Tag Archives: Sociology

Video Sources for teaching Research Methods

This post is simply a list of good videos for teaching and revising research methods

Social Surveys

Doing Sociological Research – If you can get over the desperate attempt to be ‘down with the kids’, then the section on survey research in education offers a very useful explanation of sampling and operationalising concepts such as social class.


Milgram’s obedience experiments (youtube) – Link takes you to a contemporary version of Milgram’s experiment, which reveals depressingly similar results to the original.

The Stanford Prison Experiment (youtube)

A good example of a field experiment measuring how the public respond differently to differnt ethnicities engaged in stealing a bike.

This is a second field experiment measuring how the public respond differently to differnt ethnicities engaged in vandalising a car from the everyday sociology blog (videos removed but a good explanation on the blog)

Unstructured and Semi-Structured Interviews

Many episodes of Louis Theroux are good for unstructured interviews – I especially recommend the following –

America’s Medicated Kids (Youtube) – Louis even talks about ‘being a T.V. interviewer in the introduction. Also it should be fairly obvious why ‘unstructured interviews’ are suitable for researching these children.

Louis Theroux Behind Bars (Youtube) In which Louis interviews a man sentenced to over 500 years in jail

This is an interview with Louis Theroux (Youtube) talking about why he likes ‘unstructured interviews’ – about 1.13 in

OK – It’s not a video, it’s a podcast – but from about 5 minutes in there are some interesting results from research based on interviews with 18-25 year olds on the question of ‘why they drink to excess’. Their insights tell you much more than stats ever can about youth binge drinking today.

Participant Observation

Tribe with Bruce Parry is a good, basic introduction to the advantages and Limitations of using Overt PO to research traditional societies in remote rural settings. I especially recommend the episode on the Suri in Ethopia.

For Covert Participant Observation, the standard ‘classic video’ from the late 1990s is Donal Macintyre’s research with the Chelsea Headhunters (link is to college’s estream and requires password)

Another ‘covert classic’ is the Secret Policeman – College estream link (needs password)

Official Statistics

The Office for National Statistics has a huge array of videos on youtube. Some of the most interesting include – (1) Immigration Stats (2) Household Wealth (3) Cohabitation in the UK (4) The Latest on the Labour Market, including unemployment stats

Secondary Qualitative Data

The Freedom Writers – (link to college estream, requires pass word) A film based on a true life story of a teacher who gets her disinterested English literature students to tell their own stories using diaries

The BBC’s who do you think you are is an accessible way to introduce the usefulness of secondary qualitative data. This is a link to one episode on estream (password required)

TED Talk – what we learned from 5 million books – using google ngrams to quantify the content of books

Longitudinal Studies 

The Marshmallow Experiment (Youtube)  – Measures deferred gratification in children and then tracks the children through childhood to see the effects of deferred gratification on future test scores in education.

Another classic is 7 Up – This is the original 1964 documentary and the trailer for 56 up 

Other Videos

It’s a bit long winded, and it is a cartoon – but this is a good xtranormal video (link to youtube) that goes over the pros and cons of quantitative versus qualitative research – using the topic of researching children with ADD as an example.


Do women really only want to date hot guys?

Plenty of Fish is one of the world’s most popular dating sites. There’s an interesting thread of videos on youtube consisting of disgruntled guys who have used this site moaning about their lack of responses from girls.

One ex-user of the site (Steve Sanders) even conducted what can be termed a ‘layman’s field experiments’ to establish why he was getting zero response from POF women.

It struck me that this is a great way to introduce some of the limitations of the experimental method in the social sciences (it’s a pretty bad experiment!) Teachers can cut and paste the questions onto a worksheet if they have the time… 

Watch the details of the experiment below – Answers below… (NB – You only need watch up to about 4 minutes in, then you can skip to just before 6 mins to get the conclusions)



Q1 What hypothesis does he start off with?

  • ‘Girls will only respond to hot guys’ on plenty of fish

Q2 What does  Steve do in order to test his hypothesis?

  • He set up an alternative profile with the same details as his, but with a picture of a hot guy rather than a
  • He then emailed 6 women from each account – from his own he sent a ‘well crafted email’ and from the fake ‘hot guy’ account, he sent a basic email saying only ‘hey girl, want to party’

Q3 In what ways did Steve stratify his sample?

  • He split them into with and without children and then into three different age groups.
  • In fairness to Steve, this is actually a good example of a ‘stratified sampling’ technique that enhances representativeness

Q4 What did all of the women in his sample have in common?

  • They all stated in their profiles that they wanted a relationship

Q5 What were the results of Steve’s experiment? 

  • The hot guy received 4/6 return emails, and dozens of unsolicited emails
  • Steve using his original email received only 1 reply

Q6: What conclusion does Steve draw from the results of his experiment? (about 6 minutes in)

  • Plenty of fish girls only look for hot guys

Q7: What further conclusions does he draw?

  • Because all of the women in his sample say they are looking for a relationship yet respond to a guy who says he only wants to party he concludes that ‘women are idiots’
  • He goes on to say that if you’re a hot guy, you should go on Plenty of Fish because you can get laid every night because ‘women are fucking idiots’, although this is somewhat contradiced by his opening frame (1 second in) which claims that ‘Plenty of Fish Girls are whores’.

Q8: In the light of this experiment are Steve’s conclusions valid?

There are a few limitations of Steve’s field experiment

  • A more sensible conclusion (other than all women are fucking idiots) would be that the women in his sample do want a relationship, but they also want sex with hot guys too.
  • There may be other reasons why Steve gets no responses – He may just be very ugly, and a ‘well crafted’ email from a 4/10 rather than a 1/10 may get as many responses as the hot guy.
  • He is quite a bitter individual, this may come across in his emails – he may think he’s writing a ‘well crafted’ email, but it in fact it could come across as creepy.
  • Obviously the sample size is too small to generalize from.
  • And are these ‘girls’ or ‘women’???


Oh and one final thing, Steve, I’m sorry to tell you that not all women on POF are ‘fucking idiots’. I met* a fearsomely attractive, intelligent woman through POF just this week in fact, so maybe there are some ‘whores’ on the site, but there’s some precious gems too.

(*Mind you, I am pretty hot, so maybe that’s to be expected!)

Good Sociology Videos

My top four video ‘hub sites’ – These sites are what I believe to be the best for finding up-to-date information about contemporary sociological video resources.

1 – Top Documentary Films

An excellent site for documentaries relevant to Sociology as well as just for general interest too. The site features mainly American and British documentaries, but there are also plenty from around the world too, all organised into useful categories such as ‘society’ and ‘economics’, with short summaries and embedded links to the videos if they are available online, which most are, although some have been removed due to copy right reasons, which can be frustrating. There are thousands of documentaries, all of which are hosted on other sites such as YouTube or Google video, but what makes this site so useful is the categorisation system – you can browse very easily by category

2 – The Sociological Cinema – Teaching and Learning Sociology through Video

This site is designed to help sociology instructors incorporate videos into their classes. I t does have a somewhat American focus, but it is still very useable for many topics in Britain, most obviously if you teach global development

Each post consists of a brief summary of the relevant film or documentary and, if available a link to the film or short excerpt. Many of the entries are, in fact, short excerpts, which are fine for teaching many issues.

To give you an example of how up to date and potentially useful the site is – check out their globalisation category: there are about a dozen entries from 2012 alone.

3 – TED Talks

TED stands for Technology, Education and Design, and some of these talks are ‘jaw dropping’ – which is actually one of the categories you can search via. Although the subject material ranges far beyond the scope of Sociology, there is much of Sociological relevance here – to find talks on specific topics use this tag page. They also have playlists – but many of these are just celebrities pointing to their ‘favourite talks’ so these lists probably won’t be that useful to most people.

4. – RSA Videos (Royal Sociological Association Videos)

Videos here are organised into three basic categories – Lectures/ discussions, RSA shorts (although these are a bit thin) and the excellent RSA animate videos which introduce fairly complex topics in 10 minute animations.

I really like the simplicity of the mission of the RSA – Which is to continually reinvent the Enlightenment project for the 21st century through developing and promoting new ways of thinking about human fulfilment and social progress. OK the site isn’t really for your average A level student, but the RSA is ‘real sociology’ as far as I’m concerned – It cuts across disciplines – looking at politics, society, economics and psychology, and if you ever need an example of a reflexive organisation – look no further than the RSA! Oh, it’s also British, so this biases the RSA up the rankings too. The RSA also has a YouTube channel where you can access the videos



Three Myths of The Young Apprentice

The Young Apprentice is one of the very few programmes I make a point of watching. What’s odd is that I enjoy it even though it spreads three messages that I have a real problem with –

  • Firslty, it gives the impression that there is opportunity out there if ‘you only work hard enough’, when in reality the current crisis means it’s actually very tough to start up a small business or find employment, especially for young people.
  • Secondly, the show spreads the myth of meritocracy – We are typically presented with a range of candidates from all manner of social classes, gender and ethnic backgrounds suggesting equal opps, but in real life class privilege etc. still conspire to subvert genuine talent’s rise to the top.
  • Thirdly the show suggests that making a profit is more important than doing something socially useful, an idea I find odious,

To explore these message one  at a time…

Problematic Message One – Even though we’re in ‘tough economic times’ there’s still opportunity if you work hard enough.

OK Maybe this will come across as a little sad that I’ve done this, but if you calculate the profit per head per task and then divide by 2, you get the ‘day rate’ per candidate. The figures look something like this…

Approximate earnings per day for five tasks in the young apprentice

Task Platinum Odyssey Average per team Average per candiadate Average per candidate per day
Clothes 453 330 391 65 32.5
Cook Books* 7500 800 4150 754 377
Sandwiches 316 91 204 45 22.5
Kids Club** 11000 470 5735 1433 716.5
Womad 370 (sales) 283 (sales) 327 109 54.5
Average per candidate per day 240

*This of course assumes that all books are sold and that candidates receive £1 per book, which I think is a realistic estimate as to royalties on the type of books they produced.

* and ** These two ‘big profit tasks’ of course don’t actually take into account the costs of hiring the following

  • Half a day with the chefs to make the recipes/ half a day with the publishers
  • Half a day with the experts to help with the ideas generation of the kids club, or the costs of the materials for the demonstrations

Also neither of these projects are actually realistic in terms of your average teenager being able to start up such business because of the quality of the ‘laid on contacts’ with industry insiders, and the social desirability of purchasing a young apprentice product of course.

Given the above it might actually make more sense to look at the three ‘realistic’ business a teenager might set up – and for these the results are much worse.

Task Platinum Odyssey Average per team Average per candiadate Average per candidate per day
Clothes 453 330 391 65 32.5
Sandwiches 316 91 204 45 22.5
Womad 370 (sales) 283 (sales) 327 109 54.5
Average per candidate per day 36.50

If this is what the eleven brightest young people in the country can do (plus one hot-housed posh kid with inflated GCSEs) then Socialism help the rest of them is all I can say

Max – Defo the right candidate to go in week 1

Misleading Message Two – In the world of business it doesn’t matter what your class or ethnic background or your gender identity there’s a level playing field. OK I accept that in the apprentice the working classes seem to come good – In fact if anything Lord Sugar seems to have a deep suspicion of the posh – very probably because he’s ended up working with a lot of talent-less individuals who have risen up the ranks because of contacts rather than well, err talent.

In the real world of business what happens is that you need a leg up to be able to get yourself established – this will either mean money from your parents or an internship – often networked into, and in which you work for nothing for some months or even years. For evidence see below…

In addition to this if you’re a female looking to break into business, OK things are changing – but check out these stats from a previous blog of mine

All of this doesn’t stop me finding the apprentice hugely entertaining, I just hope a few people read this and think again about some of the potentially misleading messages it puts out….

Problem Message Three – Profit is more important than social utility

The contestants really have been asked to produce crap this year haven’t they?

Basically just crap – The Wetsuit Kimono

In episode 1, the task was to resell old clothes, which otherwise would have probably gone towards making money for  charity but instead ends up with either the BBC or Alan Sugar or the candidates (Actually I’ve no idea where the money ends up TBH!).  You could in fact argue that taking from charity results in negative social utility.

Episode two saw the candidates producing cook books – With one team producing a student cook book and the other a book which, in a total throwback to the 1980s, ended up with the title ‘the professional woman’. Whatever spin you put on a new cook book – the fact that there are are over 60 000 cookery books currently available on Amazon does suggest we don’t really need any more.

Episode three was all about sourcing a list of ten items for the very inclusive (NOT) Royal Opera House – Sugar putting the youth to work for the benefit of elite (kind of like apprenticeships and workfare).

Episode four revolved around the teams putting on a themed afternoon tea experience and sell them at a Stately Home – resulting in a ‘1940s’ theme and a ‘Mad Hatter’s’ theme – both of which I think we can agree are frankly pretty naff.

In episode five the candidates were required to develop a new kids club in order to attract investors who would potentially buy licenses. I will at this point concede that this venture does, finally, have some kind of genuine social utility – for parents at least.

The product of the most creative young business minds in the UK

Episode six saw the teams developing a new brand of hair spray and hair gel – Possibly the very epitome of products that lack any genuine social use value

In the penultimate episode candidates disturbed the ‘peace and love’ of the Womad festival to sell a combination of a cardboard box toilet and an umbrella seat on the one hand and onesies and camping washing machines on the other. Actually maybe these are even more useless than the hair products?

So of the seven episodes, there is only one potential product or service that has any genuine social utility, and that only for parents wealthy enough to pay for their kids’ extra curricular activities.


The Young Apprentice – Find out More

The BBC – The Young Apprentice 2012

Digital Spy has quite a nice overview of what’s been going on

Sabotage Times – Is Lord Sugar really looking for a new carer?

Unreality TV – Has several posts on the Young Apprentice

Studying Sociology at University

Been a while since I posted so I thought I’d post up this document

Studying Sociology at University

What do you study at University? 

Sociology at university is very different to ‘A level’ Sociology. There is some overlap in terms of basic content but this is minor. As a general rule, most Sociology departments will offer the ‘core modules’ in Sociological Theory, Sociological Methods, Modernity and Post-Modernity, and Globalisation, but besides these, courses will vary depending on the particular specialisms of lecturers in each department. Besides the above, some of the other topics you could end up studying include –

  • Ethnicity, race and racism
  • Gender
  • Marriage, family and interpersonal relationships
  • Media
  • Migration and citizenship
  • Globalisation
  • Friendship
  • Popular culture
  • Political participation
  • Religion
  • The Environment


In addition, many departments will offer degrees in related subjects such as:

  • Social Policy
  • Social Work
  • Criminology
  • Anthropology

Where to study

A good website for more information about studying Sociology at University is the British Sociological Association. This has a leaflet you can download and a hub page that contains links to most of the 80 odd universities that offer Sociology and related subjects.

To be blunt, for pretty much any Humanities or Social Science degree you need to be looking at the top 20 universities or you will probably end up unemployed afterwards.

League Tables – Top 20

CUG Rank

University Name

Student Satisfaction

Student Satisfaction
A guide to how satisfied students are with the quality of teaching they receive.

Click here to read more

Entry Standards*

Entry Standards
The average UCAS tariff score of new students under 21 years of age entering the University.

Click here to read more

Research Assessment

Research Assessment
The average quality of the research undertaken in the University.

Click here to read more

Graduate Prospects

Graduate Prospects
A guide to the employability of graduates on completion of their courses at the University.

Click here to read more

Overall Score

Overall Score
The total score calculated by our independent and trusted methodology.

Click here to read more



1 1 Cambridge 4.3   560   2.65   78.0   100.0
2 5 Bath 4.1   383   3.10   68.0   93.9
3 3 Durham 4.1   408   2.65   70.0   93.3
4 2 London School of Economics 3.9   415   2.40   78.0   93.3
5 6 Surrey 4.1   374   2.75   72.0   93.1
6 4 Warwick 4.0   420   2.70   62.0   92.2
7 31 Glasgow 4.1   425   2.25   60.0   90.8
8 14 Exeter 4.1   407   2.70   52.0   90.5
9 16 Bristol 4.1   410   2.40   56.0   90.2
10 13 Sheffield 4.0   367   2.80   56.0   89.8
11 7 Lancaster 4.0   359   2.80   56.0   89.7
12 20 Leeds 4.0   359   2.95   52.0   89.4
13 10 Sussex 4.0   373   2.55   58.0   89.4
14 11 York 4.0   372   2.85   48.0   88.9
15 21 Keele 4.0   323   2.75   58.0   88.9
16 28 Nottingham 4.0   354   2.50   58.0   88.9
17 33 Aberdeen 4.1   372   2.60   50.0   88.8
18 29 Manchester 3.9   384   2.85   48.0   88.7
19 8 Edinburgh 3.7   413   2.75   48.0   88.6
20 18 Kent 3.9   301   2.95   58.0   88.6

And the bottom 7**

84 84 Northampton 4.1   251       30.0   77.3
85 82 Liverpool John Moores 3.8   279       30.0   77.1
86 72 Glamorgan 3.9   259       32.0   77.1
87 80 Buckinghamshire New 3.8   226           77.0
88 83 Bradford 4.1   199       36.0   76.9
89 79 Anglia Ruskin 4.2   225       28.0   76.5


*Average UCAS points – one A grade = 120 points, so 3 As = 360

**These don’t do research, hence there’s no research score!


Career ‘Prospects’ – Sociology

A range of different types of employers are likely to recruit sociology graduates. Typical employers include: local and central government; industry; commerce; the NHS; education authorities; further and higher education institutions; and charitable, counselling and voluntary organisations.

Jobs directly related to Sociology

  • Social researcher
  • Counsellor
  • Community development worker
  • Advice worker
  • Further education lecturer

Jobs where a sociology degree would be useful

  • Probation officer
  • Social worker
  • Charity fundraiser
  • Housing manager/officer
  • Primary school teacher or Secondary school teacher

A 2010 HESA survey of 2009 graduates indicates that six months after graduation, 60% of sociology graduates were in employment in the UK or overseas with a further 8% combining work and further study. Of those entering employment, graduates entered a wide variety of jobs.

  • 15% went into social and welfare professions
  • 8% went into public and private sector management.
  • 20% entered occupations not categorised, which could include those working in not-for-profit organisations, project-based work.
  • 14% went into clerical and secretarial positions
  • 24% went into retail, catering and bar work

So to put it bluntly, of those students who graduated with a Sociology degree in 2009 2/3rds of them had a job 6 months later and about 1/3rd of those had a ‘real’ (professional) job that actually requires a degree. Overall this means that 1/3rd of Sociology graduates end up with a ‘proper job’ 6 months after graduating.

Of course, 3 years on, you now have less chance of getting a job and will be £30 000 in debt by the time you graduate too.


Sociology on TV WB Monday 23rd April

Hi – Decided I can do a useful (and easy) weekly blog flagging up what’s on TV this week that could be of sociological interest – For my own benefit, as well as that of others…. So here goes… These days of course you can always just search on iplayer for when the programme was!

Sunday (BBC News Channel) – Panorama – Billionaires behaving badly – looking at Glencore, possibly one of the world’s worst mining companies

Sunday (BBC2) – Indian Ocean with Simon Reeve – he goes to 3 south African countries – there might be something in here relevant to global development

Sunday (BBC2) – Ewan McGregor’s Cold Chain – following the Vaccine Trail – bound to be something relevant to the ‘biomedical intervention’ aspect of health and development, and I’ll grate my own eyeballs out if Gates doesn’t get a mention somewhere in this show.

Monday (BBC3) – A look at car crime, and the impacts of filming it and posting it online

Monday (BBC2) – This world – the story of the Norway Massacre

Tuesday (BBC3) – I woke up gay – pop – but about a straight rugby player who had a stroke and woke up gay. He’s now a hairdresser.

Tuesday (BBC1) – The Estate – not sure about this – looks like it might be interesting tho’

Wednesday BBC4 – Wild Swimming – Alice Roberts, the thinking man’s totty natural swimming in a bathing costume or a wet suit, not especially educational, but it can’t be bad!

Friday Channel 4 – Unreported World – in Afghanistan – cheery!


Why I’m running a half marathon to raise money for Water Aid

Water Aid works in 23 countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, with a total of 606 staff. Its mission is to ‘transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities’

To give you an idea of what water aid does – watch this video

According to this 2010-11 annual review – Last year they spent about £50 million – of which £32 million went to water and sanitation delivery service, £11 million on fundraising and £6 million on governance. You might criticise the £11 million on fundraising, but given that nearly 3/4 of their income comes from donations (the rest mainly from grants – which still need to be chased) – one imagines that without this, they’d have considerably less to work with…

The stats really add up – Last year Water Aid  helped 1.5 million people gain access to clean water, and improved sanitation for 1.6 million people.

I think this type of aid is crucial – the UN recognises the importance of aid for clean water and to improve sanitation – A few facts to further convince you….

Incidentally, I’m raising money for water aid by running a half marathon this coming Sunday – You should sponsor me – £15 saves a life!