Applied Sociology and Economic Consulting

Writing for Bloomberg View, American Professor of Finance, Noah Smith, superficially reviews a sociology discussion paper exploring the social networks of economists. The original paper by sociology Professor Marion Fourcade and colleagues finds that economists are better positioned materially to both benefit from, and influence, economic policy because they work in business schools as well as in lucrative consulting firms. Smith argues that sociologists are out of touch with what the market demands are, and he concludes that we don’t earn enough as a result. In Smith’s eyes, we don’t do enough statistics. Applied sociologists earn less, in general, not because our work is arcane nor because it is not useful, but because we mostly work in low-paying -though no less important – social welfare and health policy fields.

Annual median and 90thpercentile wages in selected disciplines, 199-2012.  Via Marion Fourcade, Etienne Ollion, and Yann Algan.

Annual median and 90th percentile wages in selected disciplines, 199-2012. Via Marion Fourcade, Etienne Ollion, and Yann Algan.

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Where to Look For Contract Research Work

It can be tough to know where to look for a job as an applied sociologist. Contract work can be an ideal place to start out so you can build up your resume. To this end, there are a couple of industries where you might focus your job hunt initially. Here are some tips for finding work in social research with market agencies; how to look for work with local governments; and how to maximise your chances with specialist recruitment agencies. Remember that many contract opportunities also come up through personal networks, so staying well-connected is essential!

Contract research work in applied sociology

Photo: Texas A&M University-Commerce, CC 2.0 via Flickr. Adapted by SociologyAtWork.org

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Classic Quote of the Week: Zygmunt Bauman on The Task for Sociology

Your sociology quote of the week is by Zygmunt Bauman, featured in an interview with The Guardian. Bauman reflects on the political landscape in the UK, and how our discipline needs to focus on finding applied answers to social problems. He was unhappy to note that our roles were being filled in by statisticians and philosophers. He saw that poverty and power imbalance should be addressed by sociology.

The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

Let’s continue to rise to the challenge, colleagues!

The task for sociology - Zygmunt Bauman

“The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.” – Zygmunt Bauman .

Classic Quote of the Week: Pierre Bourdieu on The Function of Sociology

Need some inspiration? Your sociology quote of the week comes from Pierre Bourdieu, as featured in The New York Times. In the first chapter of On Television, Bourdieu writes:

The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden. In so doing, it can help minimize the symbolic violence within social relations and, in particular, within the relations of communication.

The function of sociology. By SociologyAtWork.org

The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden. – Pierre Bourdieu

Talking Sociology With Local Communities

Volunteering is an important way to build applied sociology careers. Let’s explore how giving practical talks to community groups can improve both communities and our sociology. We’ll use a short case study of Dr. Ray McDonald, Assistant Professor at Wiley College in the USA, who gave a talk to his local Lions Club. His talk focused on practical research outcomes regarding Alzheimer’s Disease. The novel aspect of his talk was to blend sociological ideas with lifestyle tips. Demonstrating the everyday utility of sociological research is central to applied sociological work. If there’s a cause you’re already involved with or interested in getting into, here are some ways that  you can integrate your volunteering with your professional CV.

Bringing sociology to local communities. Walking the talk!

Bringing sociology to local communities. Walking the talk!

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Learning to Write a Thesis: An Applied Sociology Perspective

How long was your thesis? If you’re still a student, how long do you plan your thesis to be? In the amusing graphic below by blogger R is My Friend, we can see that sociology is right up there for voluminous pages, along with anthropology, political science and other social sciences. R is My Friend wrote a coding program to data mine The University of Minnesota library, extracting data about their students’ electronic dissertations held since 2007. R is My Friend notes:

Economics, mathematics, and biostatistics had the lowest median page lengths, whereas anthropology, history, and political science had the highest median page lengths. This distinction makes sense given the nature of the disciplines.

The data graphed are obviously limited to one university in a given period of time, but the results are still interesting to consider. In particular, we have a comparison point for theses length amongst various disciplines. Is page length an arbitrary measure? Don’t adages like “quality over quantity” count for anything? My post springboards from this diagram to address a serious issue, which is about how the academic system prepares students for applied research.

In part, we might say that it makes sense for sociology theses to be longer than most other disciplines, since much of our work is based on literature reviews, qualitative data analysis or interpretation of quantitative data using theory. The thing is, producing a long thesis will not necessarily help prepare you for a career as an applied sociologist. In this post, I reflect on the lessons I’ve learned about editing my writing as an applied sociologist. I show that in many cases, applied sociology research will involve the critical analysis of hundreds of sources and datasets which are usually presented in a short summary of only one or two pages. Let’s explore explore the question: How can we learn to write a better, leaner thesis given the reality of an applied career?

University of Minnesota PhD major sorted by median page length. By R is my friend via  Rakesh Yadav

University of Minnesota PhD major sorted by median page length. By R is my friend via Rakesh Yadav

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Breaking Down the Otherness of Applied Sociology

By Zuleyka Zevallos

This article was first published by Nexus in June 2008. [1]

The series focuses on the dis/connections between academia and applied sociology, with a view to breaking down the divide between these complimentary spheres of sociology. The authors discuss the production of specialised sociological research for specific interest groups, primarily in regards to different social policy contexts, and how their position as ‘other’ shapes their professional practices.

I consider the conceptual distinctions between applied and academic sociologies. I provide a framework for situating applied sociology, drawing on Burawoy’s (2004) theory of public sociology, and I discuss my work on national security as an example of public/policy sociology.

Bruce Smyth (forthcoming) shares his new experiences of working in a university, after having previously established his career with a government-funded research organisation. He sees that the divide between academic and applied sociologies is not so distinct, given the changing nature of Australian universities.

Joy Adams-Jackson (forthcoming) provides a case study of how academic and applied sociologies intersect for clinical sociologists, given her experiences as a registered nurse working in the mental health system. Her paper shows that being an ‘other’ both within the discipline of sociology and in her occupation is advantageous. First, her work simultaneously challenges ideas of where and how we do sociology outside academia, and second, it also highlights the potential for sociological theory to transform existing professional paradigms (in this case, a biomedical/psychiatric discourse).

The authors exemplify that, while there may be a divide between sociologists in and outside of academia, the intersections between our work strengthens the value of sociology to a broad range of audiences. The application of sociology outside academia therefore has a significant benefit to sociology’s scientific influence and its significance to the general public.

The application of sociology outside academia has significant benefit to sociology's significance to the general public.

The application of sociology outside academia has significant benefit to sociology’s significance to the general public.

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