What students need to know and do
Engage with the scholarship of sociology including qualitative and quantitative research, and develop the skills to undertake a critical review or analysis and to summarise and synthesise information and arguments. They should be able to select, analyse and evaluate a research article in terms of its structure, authority, currency, relevance and accuracy.
Student barriers to learning
Students may not know how to read scholarly literature in general and sociological literature in particular, with discrimination, to evaluate ideas and arguments, and evidence. They may not be able to summarise/paraphrase and synthesise arguments and evidence.
At introductory level students have limited knowledge of research design and methods. The ability to apply critical academic skills to this literature needs to be built cumulatively alongside understanding of research design and methods and of theory.
Our teaching strategies
Help students develop critical academic skills by cumulative modelling, scaffolding and practicing these skills, including in relation to quantitative and qualitative research:
- Embed academic literacy skills into the teaching of units and assessments, including library research skills (Ciabattari, 2013);
- Ask students take turns reading the first page of text aloud and discuss difficult words and how to work out their meaning;
- Give students “common sense” arguments and explanations and ask students to critique these from a sociological point of view
- Students can be asked to select a research article, summarise it, assess its structure (for qualitative quantitative or mixed methodologies) and evaluate it in terms of its structure, authority, currency, relevance and accuracy;
- In small groups, deconstruct parts of brief, interesting, sociological articles and identify critical, analytic, synthetic elements, including theoretical perspectives and evidence;
- Using sociological content, model reading, paraphrasing, summarizing, analysis and synthesis, breaking these down into specific steps for students;
- Using sociological content, give short working tasks to help develop specific skills;
- From first year, show students both qualitative and quantitative research and identify the strengths and weaknesses of each approach;
- Gradually introduce more complex literature involving detailed qualitative and quantitative research design, and focus on these elements as well as the material’s theoretical discussions and analysis.
Ciabattari, T. (2013). Creating a culture of good writing: a cumulative model for teaching writing in the sociology major, Teaching Sociology, 41(1), 60-69.