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NCERT Class XII Sociology: Chapter 7 – Suggestions for Project Work
National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) Book for Class XII
Subject: Sociology (Indian Society)
Chapter: Chapter 7 – Suggestions for Project Work
Class XII NCERT Sociology (Indian Society) Text Book Chapter 7 Suggestions for Project Work is given below
This chapter suggests some small practical research projects that you can tryout. There is a big difference between reading about research and actually doing it.Practical experience of trying to answer a question and collecting evidencesystematically is a very valuable experience. This experience will hopefully introduceyou to the excitement and also some of the difficulties of sociological research.Before you read this chapter, please refer once again to Chapter 5 (“Doing Sociology:Research Methods”) in the Class XI textbook, Introducing Sociology.
The projects suggested here have tried to anticipate the potential problemsof organising this kind of activity for large numbers of students in differentkinds of schools located in different kinds of contexts. These are intended justto give you a feel for research. A “real” research project would obviously bemore elaborate and involve much more time and effort than is possible in yoursetting. These are meant as suggestions; feel free to think up ideas of your ownin consultation with your teachers.
Every research question needs an appropriate or suitable research method.A given question may be answered with more than one method, but a givenresearch method is not necessarily appropriate for all questions. In other words,for most research questions one has a choice of possible methods but thischoice is usually limited. One of the first tasks of the researcher – after carefullyspecifying the research question – is to select a suitable method. This selectionmust be done not only according to technical criteria (i.e., the degree ofcompatibility between question and method), but also practical considerations.These latter might include the amount of time available to do the research; theresources available in terms of both people and materials; the circumstancesor situations in which it has to be done, and so on.
For example, let us suppose you are interested in comparing co-educationalschools with ‘boys only’ or ‘girls only’ schools. This, of course, is a broad topic.You must first formulate a specific question that you want to answer. Examplescould be: Do students in co-educational schools do better in studies thanstudents in boys/girls only schools? Are boys only schools always better thanco-educational schools in sports? Are children in single sex schools happierthan children in co-educational schools, or some other such question. Havingdecided on a specific question, the next step is to choose the appropriate method.
For the last question, ‘Are school children in single sex schools happier?’,for example, you could choose to interview students of different kinds of schools.In the interview you could ask them directly how they felt about their school.You could then analyse the answers you collect to see if there is any differencebetween those who attend different kinds of schools. As an alternative, youcould try to use a different method – say that of direct observation – to answerthe research question. This means that you would have to spend time inco-educational and boys/girls schools, observing how students behave. Youwould have to decide on some criteria by which you could say if students are
more or less happy with their school. So, after observing different kinds ofschools for sufficient time, you could hope to answer your question. A thirdmethod you could use is the survey method. This would involve preparing aquestionnaire designed to get information on how students felt about theirschools. You would then distribute the questionnaire to an equal number ofstudents in each kind of school. You would then collect the filled-inquestionnaires and analyse the results.
Here are some examples of some practical difficulties that you might facewhen doing research of this kind. Suppose you decide to do a survey. You mustfirst make enough copies of the questionnaire. This involves time, effort andmoney. Next, you may need permission from teachers to distribute thequestionnaire to students in their classrooms. You may not get permission thefirst time, or you may be asked to come back later….. After you have distributedthe questionnaire you may find that many people have not bothered to return itto you or have not answered all questions, or other such problems. You thenhave to decide how to deal with this – go back to your respondents and ask themto complete the questionnaires; or ignore the incomplete questionnaires andconsider only the complete ones; consider only the completed answers, and soon. You must be prepared to deal with such problems during research work.
VARIETY OF METHODS
You may remember the discussion of research methods in Chapter 5 of theClass XI textbook, Introducing Sociology. This may be a good time to revisit thischapter and refresh your memory.
A survey usually involves asking a relatively large number of people (such as30, 100, 2000, and so on; what is considered ‘large’ depends on the contextand the kind of topic) the same fixed set of questions. The questions may beasked by an investigator in person where they are read out to the respondent,and his/her answers are noted down by the investigator. Or the questionnairemay be handed over to the respondents who then fill it up themselves and giveit back. The main advantage of the survey is that it can cover a lot of people, sothat the results are truly representative of the relevant group or population.The disadvantage is that the questions to be asked are already fixed. Noon-the-spot adjustments are possible. So, if a question is misunderstood bythe respondents, then wrong or misleading results can be produced. If arespondent says something interesting then this cannot be followed up withfurther questions on the subject because you have to stick to the questionnaireformat. Moreover, questionnaires are like a snapshot taken at one particularmoment. The situation may change later or may have been different before, butthe survey wouldn’t capture this.
An interview is different from a survey in that it is always conducted in personand usually involves much fewer persons (as few as 5, 20, or 40, usually notmuch more than that). Interviews may be structured, that is, follow apre-determined pattern of questions or unstructured, where only a set of topicsis pre-decided, and the actual questions emerge as part of a conversation.Interviews may be more or less intensive, in the sense that one may interview aperson for a long time (2-3 hours) or in repeated visits to get a really detailedversion of their story.
Interviews have the advantage of being flexible in that promising topics maybe pursued in greater detail, questions may be refined or modified along theway, and clarifications may be sought. The disadvantage of the interview methodis that it cannot cover a large number of people and is limited to presenting theviews of a select group of individuals.
Observation is a method where the researcher must systematically watch andrecord what is happening in whatever context or situation that has been chosenfor the research. This sounds simple but may not always be easy to do inpractice. Careful attention has to be paid to what is happening withoutpre-judging what is relevant to the study and what is not. Sometimes, what isnot happening is as important or interesting as what does actually happen. Forexample, if your research question is about how different classes of people usespecific open spaces, then it is significant that a given class or group of people(say poor people, or middle class people for example) never enter the space, orare never seen in it.
COMBINATIONS OF MORE THAN ONE METHOD
You can also try to combine methods to approach the same research questionfrom different angles. In fact, this is often highly recommended. For example,if you are researching the changing place of mass media sources like newspapersand television in social life, you could combine a survey with archival methods.The survey will tell you about what is happening today, while the archivalmethods might tell you about what magazines, newspapers or televisionprogrammes were like in the past.
POSSIBLE THEMES AND SUBJECTS FOR SMALLRESEARCH PROJECTS
Here are some suggestions about possible research topics; they are onlysuggestions, you can always choose other topics in consultation with your teachers. Remember that these are only topics – you need to select specificquestions based on these topics. Remember also that most methods can beused with most of these topics, but that the specific question chosen must besuitable for the method chosen. You can also use combinations of methods.The topics are in no particular order. Topics that are not obviously or directlyderived from your textbooks have been emphasised because it will be easier foryou and your teachers to think of your own project ideas related to the texts.
1. PUBLIC TRANSPORT
What part does it play in people’s lives? Who needs it? Why do they need it?To what degree are different kinds of people dependent on public transport?What sorts of problems and issues are associated with public transport? Howhave forms of public transport been changing over time? Does differential accessto public transport cause social problems? Are there groups who do not needpublic transport? What is their attitude towards it? You could also take up thecase of a particular form of transport – say the tonga, or the rickshaw, or thetrain – and write about its history in relation to your town or city. What are thechanges this mode of transport gone through? Who have been its main rivals?Is the competition with rivals being lost or won? For what reasons? What isthe likely future of this mode of transport? Will anyone miss it?
If you live in Delhi, try to find out more about the Delhi Metro. Couldyou write a science-fiction like account of what the Metro would be like fiftyyears from now, in, say 2050 or 2060? (Remember, it is not easy to write goodscience fiction! You must give reasons for the things you imagine; these futurethings must be related in some coherent fashion to things/relations/situationsthat exist in the present. So you would have to imagine how public transportwill evolve given present conditions, and what the role of the Metro would be infuture compared to what it is now.)
2. ROLE OF COMMUNICATION MEDIA IN SOCIAL LIFE
Communication media could include the mass media, like newspapers,television, films, internet and so on – i.e., media which convey information andare seen/accessed by large numbers of people. It could also include the mediathat people use for communicating with each other, such as the telephone,letters, mobile phones, email and internet. In these areas, you could try toinvestigate, for example, the changing place of mass media in social life and theshifts within major formats like print, radio, television, and so on. At a differentlevel, you could try to ask a different sort of question about the likes and dislikesof particular groups (classes, age groups, genders) regarding films, books etc.How do people perceive the new communication media (like mobile phones, orinternet) and their impact? What can we learn through observation and inquiryabout their place in people’s lives? Observation allows you to capture thedivergence (if any) between stated views and actual behaviour. (How many hoursdo people really watch television, as different from how many hours they feelthey watch, or feel is appropriate to watch etc..) What are some of theconsequences of shift in format? (For example, has TV really reduced theimportance of radio and newspapers, or does each format still have its ownspecial niche?) What are the reasons why people prefer one or the other format?
Alternatively, you could think of doing any number of projects based on acontent analysis of the media (newspapers, magazines, television etc.) and howthey have treated particular themes or subjects, such as, for example, schoolsand school education, the environment, caste, religious conflicts, sports events,local versus national or regional news, etc. etc.
3. HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND DOMESTIC WORK
This refers to all the devices used to do work in the household, such as gas,kerosene or other type of stoves; mixies, grinders and food processors of variouskinds; the electric or other kind of iron for ironing clothes; washing machines;ovens; toaster; pressure cooker, and so on. How has work within the householdchanged over time? Has the coming of these devices changed the nature ofwork and specially the intra-household division of labour? Who are the peoplewho use these devices? Are they mostly men or women, young or old, paid orunpaid workers? How do the users feel about them? Have they really madework easier? Have there been any changes in the age-related jobs done withinthe household? (i.e., do younger/older people do different kinds of jobs now ascompared to earlier?)
Alternatively, you could simply concentrate on how the domestic tasks aredistributed within the household – who does what, and whether there havebeen changes lately.
4. THE USE OF PUBLIC SPACE
This research topic is about the different uses to which public space (such asan open field, the roadside or footpath, empty plots in housing colonies, spaceoutside public offices, and the like) is put. For example, some spaces supporta lot of small scale commercial activity like roadside vendors, small temporaryshops and parking lots etc. Other spaces seem empty but get used in differentways – to hold marriage or religious functions, for public meetings, as a dumpingground for various kinds of things… Many spaces are occupied by poor homelesspeople and become in effect their homes. Try to think of research questions inthis general area: What do people from different classes (e.g., the poor, middleclasses, affluent people etc.) feel about the use of public space? What kind of aresource do they represent for these groups? How has the use of a particularopen space in your neighbourhood been changing over time? Has it generatedany conflicts or frictions? What are the reasons for this conflict?
5. CHANGING ASPIRATIONS OF DIFFERENT AGE GROUPS
Did you always have the same ambitions throughout your life? Most peoplechange their goals, specially at young ages. This research topic tries to discoverwhat these changes are and whether there are any patterns to the changesacross different groups. You could try choosing research groups such as differentage groups (eg., classes 5, 8 and 11) in different kinds of schools; differentgenders; different parental backgrounds etc. and see if any patterns emerge.You could also include adults in your research design and see what theyremember about these sorts of changes, and whether there is any pattern tochanges after school as compared to changes within the school-going age.
6. THE ‘BIOGRAPHY’ OF A COMMODITY
Think of a particular consumption item in your own home, such as a televisionset, a motor cycle, a carpet or a piece of furniture. Try to imagine what thelife-history of that commodity would be. Write about it as though you were thatcommodity and were writing an ‘auto-biography’. What are the circuits ofexchange through which it has moved to get to where it is now? Can you tracethe social relations through which the item was produced, traded, andpurchased? What is its symbolic significance, for its owners – i.e. for you, yourfamily, for the community?
If it could think and talk, what would your television set (or sofa set, ormotorcyle…) have to say about the people it meets or sees (like your family orother families or households that you can imagine)?