I have marked a few practice essays today and there are a few things that I think are worth focusing upon:
- Introduction – try to give an overall picture of the debate; don’t just present the view of one side, very briefly outline what the range of views are.
- Always plan your 18 and 33 mark responses – 2 mins plan for the 18 and 5 mins for 33 – this will allow you to link the arguments rather than listing information (which is what so many students do).
- Try to link your paragraphs – the first sentence of the paragraph should link to the last and ideally, the title too.
- When you are supporting a point with evidence, list a range of examples and then choose one or two to analyse in more detail. For example, if you were writing about fundamentalism you might write: The relatively new phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism has occurred in a number of countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Within these societies there has been a significant movement to a strictly literal interpretation of Islam, one that is a closed belief system and punishes transgressions with often extreme punishment. In Iran, for example, since the 1979 revolution, the Shia regime has been seemingly intent on forcing its citizens to abide by their version of sharia law – anyone who fails to do so is at risk of arrest by the religious police. Moreover, the recent rise of Isis in some Middle Eastern countries signals that secularisation is not necessarily going to conquer the world instead Anthony Giddens and Steve Bruce argue that fundamentalism is a reaction to Westernization and perhaps this trend is likely to continue…
- Remember that unlike other parts of the world, Europe underwent the age of enlightenment (which Sociology was part of) and this is often considered to be a primary reason why many European countries have experienced secularisation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment
- You can refer to events in the past such as the medieval ages but do not dwell on these – focus on contemporary examples
- Utilise a range of sociologists – if you are referring to postmodernism during A02 evaluation make sure you mention at least a couple of postmodernists and give an overview of their particular theory/research
- Always try and give a balanced argument – cover all sides of the debate and then you can draw a conclusion based on your findings
- Don’t write about ‘society’ always identify which specific society you are referring to.
- Whilst it is good practice not to go into huge A01 detail, some of you are not giving enough of an explanation – make sure you explain the key ideas before moving onto A02a and A02b
- Secularisation usually refers to a decline in religious influence and/or religiosity – it is very hard to argue that the UK has not experienced a decline even if you take Davie’s argument that the only change is that there is believing without belonging now (privatization) – census statistics from 2001 and 2011 and mori polls (https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2921/Religious-and-Social-Attitudes-of-UK-Christians-in-2011.aspx) for example do not support this.
- However, Berger does make a strong case for secularisation being a myth in many places: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/02/002-secularization-falsified