Shopping in Prague

The following is a sample Paper 3 that looks at a case study in the Czech Republic. Below you will first find the stimulus piece, followed by the static questions.  A copy of the mock paper is included to give students as an in-class assessment.

Potential answers are included in the hidden boxes below.

Student copy

Shopping in the Czech Republic

Noting that teenagers are likely to adapt quite quickly to the recent phenomenon of shopping as a leisure time activity in the years since the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe, Spilkova & Radova (2011) conducted a study in the Czech Republic to try and understand the meaning of “hanging out” in shopping malls. Previous research had indicated that 60% of Prague’s teenagers spent their free time participating in sports or creative activities. The researchers wanted to see if this was changing.

The researchers conducted their study in a three-level shopping mall located outside of the centre with more than 200 shops, an entertainment zone and sports facility. The second phase of research was carried out at another mall that is more centrally located in a wealthier area of Prague.

The pilot study consisted of participant observation and semi-structured interviews of 14 - 17-year-old teenagers. It became clear that the teenagers had trouble identifying their motivation to be in the mall in their leisure time. Questions focused on what they did in the mall and why, as well as their feelings about the mall environment.

It was found that the teenagers tended to move in small groups with a favourite table in the food court, usually near the escalator with a good view. Generally, groups arrived early afternoon as single-gender but after some hours began to mix, usually coming straight after school and later on weekends because of chores at home. Most of those interviewed came every day and girls tended to stay longer than boys. In addition, the researchers found that Facebook was used to set up meetings and the mall was used as a kind of testing ground for recent Facebook friends to meet.

While boys went to the shops less often, very little purchasing was done by either gender, which is a substantial difference from similar research findings in the United States. The teenagers reported that their main reasons for being in the mall were to socialize and to be in a safe place where nobody was telling them what to do. The overall conclusion was that the main purpose of being in the mall was to support identity formation through talking and marking out the space as their own.

Spilkova, J. and Radova, L. (201). The formation of Identity in Teenage Mall Microculture: A Case Study of Teenagers in Czech Malls. Sociologický časopis/Czech Sociological Review, 47:3


1a. Identify the method used and outline two characteristics of the method.

A case study was used in this study. A case study uses more than one research method - in this case, observations and interviews.  This is called method triangulation.  The goal of a case study is to make sure that the results are the same in both research methods, establishing credibility. In addition, case studies look at a specific group of people without having the goal of generalizing to a larger population. Finally, case studies usually take place over a longer period of time - that is, they are longitudinal.

1b. Describe the sampling method used in the study.

The study uses opportunity sampling - that is, the sample that exists in the malls at the time of the study.  This means that the group that is studied is transient and it may be difficult to recreate the sample. Although it is a sample of opportunity, it is also purposive.  Only 14 - 17-year-olds were observed and interviewed.  This is because the question being researched was focused on this age group.

1c. Suggest an alternative or additional research method giving one reason for your choice.

The researcher could use a focus group in order to get feedback on how the teenagers use their free time.  This would mean that the conversation would be more "natural" and thus may result in responses that may not occur if it were just a one-on-one interview.  When people hear other people's comments, it may prompt responses that they would not think of on their own. Using a focus group is also more efficient in that data is collected from several people at one time.

2. Describe the ethical considerations that were applied in the study and explain if further ethical considerations could be applied.

As the observations were done covertly, there was no informed consent granted by the participants.  The interviews then obtained consent and after the interview, the researchers would debrief the participants, guaranteeing the confidentiality of their information and explaining how the information will be used. The participants also would have to have the right to withdraw their data.

3. Discuss how a researcher could ensure that the results of the study are credible.

Especially because this is a study of teenagers by professional researchers, it is important that credibility is established. It is important for the readers of the study to know that the teenagers agreed with the conclusions drawn by the researchers and that they feel that the conclusions reflect what they said in their interviews. The fact that observations were done is a form of triangulation. This also helps to establish whether the participants' responses to the interviews were in line with their actual behaviours. This also increases the credibility. If the credibility is high, we can conclude that the results are not due to the fact that an interview was the method chosen, but in fact represents the attitudes of teenagers in Czech malls.
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