Key Skills and Study Skills
for Sociology AS and A Levels
Page 4

Secondly, the requirements of paragraph and essay writing leads on to study skills.
Answering questions, learning the sociological tradition and essay writing is made possible by reading.
Reading should be efficient, and needs training.
Read what you need to read, and do not what read what you do not need to read. How to do it:

  • Take advantage of preparatory notes to know what to read.
  • Do not read cover to cover.
    • Use the index and contents first.
    • Skim through until something is relevant.
    • Skim backwards if it is easier - conclusions first.
  • When relevant, read it carefully and more than once.
    • Note the important material down and in your own words.
    • Keep direct quotations to a mimimum.
  • Know where it came from so:
    • You can find it again to reread when you know more about the subject
    • You can fully reference the piece (A level upwards).
    • You can fill in the bibliography (A level upwards).

With the Internet:

  • Use any sites recommended.
  • Use search engines with many specific key words.
  • Use edit/ find for key words within web pages to find relevant passages.
  • Check who wrote it and the quality of the piece:
    • Is the person a happy amateur?
    • Is the site recommended and by an established sociologist?
    • Is the article from a reputable source (check how it agrees and disagrees with other articles)?
    • Is the article peer reviewed material (at A/ AS level less important but it will be a mark of good quality)?
  • Use cut and paste certainly to store notes with the URL, the date and the time.
    • Rewrite those notes so that you understand the meaning.
  • The Internet is constantly changing so check a source before submitting work.
  • As you learn more, change your own notes if necessary.
  • Keep a log of sources (e.g. Favourites/ Bookmarks, or a text document or Personal Information Manager with links).
This is important at AS and A2 levels: read a broadsheet newspaper at least once a week (available in libraries) and think sociologically (and don't fail to think sociologically about news and current affairs broadcasts on television, radio and the Internet):

  • Can the piece be read with sociological imagination?
    • Some pieces are sociological already - so use such writing to assist developing a nose for sociology.
  • What sociological perspectives does a particular article bring to mind?
  • What theorists might use such a news item?
  • Is the writing itself ideological and biased - whom does it serve in terms of social and power groups?
Read/ watch/ view a piece of contemporary analysed news and then discuss it sociologically (social causes and effects: which groups benefit and which lose out). Summarise it in note form suitable for sociological analysis.
A crucial part of reading is of own material as well as others' for revision. Reading is necessary given regular testing and own reinforcements. For the big exam, revision should involve reading own material and writing too: even writing compressed notes from existing notes and paragraphs. Read notes and write diagrammatically (e.g. spider diagrams/ mind maps). It is vital to get essential points captured. Don't be afraid to record material with the voice, and playback with headphones, and thus use listening. It does work as reinforcement, even when listening over and over again passively.
Reading is the necessary preparation for writing. Writing is demonstrating what is known and understood, and the ability to do so with accuracy and clarity.