Key Skills and Study Skills
for Sociology AS and A Levels
Page 5

Writing notes is an acquired skill and takes many students a long time to achieve satisfactorily:

  • Some prefer highlighter pens on prepared text, avoiding vandalism of other people's books.
  • Some prefer to make spider diagrams, diagrammatic and non-linear notes (not easy in classroom situations unless a specific task).
  • Some like to write as much as possible when they can.
  • Some like to write in paragraphs to help their writing as they learn: this is what should be done at AS and A level to assist this skill.
  • There is electronic recording too.
Teachers try to vary the activities of students in terms of learning. It is a sad fact, however, that as the level of learning rises, the methods of learning tend to shrink and the necessity of writing increases in importance. There is much to find out, much to simply read and write. I encourage note taking anyway and welcome it alongside what other activities may be set. You never know when something is discovered or found that opens the way to understanding, and noting this down is useful.
Never rely on printed or electronic output alone as the student does too little to absorb such information. Engage with the information, try to rewrite and summarise, and grapple with the arguments: it makes subsequent paragraph writing and essay construction much easier.
Paragraph writing is crucial at AS and A level stages. Once the information is grasped, the necessity is to produce words in a literate, considered and prose manner. Notes are for notetaking only. Writing should be in sentences and with correct grammar. The style being learnt should be neutral and objective, even if it is in fact opinionated in content. The paragraph should lead the reader through a point succinctly and clearly. There should be an absence of ambiguity in the language even if there is ambiguity in the argument! Choose short sentences, and because Sociology has plenty of its own technical terms, try to keep the language as simple as possible. Ask: Would someone who knows less of the subject understand what is written? The paragraph is the crucial building block of any longer piece of work and it takes some time to develop the skill of clear, meaningful writing.
Write a paragraph about a recent news event, giving a collective level viewpoint to the writing in terms of a cause or an effect.
When writing, beyond simple paragraphs, (especially with A2) when constructing the essay, a certain structure helps get the message across:

  • An introduction:
    • This is what is going to be said without giving the conclusion away
    • If it was a detective story, it would lay out the situation and the evidence to be gathered but not who did it!
  • A main body:
    • This is writing what you need to convey with necessary data included.
    • Bridge one paragraph to another, or let them continue meaningfully.
    • There should be a story of sociology in there: think of a detective story laying out the evidence in a logical order.
    • Include references to all sources used, whether these are direct quotations (put into indented paragraphs) or material put into your own words.
  • A summary plus conclusion:
    • This means bringing what you have written into a succinct meaningful whole with no extra information.
    • The conclusion gives your view of the outcome of the essay in as little as one sentence and no more than a small number.
    • The detective story has its conclusion, we know who did it.
  • A2 only: A bibliography:
    • Use a consistent system to give sufficient detail of sources.
    • If you used it, no matter how small, include it.
    • If you did not use it, do not include it in a bibliography.
    • The best way to know what to put in a bibliography is by the references in the text - text and bibliography should link up.
Most important of all however is to try to gain in your head an understanding of the issues. Why not write the main points out as you would in an exam? You can always refine these.