Seeing so many students return to university this September to embark upon the new academic year – some of them in a university environment for the first time – felt somewhat weird, as it coincided with me handing in my Masters dissertation and finishing my own course. However, it also made me remember that it was four years since I entered the John Foster Building (JF G17, if I remember correctly) for the first time to start my BA Sociology.
Looking back, my three years at LJMU sociology really taught me a lot – perhaps even more than I realised at the time. Not only was I introduced to a wide range of interesting and contemporary topics, but particularly, in terms of research skills, it certainly gave me a solid introduction to the various research methods used in social research.
Being a sociologist in many ways is about conducting research on social trends and behavior – systematically and ethically appropriate. Essentially, a number of the modules at LJMU allowed for planning and conducting my very own research, both library-based, but more uniquely, by doing fieldwork domestically and internationally. These research experiences indeed gave me a good foundation, motivated me and gave me confidence to go straight onto my postgraduate studies.
To be able to go Brussels as a part of the International Fieldwork module wasn’t just a great experience for the social bit. Here, our groups were given leeway to map-out our own projects. We had to contact interviewees and key contacts ourselves, which can be demanding. But at the same time, these experiences provide you skills and know-how transferable into many job situations, or if you’d like to prolong your academic career.
I also know recent field visits have been in Nepal, where members of the sociology staff have a contact network and are widely known through their world-class research in the area. I also know that the module leaders are already actively planning the process of the next year's field trip to Amsterdam, which for sure will be a dynamic city to test your research abilities. Although the International Fieldwork module is available for third years, obtaining crucial interviewing (and transcribing) training during the first and second year, in a more local setting, will prepare you for this, so there is no need to worry in case the thought of going abroad to carry out research may sound frightening.
After graduating in 2016, I started my postgraduate studies in International Relations and Security, this time five minutes up the road at the University of Liverpool. Although I did not come from an IR&S/Politics background, as many of my new fellow students did, I realised quickly that a lot of the skills I acquired at LJMU were very helpful. Then, particular those speaking to social research skills, as being familiar with the various stages of a research process, such as proposal writing, time-management and different methodological approaches, would go on to help me much over the course of my Masters – which naturally often requires you to work more independently and engage in what can be an intense and lonesome ‘dissertation-period’ from June till September.
Additionally, I think my background from sociology has given me the ability to think critically and draw links between social theories and reality – sometimes without even intending to!
Returning to the methods classes that traditionally may not be a student’s first choice: I cannot stress the usefulness of these enough. Also, applying an appropriate method to a sociological topic of your own interest can actually be enjoyable. Personally I wrote my third year dissertation in sociology on the globalisation in the English Premier League and how overseas ownerships in this highly globalised and commercialised league are perceived by local football fans.
I believe the study, which has recently been published in the academic journal Soccer & Society, proves that the course enables you to develop your own sociological interests – while enhancing your understanding of them – and maybe even contribute to this particular field of study.
At the moment, my research focuses on drones – another topic I was introduced to through sociology. Drones in counter-terrorism and globalisation in elite football are quite different topics to say the least, yet it proves the wide range of topics social sciences encompasses. This is one of the reasons I believe it is an interesting subject, while if you’re looking into doing a Masters, what you’ve learnt is often compatible with other academic subjects.
Studying sociology at LJMU provided me opportunities to carry out my own research assisted by helpful and expert supervisors.
Currently, graduation day may seem far away, especially for first and second years – maybe even for some third years. For now, the main focus is most likely to be settling into a new city, flat or house and meeting new people. That is many ways what university is about as well, but speaking of experience I know how quickly these three years can fly by, and how fast coursework deadlines can pile-up. Therefore I wish all of you good luck with your remaining time at LJMU sociology – and hope you all enjoy your lectures, modules and find them to be interesting on your path to become a sociologist, criminologist or both.
Finally, if I was to give one advice, it would be to ask members of staff if you got questions or you’re wondering about anything. They are experts in their fields and there to help you reaching your long-term goal of graduating. Also, following the department on Twitter @LJMUsociology is a good idea for updates on upcoming events, guest lecturers or fairs.