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The Role of Theory in Questionnaire Design An Example Using Bourdieu Dr. Alice Sullivan, Director British Cohort Study 1970, Centre for Longitudinal Studies,

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Presentation on theme: "The Role of Theory in Questionnaire Design An Example Using Bourdieu Dr. Alice Sullivan, Director British Cohort Study 1970, Centre for Longitudinal Studies,"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Role of Theory in Questionnaire Design An Example Using Bourdieu Dr. Alice Sullivan, Director British Cohort Study 1970, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, IOE, University of London

2 Outline Uses of theory in research Bourdieu’s theory of cultural reproduction Developing a questionnaire to measure cultural capital

3 Carrying out original survey work Pros and Cons Hard work and smaller sample size Allows conceptual work, developing measures rather than using proxies

4 What is theory? PictureMap

5 What is theory? Post-hoc story tellingTheory as embellishment

6 Assessing theory Clarity: is it comprehensible? Substance/Testability: does it have any implications? Insight: does it help to explain interesting phenomena? Usefulness: does it help to generate and guide research?

7 Clarity “I think that…what Spitzer says about Proust’s style is something I could say about my own writing. He says, firstly, that what is complex can only be said in a complex way; secondly, that reality is not only complex, but also structured…if you want to hold the world in all its complexity and at the same time order and articulate it…you have to use heavily articulated sentences that can be practically reconstructed like Latin sentences…” (Bourdieu 1990 ‘In Other Words’ p.51-52).

8 Research Question How to explain social class differentials in education attainment?

9 Theory “By doing away with giving explicitly to everyone what it implicitly demands of everyone, the educational system demands of everyone alike that they have what it does not give. This consists mainly of linguistic and cultural competence and that relationship of familiarity with culture which can only be produced by family upbringing when it transmits the dominant culture.” (Bourdieu 1977 ‘Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction’: 494)

10 Cultural reproduction in a nutshell Parents’ Social Class Parents’ Cultural Capital Child’s Cultural Capital Child’s Educational Attainment Occupational Outcome

11 Hypotheses and mechanisms H1. Cultural capital should (fully) mediate the effect of social class on educational attainment – But what forms of culture constitute capital? – And what are the mechanisms?

12 Operationalising ‘cultural capital’ “…linguistic and cultural competence, and that relationship of familiarity with culture which can only be produced by family upbringing when it transmits the dominant culture” (Bourdieu 1977) Bourdieu uses parental education as a proxy Some authors use high culture participation – e.g. attendance at galleries, museums, etc. Appropriate operationalisation depends on research questions and context. To determine which elements of culture constitute capital requires empirical investigation.

13 Breaking down the concept 1.Activities i.Reading: type and amount ii.Television: type of programmes iii.Music: listening and playing iv.Art galleries, theatre, concert attendance 2.Cultural knowledge: test score 3.Language: test scores

14 Parents’ cultural capital Books in the home Broadsheet newspaper Type of music listened to Radio stations listened to Activities: – Going to art galleries or museums – Reading novels – Reading non-fiction – Going to see plays – Going to concerts – Playing a musical instrument – Evening or daytime classes

15 Parents’ cultural capital … Which of the following have you heard your parents discuss? (Often, sometimes, never) 1.Art 2.Politics 3.Books 4.Science 5.Current Affairs

16 Cultural knowledge test format

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18 Comprehension Test Underline the word that correctly completes the sentence. If you do not know which word is correct, just move on to the next question. Example: You (fill, milk, boil, match, paint) water to make tea.

19 Piloted active vocabulary tests 1. Open-ended sentence completion test. Question: The admiral went………. (add ten words) Answer: The admiral went to China six times when he was in the navy. Taken from Lawton (1968) Social Class, Language and Education.

20 Piloted active vocabulary test 2 Write a short essay on one of the following topics: Home School My life in 10 years time

21 Final active vocabulary test Synonyms are words that mean the same or approximately the same as each other. For example: happy and cheerful are synonyms. For each of the following questions think of as many synonyms as you can for each word (stop at five for each word). Here are two examples: DisgustingrepellentBig:enormous nastygigantic vilehuge unpleasantmassive obsceneobese Question 1:SmallQuestion 4:Sad Question 2:StupidQuestion 5:Odd Question 3: Angry

22 Findings Cultural knowledge and language mediated the effect of cultural participation Social class still powerful, even after controlling for all these variables.

23 References Sullivan, A ‘Bourdieu and Education: How Useful is Bourdieu’s Theory for Researchers?’ Netherlands Journal of Social Sciences. 38(2) Bourdieu and Education: How Useful is Bourdieu’s Theory for Researchers? Sullivan, A ‘Cultural Capital and Educational Attainment’ Sociology. 35(4) Sullivan, A ‘Cultural Capital and Educational Attainment’ Sociology. 35(4)


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