Writing an A-Level Sociology Essay

Topics: Writing, Essay, Theory Pages: 6 (1471 words) Published: October 13, 2013
Knowing how to do an A Level Sociology Essay


With reference to the present syllabus, there are three main skills being assessed in your essays.

1. Knowledge and Understanding (9 marks)
2. Interpretation and Application (9 marks)
3. Evaluation (9 marks)

What Does This Mean?

What this means is that for writing an essay is that the content (studies, names of researcher, dates, figures, concepts, although important need to be organised coherently, applied to a variety of social situations and interpreted, and expressed in a critical fashion. You must be aware of the skills being highlighted in the question in order to use the appropriate skills in your essays. You should also practice writing essays regularly and develop a technique which addresses the skills required so that you can actually answer the question set. I hope that this handout should allow you to achieve this.

As an example, I shall focus on a question, which appeared in the Paper 2 of 1992. The question is as follows.....

Outline and evaluate the reasons why participant observation is frequently used by interactionist sociologists.

Stage One

Many students are too quick into diving into an answer. They have focused on certain key terms and ‘assumed’ what the essay requires from a quick look at the question. Instead, the question should be read a number of times.

Task One

With the title provided.

Analyze the question by underlining the key features in the essay title Double underline the skills being assessed, e.g., describe and explain Identify any terms or concepts contained in the question. These terms will need to be defined, i.e. concepts such as interactionists. Essay questions will also include terms, which highlight the skills being assessed, knowledge and understanding. E.g. (outline, explain the view, what do you understand, examine, describe, Interpretation and application, identify and illustrate, and Evaluation assess, criticise, how useful, how far, evaluate to what extent and so on. In short, I view the skills like this...

Knowledge and Understanding: includes names of researchers, studies, concepts, description of studies.

Interpretation and Application the way you manage to interpret an idea successfully and how you apply sociological evidence to support ideas.

Evaluation identifying strengths and weaknesses, what does a theory explain, and what does it not explain, as well as how valid or reliable is a source of evidence. Stage Two Answering the Question

Arguably, there are two approaches

1. The Jury Approach

Reviews all the relevant debates and cites supportive evidence for each of the debates, then provides a verdict at the end of the essay in the conclusion. This approach is rather like a court case where evidence for and against the case is delivered and a verdict, at the end is reached.

2. Advocate Approach

Involves starting the essay with a definite point of view. The account should then proceed to support this view thoroughly whilst including alternative arguments. However, you should attempt to either reject a statement with reservations, or accept a statement but with reservations. To totally accept or reject statements is not to deliver an evaluation. What you should do is to put forward your view in a critical and measured manner.

Stage Three: Plan the Answer (Content, Criticisms, diagrams)

Why is planning an answer important.

1. It acts as a memory recall strategy, by planning an essay before you start to write it. 2. Once you have done this, you can then organize your thought logically.

You can do this...in two ways.

1. Linear notes ( the point by point method). This simply involves making a list of relevant points. This quick and easy to do but does not always encourage you to think and organize points in a logical fashion. A list of points can be vital in ensuring that you have remembered all the main points. You should also include...
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