Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Defending Social Research

If you're anything like me, meaning that you're a student, you sometimes want to feel that the choices you're making are the right ones, especially when it comes to your studies. I'd imagine that every student serious about their studies goes through this at some point; the need to feel validated is something that all humans need at some point.

While all students may go through this at some point, or even frequently, it seems that there are some areas of study that must be more rigorously defended than others. The social sciences, for example, seem to come under attack more so than others, like here in this New York Times opinion article.

At first, the reasons for this seem intuitive. For better or worse, we largely go to college in order to increase our chances of success in the job market, and even those of us who are in it for the pure thrill of learning (#nerdalert) cannot help but keep the practical applications of our studies in the back of our minds. That being said, it is not very hard to think of applications for a degree in, say, computer science, chemistry, or health services. The demand for tech jobs, jobs in the "hard" sciences, and jobs in health departments is expected to continue increasing (as predicted here, here, and here).

But what about the social sciences? Like English degrees, is there any hope for someone with a degree in the social sciences to do anything other than teach or be a professional in whichever field (i.e. literary critic, writer, professional sociologist, etc.)?
Picture is mostly unrelated.
Well luckily for you, the applications and benefits of the social sciences are many, even if they are (granted) a bit harder to find sometimes. Our own Dr. Vos has a few podcasts (like this one here) where he talks about some of the career paths that sociology students have found after graduating. In fact, the Sociology department recently hosted a career night, to inform soon-to-be graduates about options they have for their degrees.

But this kind of support is not coming from just the professors, who are perhaps a bit biased towards their students' success. To finally reference the article that was the inspiration for this post, support for the social sciences and its worth to society can be found all over the place, if you know where to look.

This article, written in the Harvard Business Review by Duncan Watts, was very encouraging to me, the author of this post. Mr. Watts addressed certain things that I have thought of on my own in reference to public opinion towards social research.

I won't quote the whole article, but the main thrust of Mr. Watts' article is that the results of social research are not always as "tangible" as some might like, particularly when it comes to those in the government funding such research. And part of the reason the benefits don't seem tangible is that oftentimes it seems like the results of social research are merely common sense. To quote Mr. Watts: 

In brief, we don't have any experience being ants or atoms, so if I tell you something about them that you didn't know, it sounds exotic and non-obvious. It sounds like science. But everyone has experience being human, and so the vast majority of findings in social science coincide with something that we have either experienced or can imagine experiencing. The result is that social science all too often seems like common sense.

Nevermind that common sense, as Mr. Watts points out in another article linked to the one above, is a problematic concept in itself, something that social science researchers have pointed out several times. I feel like it should be pointed out that while Mr. Watts is an advocate for social science, he has a physics degree, and works for Microsoft at the moment.

So in short, go sociology.

If you have any ideas for articles or topics, feel free to send us ideas at sociologyws@gmail.com. If you're really interested, you can follow the author of this post on Twitter, and even Pinterest and Google+ if you're that motivated. He tries to say interesting stuff.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012



Apologies for (another) delayed absence. Hopefully after this week the posts will be more regular. This particular rant post is not so much my own musing as it is links to other articles. With that said, enjoy!

The first article, which I found while perusing Twitter, comes from a website called Townhall.com, written by a man named Derek Hunter. The post, entitled "Race Matters...To Racists," explores how (in the author's opinion) the political "left" are simultaneously the ones who blow the whistles about mistreatment of minorities, and the ones who perpetuate most of this oppression, through practices like. Click here to read it. I will warn you, it is a bit inflammatory.

Seriously guys, you should read by
Bagpipe article about inflammatory speech.
Click here to find that.

The next article comes from the blog Racialicious, which is still one of the coolest titles I have yet heard for a blog. The article, which you can find here, is about how young adult literature, and young adult books specifically, need to diversify the perception of female beauty they portray on their covers away from the stereotypical skinny white girl.

While these may seem largely unrelated, they do present both sides of this perceived argument,and touch on a few important points in the general debate about race, like is colorblindness the best way to deal with this, or would something like affirmative action be better?

Hopefully the next post will not be so far off. Going back to Townhall.com, perhaps the next post will be about the kind of imagery different news agencies try to convey with their titles, depending on their particular political or religious leaning.

If you have an idea for an interesting article or topic you would like us to research, or a post you already have cooked up (that would be great), please feel free to send it to us at sociologyws@gmail.com. We'll give you credit and everything. If you would like to follow the author of this particular post on Twitter, you can find him @Habitualbe. He's also on Google+ and Pinterest if you're that motivated.