce a law on Corporate Killing. Pearce - Even laws that appear to benefit the working class actually benefit the ruling class as well, e.g. Health and Safety at work laws. Evaluate traditional Marxism – useful in that it shows the link between social class and law making as well as law enforcement. But, it ignores ethnicity and gender, is too deterministic, not all capitalist societies have high crime rates and socialist societies have also had high crime rates Neo-Marxism: The New Criminology (Taylor, Walton and Young) – the fully social theory of deviance. Agree with traditional Marxists on many points, but reject the view that workers are driven to commit crimes out of economic necessity. Need to understand that people have free will and that crime is a choice. Use interactionist ideas to give a complete theory of deviance.Assess the usefulness of labelling theory in This question is asking you to focus on whether or not crime is a social construction and how certainexplaining crime and deviance. acts or people come to be labelled as deviant. It is important that you point out how significant this can be when looking at the social distribution of crime, e.g. men more likely to be labelled as criminal than women, black more likely than white, working class more likely than middle class. Becker is the key thinker. A deviant is simply someone to whom the label has been successfully applied. He also looked at how and why laws get made and the effects of this – to create a new group of outsiders and to create or expand social control agency. Cicourel – who gets labelled? Police officers have theories or stereotypes about the typical
  5. 5. criminal and use these to selectively enforce the law. The effects of labelling – Lemert, primary and secondary deviance. Secondary deviance is the result of public reaction – once labelled, others come to see you only in terms of your label = master status or controlling identity. Young – marijuana users in Notting Hill. Deviance amplification – Cohen’s folk devils and moral panics good example of this. Braithwaite – reintegrative shaming. Evaluation of labelling theory – shows that law is often enforced in discriminatory ways and that crime stats don’t show the actual rates of crime, but the activities of control agents and their attempts to control it. However, it is deterministic – once someone is labelled a deviant career is inevitable. It also emphasises the negative effects of labelling – gives the offender a victim status. Individuals may choose deviance. Fails to explain why people commit the first deviant act – before they are labelled. Implies that without labelling deviance would not exist. First theory to recognise the importance of power in creating deviance, but doesn’t analyse the source of this power.Assess the view that the process of globalisation has Would be good to begin with a definition of globalisation and en explanation of the types of crimeled to changes in both the amount of crime and the that now happen on a global scale or have been made possible by the process.types of crime committed. Castells –there is now a global criminal economy worth over £1 trillion per year: arms trafficking, smuggling illegal immigrants, trafficking in women and children, sex tourism, trafficking in body parts, cyber-crimes, green crimes, international terrorism, smuggling of legal goods (alcohol and tobacco), trafficking in cultural artefacts, trafficking in endangered species, the drugs trade, money laundering. On the whole, the demand for the products and services of the global criminal economy is the rich West. Supply is often linked to Third World countries, e.g. drugs from South America & Afghanistan. Taylor – globalisation has led to changes in the pattern and extent of crime. Globalisation has created greater inequality and rising crime at both ends of the social class spectrum. Transnational companies have switched manufacturing to low-wage countries to avoid health and safety laws and produced unemployment, poverty and job insecutiry. Increasingly, global media portrays success in terms of a lifestyle of consumption. Encourages people to turn to crime. Lack of legitimate job opportunities drives unemployed to look for illegitimate ones, e.g. in the drugs trade. In Columbia, there are now so few jobs in the coffee industry, so low wage
  6. 6. workers turn to the cocaine industry for work. The deregulation of financial markets has also led to an increase in insider trading and the movement of funds around the globe to avoid taxation. Hobbs and Dunningham – ‘Glocal organisation’ – although crime now happens on a global scale, it still relies on local contacts and networks, e.g. to find opportunities to sell drugs. McMafia – Glenny – The organisations that emerged in Russia and Eastern Europe following the fall of communism. When the communist states fell, the prices of commodities in these countries (oil, gas, etc) remained very low, so anyone who had money bought up loads of them and sold them abroad for a massive profit. The collapse of the state also led to social chaos and the new wealthy capitalists turned to ‘mafia’ groups to protect their interests. Much green or environmental crime can also be linked to globalisation. Atmospheric pollution from one country often has a devastating effect on another, e.g. nuclear leak from Chernobyl in Ukraine affected parts of Wales.Assess different sociological explanations of suicide. This questions requires you to work through the different approaches to suicide. As it is included in(JUNE 2012) the crime section it should focus more on the findings of the studies than on the research methods, but you can certainly evaluate the different studies by looking at the methods they employed. Start with Durkheim and his wish to establish social facts and the scientific nature of sociology by looking at a very personal subject in a scientific way. He used suicide rates of different countries to establish that social forces affect individual behaviour. Identified four types of suicide – anomic, altruistic, fatalistic and egoistic. They were dependent on levels of social regulation and integration. He found that this was closely related to the dominant religion of the country in question. Establish that Durkheim took a positivist approach and that this has been criticised. Douglas took an interpretive approach and looked at the social meanings of suicide. He criticised the use of statistics and that Durkheim ignored the meaning of the act for those who kill themselves. He argued that suicide verdicts are the product of interactions and negotiations between those involved – relative, coroners, police, etc. Evaluate Douglas – he assumes that sociologists are better than coroners at establishing cause of death. Atkinson – ethnomethodology and suicide – social reality is simply a construct of its members. We can never know the real rate of suicide since we cannot ask the dead. All we can study is how people make sense of their world –how do the living come to classify a death as suicide? He sees different types of evidence as important in reaching this conclusion.
  7. 7. Taylor – realism and suicide – agrees with interpretivists that suicide statistics are not valid, but believes we can still explain suicide – can discover real patterns and causes. Uses case studies to come up with the underlying structures of meaning that cause suicides. Identified 4 types of suicide. Evaluate each different theory and perhaps try to conclude about which you find the most convincing or significant explantion.Assess sociological explanations of ethnic This question came up in June 2012 and is a bit sneaky as it is a repeat of an earlier question, but tagsdifferences both in offending and victimisation. on the victimisation part. Here we will just look at what to include on victimisation – the offending(JUNE 2012) bit see the first question in this table. It is very telling in itself that the focus of sociologists on crime and ethnicity has traditionally been on offending, however recently the focus of the debate has shifted to look at the racist victimisation of ethnic minorities. Stephen Lawrence – brought racist victimisation into the spotlight. Give some stats/figures on racist victimisations. Differences could be due to factors other than ethnicity – being young, male, unemployed, inner-city dweller. But some of these factors are themselves the result of victimisation. Also, need to understand the long term psychological impact of racial discrimination and bullying that may not be reported to the police.This specification started in 2009 and so far, there have been no 21 mark questions on gender and crime, age and crime, locality and crime left and rightrealism or human rights and state crimes.Assess the value of the chivalry thesis in This question is asking you to evaluate the different explanations of the lower rate of crimeunderstanding gender differences in crime. committed by women. You could start with a very brief introduction about traditional criminology has been ‘malestream’ and has ignored the crimes of women, but that this could be due to the lower rate of crime amongst women. In the conclusion, you could look at whether this is a true reflection – do women really commit less crime? Explain the chivalry thesis – criminal justice system is mostly made up of men who take a chivalrous attitude towards women. Pollack – men have a protective attitude towards women. Criminal justice system is more lenient towards women as a result – less likely to end up in the official statistics. Evidence that supports the chivalry thesis – Graham & Bowling, Flood-Page et al, Hood. Evidence against chivalry thesis – Farrington & Morris, Buckle & Farrington, Box – women that commit serious offences are not treated more favourably.
  8. 8. Heidensohn claims that rather than showing chivalry and being lenient, the criminal justice system is biased against women and judges them more harshly. Carlen agrees that the courts often judge women not on their crimes but on the courts’ assessment of them as wives and mothers. Alternative explanations include: different socialisation theory (Parsons – girls are socialised to be more passive and less competitive and aggressive than boys.) Control theory (feminist theory that women are more conformist than men and are controlled by their roles in the home, in public and at work – Heidensohn) and dual systems theory (working class women are generally led to conform through the promise of two types of rewards or ‘deals’ – the class deal and the gender deal – Carlen). You can evaluate all of these theories on their own, but also use liberation thesis – that as women become more liberated in many other areas, they are breaking the law more frequently (Adler) You can also look at the relationship between crime and masculinity if you have enough time – why are men more likely to commit crime? The work of Messerschmidt and Winlow is important here.Assess sociological explanations of the variations in This question is asking you to explain and evaluate the theories that argue that different localitiescrime and deviance in different localities. have different crime rates – we called these environmental theories of crime, but the exam board often refers to them as differences according to locality. Discuss general trends – more crime in urban than rural areas, different types of crime in these two areas. Also, the crime rates of inner cities and explanations for why there is often more crime. Shaw and McKay – Concentric zones and social disorganisation. Went on to include the idea of cultural transmission. Sutherland – differential association – a criticism of Shaw and McKay In UK – Morris study of Croydon – doesn’t fit the concentric zones theory. Local council’s policy of housing problem families together. Baldwin and Bottoms – ‘tipping’. Skogan – physical deterioration of buildings and increase in social disorder. Brantingham – cognitive maps Clarke – opportunity theory – led to his work on situational crime prevention which you can also discuss here.
  9. 9. The privatization of public space, e.g. private shopping malls and gated communities – displaces the crime to other parts of the city.Methods in context exam questionsThere will be one 15 mark methods in context question. You should spend 20 minutes on this question. The question will always ask you to apply a givenresearch method to a particular issue in crime and deviance. You should demonstrate excellent knowledge of research methods and their advantages anddisadvantages as well as the crime and deviance issue. There are a few things you can refer to in every question – the characteristics of the researchparticipants (is there anything that makes them particularly vulnerable, unreliable, etc), the characteristics of the research setting (e.g. interviewing thepolice at work, being out on the streets researching gang culture), ease of accessing the group.Try to keep a reasonable balance between the strengths and limitations. You should also try to refer to studies that have been conducted in the area. Tryto organise your answer around practical, ethical and theoretical strengths. Don’t go into lengthy comparisons with other research methods, for the mostpart, stick to the one they are asking you about.Remember to use the item, but don’t ‘overuse’ it.Assess the strengths and limitations of using covert participant observation as a means of investigating ‘edgework’ as a motivation for crime.Lyng argues that young males like taking risks and engaging in ‘edgework’ – he means going right to the edge of acceptable behaviour and flirting withdanger.Strengths: Limitations: Covert PO may be the only method that would allow access to this Covert PO might involve the researcher in risk-taking or dangerous group. behaviour. Validity would be affected by the presence of the researcher as the Young people are more vulnerable than adults and have less power. deviants would not act in their usual risk-taking way. However, this relationship may be inverted when studying young As these are young people who are committing crime as a form of offenders who are prepared to use violence. risk-taking behaviour, asking them about their actions after the The researcher would need to be young in order to fit in with the event would probably illicit exaggerated reports about the danger group and may therefore be inexperienced. involved in the act. In order to maintain cover, the researcher would not be able to take Covert PO would allow the researcher to gain an understanding notes on the activities and would therefore rely on their memory – (verstehen) of the reasons why young people take part in can affect the reliability of the research. ‘edgework’. The group may fear that the researcher is an informer. The age of young offenders can generate some sympathy for them
  10. 10. on the part of the researchers (danger of going native). E.g. Parker withheld some information about the boys he studied, as publishing it could have caused them some difficulties. May be unrepresentative and PO is time consuming, the researcher could probably only study one or two cases in depth. May be difficult to access the cultural life of the group – may use their own slang. Difficult to access the group and gain trust. Could take years to become an accepted member of the group.Assess the strengths and limitations of unstructured interviews as a means of investigating victims of crime.Strengths: Limitations: Victims are vulnerable and so researching them requires greater With crimes such as drug deals there may be no easily identifiable sensitivity – unstructured interviews are the best way of ensuring victims. this is the case as the researcher can build up a relationship with the It is not always self-evident who is a victim. For example, some may respondents based on trust – more likely to yield valid results. be partially responsible for the offence (e.g. starting a fight), whilst Unstructured interviews allow the respondents to lead the interview others reject the label of victim as it may show weakness. at a pace they are comfortable with and this can empower them. Not everyone who is a victim of crime knows that they are. This is Unstructured interviews allow the researcher to clarify any points or especially true with corporate crime. to follow interesting themes or topics that were not a part of the Some victimisation is hidden from view e.g. domestic violence and original interview schedule (greater validity). child abuse. The researcher and the victim may have different aims of the research – to the researcher, it is research, to the victim, it may seem like therapy. Research with victims relies on the memory of the respondents who may forget certain aspects of the experience or may be prone to exaggerate. The length of the interview process and the need for experienced and skilled interviewers would mean that numbers would be limited and findings therefore unrepresentative – researchers would probably need to focus on victims of one type of crime.
  11. 11. Assess the strengths and limitations of overt participant observation as a means of investigating police attitudes.Strengths: Limitations: A lot of police work takes place on the streets and so observation The definition of ‘police’ is problematic – can include volunteers, would be the only method of researching what takes place here. private security companies as well as regular police officers. Due to their training, police officers are very good at presenting the The often feel under public scrutiny and lower ranking officers often ‘professional self’ – they know how to act in public. Observation have a ‘canteen culture’ that is a barrier to research. Holdaway may be the only chance to see beneath this veneer and uncover claims that the lower ranks ‘shield questionable practices’ from the valid data. view of outsiders. This would make overt observation difficult and Researchers know where and how to access the police as they are a would have a negative impact on the validity of the findings. public body. However, most researchers will be viewed with The strong sense of group identity makes it difficult for one officer suspicion. to break ranks, so confidentiality would be very important. Overt observation allows the researcher to follow up with questions Some aspects of policing would be off-limits to an observer. about behaviour they have observed – e.g. ‘why did you do that?’ Access to senior police officers can be very difficult – took Reiner 10 It is also the only ethical method that allows police officers to get on years to get access to senior levels in his research. with their work at the same time as being researchers – this is very Hawthorne effect – the police are very likely to hide certain aspects important due to the demands on their time. of their culture and act differently as a result of the presence of the researcher – e.g. unlikely to display racist or sexist attitudes.Assess the strengths and limitations of using written questionnaires as a means of investigating prisoners’ experiences of imprisonment.Strengths: Limitations: Prisons are one of the most closed and controlled social settings and The vast majority of prisoners are young, male and working class one of the most difficult to gain access to. Research has to be overt and literacy levels may be low. May have difficulty filling in or and questionnaires are one of the only methods where the understanding the questionnaire. researcher does not have to be present. Several layers of permission will be required before the research can Questionnaires are also likely to gain more representative data as take place. they can be sent to a variety of institutions – womens’ prisons, There may be resistance from both the staff and the prisoners to mens’ prisons, young offenders’ institutions, open prisons, high taking part in the research which will be seen as a disruption to security prisons. routine. Prisoners are a captive audience – they are easier to locate than It is possible that the researcher may receive ‘guilty knowledge’ as a other offenders, they are less likely to refuse to take part as they result of the research and they may feel they are in an ethical have little else to do. They may also see co-operation as a way of dilemma as to how to deal with this. The prisoner may reveal that winning favour with the authorities. High response rate. they feel under threat of violence or suicidal – a questionnaire may Questionnaire means that the researcher never meets the prisoner not be analysed for a while – may be too late to alert the
  12. 12. and is therefore unlikely to develop feelings of sympathy for their authorities. The questionnaire will also probably have been respondents. Prisoners are also less likely to divulge disturbing confidential and the individual could not be identified. information about their crimes for effect if they are not able to Lack of validity – may lie or exaggerate their crimes – may not take gauge the reactions of the researcher. the questionnaire seriously.Assess the strengths and limitations of using unstructured interviews to investigate domestic violence.Strengths: Limitations: The traumatic nature of domestic violence means that victims may No sampling frames – official records are incomplete and go into unexpected and very personal areas in their responses – information about victims is confidential – not available to unstructured interviews are the only method with enough flexibility researchers. Most victims do not report the crime to the police to accommodate this. Validity. anyway. Dobash and Dobash used a domestic violence refuge for The unstructured interview allows the researchers to develop a their sample – raises doubts about representativeness of the data – relationship with the victim or the abuser and this increases validity. only included those who had sought help. Only included women as Unstructured interviews allow the respondent to lead the interview. it was a women only refuge. This can be very empowering for someone who is in a vulnerable If the researcher is unable to establish any rapport with the situation. respondent, they are unlikely to gain any useful information. This affects the validity and reliability of the data. Need to match the respondent and the researcher in terms of gender and perhaps age and social class. The researcher and the victim may have different aims of the research – to the researcher, it is research, to the victim, it may seem like therapy. It is often difficult to find a venue that offers a safe setting for an interview.Assess the strengths and limitations of using covert observation as a means of investigating court proceedings.Strengths: Limitations: Although much court activity is open to the public, some aspects Even covert observers would not be able to access some of the take place in closed settings – covert observation may be the only settings, e.g. discussions in the judge’s chambers. method for accessing certain aspects of the judicial process. Covert observation means that the researcher is unable to ask any Lawyers can be unwilling to be researched due to their power and follow-up questions of court officials e.g. how the judge reached a status – covert observation may be the only method of gaining valid sentencing decision. However, a lot of official data about court data about a ‘closed’ profession. proceedings is in the public domain, so may be able to follow up Covert observation – means there is unlikely to be any Hawthorne through documentation. Use of triangulation could increase effect. validity.
  13. 13. Very time consuming as court proceedings can be lengthy with lots of legal wrangling and jargon used. Researchers not trained in the law may find it difficult to follow.Assess the strengths and limitations of using structured interviews as a means of investigating substance abuse among homeless people (June 2012)Strengths: Limitations: Unlike a questionnaire, allows the interviewer to explain the Interviewees have a passive role in structured interviews and so are question if it is misunderstood – could be likely with substance unable to lead the interview users. The respondents are a vulnerable group and so should be given an Allows the interviewer to assess whether the interviewee is capable opportunity to discuss what they feel is important – won’t happen in of giving considered responses to questions or whether they may be structured interview. under the influence. This would be a difficult group to access – those who had sought Allows the interviewer to read body language. This could be of help from shelters or refuges would be easiest to access but this particular importance if they feel that the respondent has reason to would not be a representative sample. lie, e.g. about their level of dependency on drugs or alcohol. There is a danger posed to the researcher of approaching homeless High levels of illiteracy among the homeless would make people and asking them to take part in the research. It also may questionnaires very difficult to complete. involve making assumptions about whether or not someone is an Structured interviews allow the researcher to remain detached and addict. in control and thus avoid any personal involvement or sympathetic Structured interviews impose the researcher’s categories on the feeling towards the respondents. However, does not allow for respondents and make it difficult for them to express their verstehen. experiences. Structured interviews – no opportunity to build up a trusting relationship – too much of a power/status difference between researcher and respondent.So far, there haven’t been any questions on researching corporate crime so here are some things to consider in case it comes up: White collar and corporate crimes have a low visibility and are unlikely to be reported to the police, making it a very difficult group to access. Corporate crime is often very complex and a researcher would need an excellent understanding of business/law to investigate it. Some corporate crime is international and it may not be possible for sociologists to get enough funding to research it fully. Corporate crime often involves a lot of people, all denying responsibility – tracking the role of each is difficult. It is difficult to find victims of corporate crime, especially ones who understand what they have been the victim of. Those who commit corporate crimes are likely to be powerful and high status – they may have political protection – very difficult to access. Official statistics on corporate crime tend to dramatically underestimate the amount.
  14. 14. So far, there haven’t been any questions on researching societal reaction so here are some things to consider in case it comes up: The mass media play a vital role in determining societal reaction, so would make a good place to start, but the sheer volume makes the research very time-consuming and difficult. The process of news production is very difficult to investigate due to the ownership and control of media companies and problems with access. When studying moral panics, there are a number of issues: o People may not know where their knowledge of events comes from, so it is hard to track the development of a panic. o Measuring public reactions to media messages is very difficult and relies on the memory of respondents o It is impossible to recreate the situation in a lab. o Different researchers interpret media messages differently so reliability is a major issue.Themes to consider in all answers: Issues of legality and danger Access to respondents Availability of sampling frames Ethical issues Rapport and gaining trust Confidentiality Concealment and distortionTheory questionsThis section contains one 33 mark question, which you should spend 40 minutes on. You should try and do a quick plan before starting. The focus of themarking is on interpretation, analysis and evaluation. You could be examined on any of the following areas: consensus, conflict, structural and social actiontheories, the concepts of modernity and postmodernity in relation to sociological theory, the nature of science and the extent to which sociology can beregarded as scientific, the relationship between theory and methods, debates about subjectivity, objectivity and value freedom, the relationship betweensociology and social policy. You can, and should, refer to other aspects of the specification, e.g. crime, family and education.“Sociology cannot and should not be a This question is asking you to compare the methodological and theoretical approaches of positivists andscience.” To what extent do sociological interpretivists. You can make this easier by applying it to the study of suicide to provide you with examplesarguments and evidence support this view? of each approach. You should also show awareness of the characteristics of natural schience and whether these can be applied to sociology.
  15. 15. Comte & Durkheim – positivists who wanted to apply the logic and methods of the natural sciences to sociology – so that it would be of a higher status as an academic discipline. Positivist approach – reality exists outside and independently of the human mind and can be observed and measured in an objective way. Society is a real thing made up os social facts which are ‘out there’ just like the physical world. Characteristics of natural sciences – inductive reasoning with a hypothesis, falsification, objectivity, quantitative data. Example of positivist study of suicide by Durkheim to show how researcher can be objective and discover social facts that exist independently of human beings. Compare with interpretivism – differ about what the subject matter of sociology should be – meaningful social action – interpreting the means and motives of the social actors involved. Sociology is not a science in their view because it cannot deal with human meanings. You should show awareness of the types of intepretivism – phenomenology and ethnomethodology and can use the suicide studies of Douglas and Atkinson to highlight these. You can conclude by looking at realism – a kind of middle ground between the two. Use Taylor’s study of suicide to illustrate the position of realists in this debate. If you have time, you could go into the details of Popper’s view of science and how science grows and apply this to sociology. You could also look at the work of Kuhn on paradigms.“Feminism has revolutionised sociology by This is a fairly straightforward questions asking you to compare and contrast the key feminist schools ofplacing women at the centre of its analysis of thought (Radical, Liberal, Socialist/Marxist, Black and difference feminism). You could also includesociety. However, while all feminists share information on post-feminism as part of your conclusion. Use the feminisms to evaluate each other. Youthis starting point, there are now many should also look at how feminist research is different to that of other structural theories and the reasons fordifferent ‘feminisms’ within sociology.” this.Assess the contribution of feminists theorists Liberal feminism – want changes in the law and cultural change. Distinguish between sex andand researchers to an understanding of gender and think traditional, functionalist views about instrumental and expressive roles havesociety today. been very damaging to women. Believe that things are improving – socialisation and culture are gradually changing and political action has led to anti-discrimination laws. Evaluation of liberal feminism – Helped to show that differences between men and women are not inborn and legitimised the demand for reform such as equal pay. However, criticised for being over-optimistic and ignoring deep-seated structures causing women’s oppression such as capitalism and patriarchy. Radical feminism – Patriarchy (male domination of women) is universal and is the primary cause of oppression and inequality. The key division in society is between men and women. Change will
  16. 16. come through separatism, consciousness-raising and political lesbianism. Evaluation of radical feminism – drew attention to the political nature of areas such as marriage, domestic labour, rape and pornography. Marxists argue that class not patriarchy is the main form of oppression and inequality. Assumes all women are in the same position – no account of class or ethnicity. Marxist feminism – women are a source of cheap, exploitable labour; women are a reserve army of labour; women reproduce the labour force; women absorb anger. Women’s interests lie in the overthrow of capitalism. Evaluation of Marxist feminism – fails to explain women’s subordination in socialist or communist regimes; doesn’t explain why it is women and not men who perform domestic labour; ignores the way men oppress women. Difference feminism – middle class, working class, white, black, lesbian, heterosexual women all have different experiences and we should not see women as a single homogeneous group. Criticises all other feminisms for being about white, western women. Feminist research methods – focus on giving a voice to women rather than imposing the view or categories of the researchers on to them.Assess the relative importance of the Important to point out that values impact upon the choice of topic and methods.different factors that affect sociologists’ Choice of topic – values of researcher, funding body, how relevant to today’s society, practicaolchoice of research methods and topics to application, career ambitions of researcher, desire of publisher, access to group, ethical issuesinvestigate. Choice of method – theoretical standpoint of researcher – positivists or interpretivist? Funding – some methods more time-consuming and expensive than others. Ethical issues – involvement of those under 16, danger to researcher. Key to this question is understanding the relationship between epistemology and ontology. Positivists tend to use quantitative methods because they have a structuralist ontology. Interpretivists have an ontology based on social action theory and so use qualitative methods. You should also go over the information about feminists and how their theoretical perspective caused them to break with the norm and use interpretive methods despite their structuralist ontology. Conclude by deciding which is the most important factor in how sociologists choose their method. Include reference to key studies which highlight the differences – Durkheim, Atkinson and Douglas on suicide; Dobash and Dobash on feminist methodology.Assess the view that positivist methods are This question is basically the sociology is not a science question, but worded differently. You should outlineinappropriate for investigating society. the positivist approach with reference to Durkheim, Comte and the study of suicide. You should then give a
  17. 17. detailed outline of the interpretivist approach and show how this may be seen to be a much more appropriate method for investigating human interactions. This will take you into the structuralist/social action theory debate.“Sociology can be value free and should be Again, this question is going to take you into the positivist/interpretivist debate, but from a slightly differentvalue free”. To what extent do sociological angle.arguments and evidence support this claim? Durkheim & Comte – scientific, value free, objective sociology would reveal the one correct society, uncover the truth about how society works and say objectively what is best for society. Marx – he took for granted that the ideal was a communist society and from that assumption on, tried to be as value-free as possible – he thought objective, scientific approach would help to ‘deliver’ the good, communist society. Is he really a positivist? Isn’t he committed to the idea of a communist society? Weber – Saw an essential role for values in sociological research – we have to select certain facts and study them – in choosing which facts to study, we exercise our values. We select them according to our own values – in other words, their value relevance to us. E.g. feminists choose to study women’s oppression. From this point, Weber believed we must then try to be as value free as possible, when we are actually collecting the facts. Must keep our values and prejudice out of the process. When we interpret the data, our values become important again, because we must set them within our theoretical framework – we must be explicit and tell others about them so that they can see if there is any bias in the research. He also argued that we must take responsibility for any harm our research may do, e.g. Einstein helped to make the atom bomb through his research on the atom, but he was a pacifist. Value-laden sociology – about understanding that our values have an impact on our research and trying to be as open as possible about our theoretical standpoint to allow others to assess the degree of bias present in the research. Committed sociology – Myrdal – sociologists should not only spell out their values, they should openly take sides. Say it is impossible and undesirable to keep values out of research. We should take the side of the less powerful in society and give them a voice – this is the only way to change things for the better.Assess the contribution of functionalist and Outline of functionalism – consensus and social order, integration, socialisation, society as anew right theories to our understanding of system, the needs of the system (Parsons), social change – you should cover all of these points andsociety today. explain how each one contributes to the functionalist theory of how society works. Your main focus though will be on evaluating functionalism: 1. Criticised for looking at the functions of things rather than at the cause of them, e.g. looks
  18. 18. at the functions of the expressive and instrumental roles for men and women but fails to identify why this became the case 2. Criticised for being unscientific – e.g. if crime is both functional and dysfunctional you can’t take a scientific approach to studying it. 3. Criticised by Marxists for its inability to explain conflict and change – sees society as too harmonious. Marxists think that functionalism legitimates the status quo and maintains conflict and inequality. 4. Social action theory criticises functionalism’s deterministic view of the individual – socialisation determines people’s paths in life – they have no free will or choice. 5. Postmodernists argue that society is not as stable and orderly as functionalism would have us believe and as a metanarrative is no longer relevant to today’s society which is increasingly fragments. You should explain how new right theory grew out of the conservatism associated with the functionalist perspective. Give some example of new right theory –e.g. of the family or of ethnic minority underachievement in education. Explain how important new right theory has become to the social policy of both the UK and the USA. Critique of new right theory should include: 1. NR theory is guilty of ‘blaming the victim’ – it is based on the idea that powerless, vulnerable groups in society are in that position because of their own shortcomings, e.g. the underachievement of black boys in education is due to the absence of a male role model in the family rather than institutional racism in the educations system 2. Their theory of dependency culture is patronising and harmful to those who have real need and for whom benefits are a lifeline 3. They are often racist, homophobic and their traditional views of gender roles have been heavily criticised by feminists. 4. Marxists criticise NR theorists for their ‘free market’ approach to society – if all compete, only the strong shall survive – this was highlighted by the failure of many schools after the introduction of marketisation of education in the UK.Assess the view that interpretive methods are This question is basically the sociology is not a science question, but worded differently. You should outlinethe most appropriate methods for the interpretive approach with reference to Becker, Goffman, Mead, Douglas, Atkingson and the study ofinvestigating society. suicide. You should show knowledge and examples of the different interpretivist approaches(JUNE 2012) (phenomenology, ethnomethodology and symbolic interactionism) and show how this may be seen to be a much more appropriate method for investigating human interactions than the positivist approach. You
  19. 19. should discuss the methods associated with the interpretive approach and show how these offer a more valid understanding of human interactions and the social construction of society.So far, there has never been a question on the link between sociology and social policy or on modernity and postmodernity. Make sure you focus on these inyour revision.“The main purpose of sociology should be to Social problem – piece of social behaviour that causes public friction and/or private misery andimprove things for people in society.” Assess calls for collective action to solve it.this view with reference to the sociological Sociological problem – ‘any pattern of relationships that calls for explanation’ (Worsley).arguments and evidence surrounding the link Should the aim of sociology be to further knowledge and understanding by focusing on sociologicalbetween sociology and social policy. problems of in solving social problems? Factors that influence whether sociology influences social policy: o Electoral popularity o Ideological and policy preferences of governments o Interest groups o Globalisation o Critical sociology o Cost o Funding sources Positivists and functionalists – wanted to try and solve social problems – use social science to improve society. Sociologists role is to provide the state with objective, scientific information. The social democratic perspective – favours redistribution of wealth. Sociologists should be involved in researching social problems and making recommendations to governments. Marxism – capitalism is ultimately responsible for all the problems in society and so the problem cannot be solved without abolishing capitalism. The government rarely listen to sociologists for this reason. They argue that social policy masks capitalist exploitation, maintain the labour force for further exploitation and are a means of preventing revolution. Therefore, the role of the sociologist is to criticise capitalist social policy and reveal the exploitation that exists. Feminists – their research has had a major impact on many areas of social policy and has helped to improve the position of women throughout the world. New Right are very critical of many social policies s they believe they keep people dependent on the state. Think the role of social policy should be to help people help themselves. They have used very questionable sociological analysis to reach these conclusions.

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