Examiners’ commentaries 2011
21 Principles of sociology – Zone A Important note
This commentary reflects the examination and assessment arrangements for this course in the academic year 2010–11. The format and structure of the examination may change in future years, and any such changes will be publicised on the virtual learning environment (VLE).
Comments on specific questions
Answer all parts of question 1 (50 marks in total) Question 1 Sociologists have to approach the analysis of social statistics cautiously; they are not self evident ‘facts’ waiting for researchers to use unquestioningly. Statistics are social constructions that reflect the conceptual categories and bureaucratic procedures through which they are collected. (21 Principles of sociology subject guide). Note: Candidates should read the stimulus passages carefully and think about the style and the content; they should get you thinking and start you off with some ideas for the questions that follow. In this question the material should not have been new to you as it is a direct quotation from the subject guide. a. Sociology as a discipline is concerned with the analysis of sociological problems. Give some examples of these sociological problems and explain why the sociological approach is different from most journalism. (6 marks) Reading for this question The material for this question can be found in Chapter 1 of the subject guide. The question functions to test your understanding of the nature and subject matter of sociology and how it is different from other approaches to studying social life and behaviour. A good response would have been to indicate two sociological problems with examples. Approaching the question Why do societies change (or why they remain stable)? There are many examples of problems that sociologists set themselves: the ‘purpose’ and extent of social inequality, or questions about the nature of ‘identity’ and’ self’. An alternative would have been to give two examples from work that you knew about. For example, Durkheim’s question as to the causes of suicide or Barker’s investigation into why people join the Moonies. Answers to the second part of the question are indicated clearly in the subject guide. Good answers noticed that the question asked about ‘most’ and not all journalism. Section 1.4 of the subject guide provides a starting point. Good answers included some of the following points: • Sociologists ask sociological questions and do not depend on common sense for their answers! They develop and test theories and are therefore ‘grounded in theory’. 1
21 Principles of sociology
• Sociologists normally work systematically, testing their theories with evidence from primary or secondary data that has been carefully collected and tested. • Journalists normally have to react to a news item quickly and do not have the luxury of testing and checking their theories and findings. • The audience for sociology is made up of academics, students and policy makers, whereas journalists generally write for the general public. Therefore the language they use is often different and more precise, especially when dealing with concepts. b. Outline EITHER Meads’ OR Parsons’ approach to the concept of socialisation. (6 marks) Reading for this question The material for this question is to be found in Chapter 1of the subject guide. Better answers also referred to Chapter 4 (particularly for Parsons) and to the reading in the essential texts. Approaching the question Most candidates were able to indicate that Mead’s approach concentrated on the processes by which individuals developed their understanding of ‘self’ whereas Parsons concentrated on the functions of socialisation for society (i.e. its ends). Good answers used the different ways that Parsons and Mead explained the nature of ‘roles’ and ‘and social identity’ to illustrate their answers. c. Why should sociologists approach the analysis of...