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2011 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre – Society and Culture



This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 course in Society and Culture. It contains comments on candidate responses to the 2011 Higher School Certificate examination, providing an overview of candidate’s performance and indicating their relative strengths and weaknesses in the written examination and personal interest project (PIP).

This document should be read in conjunction with the relevant syllabus, the 2011 Higher School Certificate examination, the 2011 marking guidelines and other support documents developed by the Board of Studies to assist in the teaching and learning of Society and Culture.

General comments

Teachers and candidates should be aware that in the written examination examiners might ask questions that address the syllabus outcomes in a manner that requires candidates to respond by integrating the knowledge, understanding and skills developed through studying the course. The knowledge, understanding and skills developed through the study of discrete sections of the course should combine to form a more comprehensive understanding than might be acquired in studying each section separately.

Personal interest project

General comments

In outstanding projects, candidates demonstrated a high academic standard of research and often a uniqueness of topic, design or execution. These projects provided a rich analysis of the chosen topic with an in-depth, sophisticated synthesis of their findings. Course concepts were thoroughly integrated throughout and all components clearly aligned with syllabus requirements for the project. Resources in these projects showed clear and appropriate annotations. Candidates developed their topic to allow for a synthesis between personal experience and public knowledge.

In better projects, candidates provided clear evidence of an effective research process, integrating both their primary and secondary research findings with appropriate writing, editing and synthesis. They made explicit the cross-cultural and continuity and/or change perspectives, and these were integrated throughout the central material. The ideas from the introduction were logically developed throughout the central material, and were reflected in the judgements identified in the conclusion. The project log provided a holistic overview of the candidate’s research development with a reflective analysis of methodologies, which also identified potential bias, where appropriate, and critical judgement of their research findings.

In weaker projects, candidates were often limited by having selected a very broad topic or a topic that proved difficult to research over a sustained period. Often they did not acknowledge bias in research or personal views, and sometimes dealt with issues that had ethical considerations that were not addressed. The central material often consisted of summarising material from secondary sources about an issue, without sufficient judgement regarding their research findings. Some candidates also overly relied on non-academic sources on the internet without sufficient acknowledgement of those sources. If candidates choose to conduct primary research using the internet, they need to demonstrate an awareness of the validity, bias and usefulness of those methodologies. Log entries were often calendar entries consisting of simplistic overviews of each month rather than a developmental analysis or reflection on the research process, and resources were limited and poorly annotated. These projects showed a poor understanding and integration of the cross-cultural and continuity and/or change components, with some projects including these components as separate chapters rather than integrating them into the central material.

Candidates’ choice of topic

Candidates should carefully read page 9 of the syllabus: If a student is considering a Personal Interest Project topic or method of research that might be controversial or possibly unethical, the student should discuss the topic selection with the teacher or the school’s principal. The choice of topic should reflect a Society and Culture course investigation, not a narrative on a topical social issue.

Candidates selecting very personal issues on which to base their research were challenged to sufficiently relate these to syllabus content, course concepts and appropriate social issues. Personal experience is appropriate to the project but should be balanced with substantial public knowledge.

There were still many candidates who selected broad topics without a central focus, with an overemphasis on topics related to adolescence. Such projects were often subjective and relied on unsupported generalisations.

Candidates also must be aware of the guidelines in relation to the submission of projects, and understand that a project completed for another course cannot be submitted, in part or total, as a personal interest project. Active teacher guidance in the project proposal and supervision of progress reports on the project can assist candidates to avoid inappropriate topic choices and/or research methods.

Project log

The log should be based on candidates’ diaries, but the submitted log needs to be more than a chronological list of events and occurrences. It should be a holistic statement of reflection on how and why the research took place and the effectiveness of the overall research process. It is also appropriate to include some discussion of the key goals of the research conducted, and the evaluations of the research process.

Presentation and structure

There are several important aspects to the presentation of the PIP (Assessment and Reporting in Society and Culture Stage 6, pp 10–11). Projects are to be typed in either Times New Roman or Arial font, in 12 point, and one-and-a-half-lines line spacing. The candidate’s name or the name of their school must never appear in the project. Graphs, tables, photographs and diagrams need to be labelled and discussed. Further, the treatment of aspects of the project such as the cross-cultural and continuity and/or change components, concepts and methodologies should not be located in separated sections. These should be integrated into the overall text and discussion of the project.

The ethics of research and the issue of plagiarism are strong considerations in the assessment of each project. This is particularly important with the increased use of the internet as a research tool. When candidates discuss the ideas of others, they should try to synthesise these ideas into discussions on their own views. It is vital to acknowledge the works of others by referencing, using, for example, the Harvard system. Acknowledgement of sources must be included in the annotated bibliography, with comments on their usefulness and validity to the research presented.

Some candidates presented projects, or components of their projects such as the introduction or log, that were significantly over the clearly specified word limit. Candidates are disadvantaged if their projects are over the word limit. This also applies to the use of appendices. Candidates are not advantaged by, and in fact should be discouraged from, including multiple copies of questionnaires and other evidence that primary research was in fact undertaken during the completion of the project. Any information deemed significant to the project should generally be located within the central material, where its inclusion allows greater potential for it to be more effectively integrated. Appendices are not included in the marking guidelines or considered in the marking of the project.

Research methodologies

The best practice in the PIP is to integrate all the methodologies used throughout the central material. A separate chapter for each methodology is not an ideal model. It is important to discuss the appropriateness, validity and possible biases of each methodology. Using a range of methodologies for research, both primary and secondary, is a requirement of the PIP. Candidates should not overly rely on secondary research.

Better projects demonstrated an understanding of the limitations of particular research methodologies. There were a number of candidates who confused content analysis and secondary research, and questionnaires and surveys. These are distinct methodologies that need to be identified and applied correctly. When candidates indicate they are using content analysis and statistical analysis, the analysed sources should be made apparent.

Many candidates used the methodology of questionnaires, but did not apply it effectively – they did not analyse the results or evaluate their use of this method of gathering data.

Quantitative methodologies may be more effective when reported visually – for example as graphs, tables or pie-charts – as well as being referred to in the central material. Candidates are assessed on their application of a variety of methodologies, and it is not advisable to overly rely on personal reflection, or any other single methodology.

It is advisable not to attempt too many methodologies in the PIP. Candidates should select an optimal number and deal with these effectively. Candidates who choose to conduct ‘online’ surveys, questionnaires or focus groups need to be aware of the limitations of these methodologies, and to communicate these in the log or central material. They are valid research methodologies, but ones that must be evaluated and justified as a vital step in the research process.


Better candidates used a range of primary and secondary resources from both electronic and printed sources. Footnotes should be used appropriately. Projects should not include lengthy analysis of research findings that were not included in the central material, or explanatory text that would be more appropriately included in the central material.

In weaker projects, candidates did not reference all secondary materials used and often did not reference correctly. They also had not annotated the resources used in their resource list. The annotations for each item in the resource list need to demonstrate a genuine analysis of the usefulness of each source.

Written examination

In the written examination, candidates are required to answer:
  • ALL questions in Section I
  • ONE question from Section II using one Depth Study
  • ONE question from Section III using a different Depth Study to that used in Section II.
A number of candidates in 2011 completed more than ONE question in Section II or Section III. These candidates received marks for only one of the responses.

In addition, in 2011, 123 candidates answered a question on the same depth study in both Section II and Section III. These candidates received marks for one question only.

Section I – Social and Cultural Continuity and Change

Question 1

  1. Candidates nominated a feature of change from the following: education; beliefs, values and lifestyles; social welfare; health; gender roles; status of women; laws/legal system; government; institutions; and family life. They also identified the country studied in the box provided.

  2. In better responses, candidates described how the chosen feature had changed over time, focusing on a particular aspect and describing the change that had resulted from this aspect.

    In weaker responses, candidates did not actually clearly state a country of study. Some candidates did not integrate an appropriate country into their response. Candidates responded to the question but did not focus on time at all. Some candidates did not identify a feature but used aspects of a feature, such as Doi Moi or culture. In some responses, candidates did not identify a country but wrote about Bali, Tibet or Aborigines.

Question 5

In better responses, candidates clearly and succinctly accounted for one ethical consideration associated with collecting data for their research findings, including: confidentiality, privacy, anonymity, prejudice, and bias in reporting of data/trends. They explained the sensitive nature of conducting research with children, and highlighted the concerns of child safety and child protection legislation regarding the collection of data from children/minors.

In weaker responses, candidates demonstrated little understanding of the ethical nature of the research. Their responses were very descriptive and they made little attempt to evaluate the sensitive nature of research involving minors. Some responses were quite brief. In others, candidates discussed the data collection process and/or its strengths and weaknesses, but did not look at ethics.

Question 11

In better responses, candidates demonstrated the relationship between culture and environment. They used course concepts and terminology in an appropriate context. These candidates provided clear examples that linked environment and culture. They reflected a strong understanding of the nature of change in the interaction between culture and environment over time.

In weaker responses, candidates used general statements rather than specific examples to support their responses. They often used concepts such as globalisation, modernisation and westernisation to explain change, but did not incorporate specific cultural or environmental changes. In some cases, candidates did not identify a country and some referred to a religion as the country, for example Judaism and Islam. Some candidates failed to describe the interaction between culture and environment and changes to this interaction over time.

Section II – Depth Studies

General comments

Each question in this section is marked separately, so that all information candidates feel is important for part (a) should be included in that response, rather than relying on the markers to find information in part (b) to contribute marks to (a) and so on.

Some candidates wrote responses in this section that were too long. The mark value of two should have indicated to students that only a short answer was required. Candidates should be guided by the mark value on the exam paper for this section.

For questions with a mark value less than 10, it is not necessary for candidates to write explicit introductions and conclusions to their answers, as the expectation is that they will have a limited time in which to formulate these responses, and the structure of these responses is not assessed in the marking criteria. Candidates may use, but are not limited to using, more than one focus study for each part of the Section II depth study questions parts (a), (b) and (c).

Question 12: Popular Culture

  1. In better responses, candidates concisely outlined the key features of access to a popular culture. They offered several specific examples of the ways in which consumers can achieve access (eg radio, iPod, iTunes, internet, magazines and clothing) in a response that linked access to the popular culture nominated.

    In weaker responses, candidates often listed or identified the ways rather than outlined and linked them to access to a popular culture.

  2. In better responses, candidates linked the roles that both official and unofficial censorship have in the control of the popular culture from their depth study, relating this cohesively to other depth study concepts such as perceptions and paraphernalia. These candidates provided a definition of censorship and often clarified this with specific examples from the micro and macro world. Some candidates also examined the notion of self-censorship within a popular culture.

    In weaker responses, candidates often struggled to clarify their meaning of censorship. These responses tended to be a description of popular culture that often mentioned control and provided a loose connection to censorship in one popular culture. They were often limited by a poor choice of popular culture focus studies that did not allow for a discussion of the role of censorship. Candidates are reminded that their selection of a focus study should account for every section of the popular culture syllabus – they are discouraged from selecting a focus study that does not effectively relate to one or more areas of the syllabus.

  3. In better responses, candidates identified and examined aspects of positive and negative social change. They also examined the controversial nature of perceptions of social change and the fact that aspects of one popular culture that have become part of society may be viewed positively by some groups in society but negatively by others. These candidates effectively presented ideas both for and against the integration of these aspects of one popular culture, and examined ideas of the creation, consumption, control and spread of popular cultures. They also provided a range of examples and detailed evidence from one focus study to support their ideas in clear and coherent responses.

    In weaker responses, candidates focused explicitly on the positive and negative aspects of their popular culture focus study without exploring the wider notion of social change and the effect that a popular culture can have on society. They showed a limited understanding of the concept of social change. Some responses presented a description of the historical development of their popular culture without effectively relating this to the question. These responses also tended to use course concepts in a limited way, in either disorganised or illogical responses. Candidates also often drew on limited or inappropriate focus studies that provided them with few opportunities to make meaningful comments about social change or elements that may have become a part of society. These responses relied on focus studies that were either particularly narrow, for example individual artists like Justin Bieber or brands like Carebears, or focus studies that were very broad.

Question 13: Belief Systems

  1. In better responses, candidates clearly outlined the main features of the concept of worldview. These candidates used a range of examples to assist in explaining the concept.

    Weaker responses identified some features of the concept worldview. These responses often confused worldview with belief systems.

  2. In better responses, candidates demonstrated a clear understanding of the difference between religious and non-religious belief systems. They distinguished between power structures, culture and the organisation of religious and non-religious belief systems. They provided a range of appropriate examples of religious and non-religious belief systems. They integrated other course terms and concepts, such as ritual, culture, society, power and gender, into their response. These responses were well organised and effectively used supporting evidence.

    In weaker responses, candidates identified some aspects of religious and non-religious belief systems. They often provided a general description of religious and non-religious belief systems. Many responses focused generally only on religious belief systems.

  3. In better responses, candidates demonstrated a high level of understanding of their chosen belief system. They identified a range of appropriate examples to assess the belief system’s effect at both a national and global level. Candidates made clear and appropriate judgements on the extent of this effect. Examples were drawn from both a micro and macro context. These responses effectively applied a range of other course concepts, such as westernisation, globalisation and worldview.

    In weaker responses, candidates provided a description of their chosen belief system, often outlining its historical context rather than addressing the question. These responses often neglected to address all the components of the question, focusing solely on national or global effects.

Question 14: Equality and Difference

  1. In better responses, candidates demonstrated a clear understanding of ‘difference’, referring to social and cultural influences such as social class, ‘race’ and ethnicity, religion and belief systems and/or location. They may have also referred to social differentiation, conflict and cooperation.

    In weaker responses, candidates ‘identified’ areas of difference rather than outlining these differences.

  2. In better responses, candidates provided characteristics and features of both commonality and difference. They may have referred to values, norms, identities, ‘race’ and ethnicity, power, authority and socio-economic status. Some referred to both commonality and difference in one specific group in society. They effectively applied course concepts.

    In weaker responses, candidates either identified commonalities and weaknesses or gave some detail to either a commonality or a weakness, but not both. Answers contained little or incorrect evidence, and provided little use of course concepts and language.

  3. In better responses, candidates defined what is meant by ‘socially valued resources’. In these responses, candidates used case studies and examples and incorporated relevant current statistics. In some cases, appropriate quotes from sociologists and research publications were also included.

    Some candidates included the poverty cycle to demonstrate the interrelationship of socially valued resources. Others considered the negative consequences of poor access to socially valued resources, and also addressed the initiatives that have been established to overcome this.

Question 15: Work and Leisure

  1. In better responses, candidates outlined a clear, realistic relationship between education and work.

    In weaker responses, candidates described or defined both education and/or work without drawing any link between the two. Some made simplistic statements without awareness of the complexities of such a relationship.

  2. In better responses, candidates described, in some detail, a range of socially significant effects of technology on both work and leisure. Some also raised the impact of the blurring of the distinction between work and leisure as a result of technology.

    In weaker responses, candidates identified examples of technological innovations or gadgets, without describing any social effects.

  3. In better responses, candidates explained, in some detail, a range of significant implications of long-term unemployment for both society and the perception of self, using appropriate evidence.

    In weaker responses, candidates tended to make a number of statements, sometimes quite extreme and unsubstantiated, with little explanation. These statements also often focused much more on the implications for either society or the perception of self.

Section III – Depth Studies

Question 16: Popular Culture

In better responses, candidates showed an understanding of the concept of technology in its many forms. They recognised the variety of ways in which technology can influence the development of popular culture through production, consumption, access, control and perceptions. They identified a range of points for and against the ways in which technology may affect the development of popular culture. Some candidates acknowledged the role that technology can play in allowing popular cultures to subvert the traditional model of local to national to global, by utilising global technologies to emerge directly from local to global, and predicted this as a continuing trend. Some candidates also applied methodologies for making future projections, for example trend extrapolation. Candidates effectively applied a range of appropriate course concepts, such as globalisation, change, influence, consumption, access, control, institutional powers, stakeholders, westernisation and control. These responses were supported by a range of appropriate evidence from one or more relevant depth studies that allowed for meaningful and effective judgements to be made. They were sustained, logical and cohesive in their structure, clearly addressing all parts of the question.

In weaker responses, candidates often presented a narrative of the historical development of one popular culture focus study, with little reference to future projections. In such responses, candidates demonstrated a limited understanding of the role of technology in the development or future directions of popular culture. They did not refer to any one of the local, national and global scales. Some candidates asserted that it was impossible to make future projections for their popular culture. Students should be aware of the requirement to make supported and logical future projections and of the methodologies used to do so. They tended to use a limited range of examples. The examples chosen were often taken from inappropriate depth studies of popular culture that limited the candidates’ ability to make logical and supported future projections related to the concept of technology.

Question 17: Belief Systems

In better responses, candidates demonstrated a substantial understanding of the impact of change on the nature of power within belief systems. They clearly identified changes, such as the breakdown of traditional institutional power structures and changing gender roles. They linked these changes to the causes of the changes, and effectively made judgements about their impact within the belief system focus study, often at both a micro and macro level. In addition, they presented a coherent and well-structured response that effectively applied a range of course concepts and language. These responses were able to use a range of appropriate examples to illustrate how change has impacted on power structures within the belief system focus study.

In weaker responses, candidates often confused the impact of change on power within a belief system with a belief system’s impact on society due to the change. These responses were descriptive and often provided a general assessment of changes within the belief system focus study. Some candidates focused on a country and changes within that country due to technology or globalisation. These responses provided very limited judgements about the belief system.

Question 18: Equality and Difference

In better responses, candidates focused on the evaluation required by using the focus study and/or a range of relevant examples to make a judgement or judgements on the extent to which examples of authority, such the government(s), legal system, workplace or family and inequality, are interrelated. This included determining the value of the strategies that these institutions have used effectively to overcome inequality/ies. These candidates also identified institutions that have maintained practices of inequality. In addition, they detailed what should be done to address inequality/ies in a society. In these responses, candidates supported their arguments with evidence from statistical data, content analysis, case studies and other research in ways that demonstrated a high level of understanding of the relationship between authority and inequality.

In weaker responses, candidates described how a society (or sections of a society) has inequalities. Some course concepts were used, but there was an inability to make judgements that often led to these candidates making general statements.

Question 19: Work and Leisure

In better responses, candidates displayed a genuine understanding of the concept of class. The discussion was directed at both work and leisure, and included a range of socially significant effects of class. Candidates included the application of a variety of appropriate concepts from this depth study, and presented a sustained and logical response.

In weaker responses, candidates had difficulty applying the concept of class, often confusing it with status, wealth or caste. Some made unfounded claims providing little or no discussion. Candidates did not sustain a logical, coherent argument, and course themes and concepts were not evident.