Sociology is one of the social sciences and like History and Psychology, tries to understand human behaviour.
Sociology particularly concerns the study of social life, offering different explanations and evidence for what affects our social behaviour. In contrast, psychology tends to concentrate on the workings of individuals’ minds, although there is some overlap. Sociologists are also interested in the historical development of societies.
Whilst psychologists emphasise the experimental method, and historians make great use of secondary sources, sociologists use a wider range of research techniques and sources to find out about social life. You will be expected to become familiar with these methods and answer exam questions about them.
We can all see evidence of social influences and factors, and statistically there are correlations between aspects of social life which sociologists debate. For example, it is widely known that poorer people have worse health and life expectancy than wealthier citizens – but why? It is clear that females commit fewer crimes than males – but why? These would be just two questions you might study, and there will not necessarily be any definitive answers. But there will be a lot of evidence to consider, and a lot of arguments about the topics! Sociology will make you look at everyday life in lots of new ways, so be prepared to be challenged! And be prepared to contribute, too.
First year topics can include: a selection from the Sociologies of Health, Education with research methods, Culture and Identity, Wealth, Welfare and Poverty, Families and Households, or Culture and Identity.
Second year topics can include: a selection from the Sociologies of Crime, Deviance and Punishment, Stratification, Beliefs in Society, Global Development, Mass Media or Power and Politics.
The traditional A level focus on thinking and analysis ensures that you will approach these topics from a number of different angles, or perspectives, with increasing emphasis on the skill of evaluation in year 2.
Disclaimer: at time of writing the examination board’s syllabus was still in draft form. Please check the AQA website for updates.
5 GCSEs at A* - C. Must include English Language, Mathematics and Sociology (if taken). Attendance at an A Level information event.
You will be assessed by written exams, which does mean that any student who ‘can do’ Sociology will also be capable of handling evidence, constructing and presenting quite sophisticated arguments, which are excellent skills for any university and professional career.
Many students go on to university, where Sociology is a long-established subject with strong links to the other social sciences.
Will this subject suit me?
The ideal student will be interested in current affairs, social, political and contemporary culture, in short, the world around us. You will enjoy the intellectual challenge of debating ideas, enjoy reading about and researching social issues, and be prepared to construct clear, written arguments. Good numerical skills would be advantageous since there will be statistical evaluation.
Personal study time:
All students are expected to devote as much time outside the classroom to their studies as in lectures. Homework will regularly be set, but students are expected to routinely manage their self-directed study, consolidating work set or undertaken in class.
Successful students are able to apply their knowledge of theories to the real world, by referencing actual events. So you will need to keep abreast of the news, watch TV documentaries and analyse contemporary developments, both to make your study of social life much more interesting and also to gain extra credit.