reading and annotating on iPad

I am mulling the possibility ofmoving to iPad for use in reading, marking up, and filing PDF articles. For the past few years I’ve used a tabletlaptop which lets me write comments on the PDF and save the comments without printing out. I would like to be able to do that on the iPad. Does anyone out there in scatterland use an iPad for this purpose? Any recommendations fr best apps for this purpose?

scatterbleg: income and altruistic wishes

My wife is working on a project that demonstrates, among other things, that lower-income adolescents report “wishes” on a survey that are more for themselves, such as housing, cars, etc., where higher-income adolescents report more wishes that are altruistic for the world, e.g., the end of global warming or poverty. She is looking for sociological references to back up this (unsurprising) finding and/or to document mechanisms for it. Any thoughts?


ask a scatterbrain: training grads in research ethics

One of the many wonderful sociologists I chatted with in Vegas was Iowa’s Mary Campbell, a loyal scatterplot reader. She asked me to pose a question to you (and I’m hoping in my post-Vegas/ASA/first-week-of-classes haze I remember its essence – if I don’t, I blame Andrew Perrin pushing appletinis at the bloggettogether):

Apparently the University of Iowa has asked departments to ensure that graduate students are trained in research ethics. We’re not just talking about IRB certification, but moving well beyond this. Are others schools requiring such?  How are others approaching the issue? Or, if you’re not, do you have ideas of how to best do this? Of course the ASA has a guide on such concerns* that could certainly be a place to start, but what else is out there? A quick search on Amazon brings up various options, but surely faithful blog readers can provide a more personal recommendation.

Continue reading “ask a scatterbrain: training grads in research ethics”

ask a scatterbrain: journal submission length

Posted by request of a reader:

Some journals have maximum length guidelines for manuscripts that one submits, perhaps in page count or word length. If a journal’s guide to authors says that the maximum length is, say, a maximum of 9,000 words, what gets included in that word count if the guidelines do not explicitly state? (Footnotes, references, tables, the abstract?) And does “maximum” really mean no words over 8,000? Do standards differ for articles using different methods? Studying less familiar phenomena / places or using less familiar methods?

ask a scatterbrain: recent theory books

All right folks, it’s spring break which means it’s also time for me to think about what books to order for fall. On the docket this time around: a revamped introduction to sociology and graduate theory. For graduate theory, I’m looking for recommendations for recent (last 2-3 years) important theory books linked to current practice in sociology.  In past years I’ve taught Collins’ Interaction Ritual Chains; Latour’s Reassembling the Social; Jaspers’ Getting Your Way. I’m considering Collins again, maybe Elster, maybe Hedstrom, maybe Swedberg’s edited book on economic sociology and STS. Thoughts, opinions, ideas, all welcome!


ask a scatterbrain: crossover sociology

I am finally getting around to writing the second paper based on letters-to-the-editor data I collected in 2002 (!). I’m trying to decide whether to submit the paper to a sociology journal or a political science journal. Background: I think this will be a good paper, at least as important as the other one I published on these data.

Reasons for publishing in political science:

  • Larger audience
  • Opportunity for dialogue with scholars outside my discipline
  • The argument is relatively political science-esque, and much of the referenced material is from political science

Reasons for sticking with sociology:

  • The main colleagues I interact with regularly are sociologists
  • It’s not everyday that I have an article with potential for placement in a top journal in my field
  • Professionally, how will my own and other departments “count” a publication in a cognate discipline?


ask a scatterbrain: departmental colloquia

What do your departments do for departmental colloquia? I have seen various different models; I’d love to hear:

  • Are presenters mostly internal to your department/institution or from outside?
  • Do you have funding for the colloquium? How much?
  • How often does the colloquium happen?
  • Who attends? (Grad students? Faculty? Others?)
  • Is food provided?
  • Does the series have any particular theme or approach?



socialization syllabus.

I’m constructing the syllabus for a new upper-level sociology class next semester, “Socialization and the Life Course.” As far as I can tell, there are two ways that I can structure it.

The first is by institutions – the role of the family, schools, religion, media, work and occupations, etc. – in the “nurture” side of our development through the life course. The other, which sounds really cool to me if I can figure out how to make it happen, would explore socialization from (before) birth to death. The latter is more appealing for a number of reasons, including its ability to highlight sociology’s unique approach to socialization as something that occurs throughout the life course and that this framework might allow for more attention to the interplay of biological and social influences at various points in our lives.

Now that I’ve laid out what I want from the course, here’s what I’m looking for from you… readings (books or articles) or topics that you’d include in a similar class.  In thinking about the course I’ve realized that the relevant readings that I’ve used in other classes are predominantly 1) about gender (e.g. Martin, Thorne, Messner, and Kane) and 2) about childhood (e.g. those previously listed, plus Lareau, Van Ausdale & Feagin, and Adler & Adler).  I’d like a little variety.

Does anyone have ideas about “pre-natal socialization” (for lack of a better term), perhaps about particular parents’ proclivities to read to their child in utero or to play them Bach before they’re born, or the influence of widespread sonograms on parents’ construction of children’s worlds before they’re even born. What about the influence of names? Or perhaps someone has tips for moving beyond gender (and race and class, although I can use more in both those areas) to other roles or groups that we’re socialized into and stages beyond childhood and young-adulthood. Maybe Shamus has ideas for class beyond Lareau or Tina for how people learn to understand their own and others’ sexuality? What can other scatterbrains add about political socialization or trust or the role of neighborhoods? I’d also love insight on some readings that address the link between nature and nurture in ways that are accessible to undergrads. And, finally, what about the end of life. What are some good readings on retirement, old age, and death and dying with a socialization bent?

Alternatively, of course, you could just put your favorite socialization or life course reading in the comments.


ask a scatterbrain: what are the big questions?

This one comes from a graduate student who shall remain anonymous:

When we say “the big questions” what do we mean? What are the “big questions”?

I was thinking about reorienting my approach to teaching Intro by trying to make it focus on the big questions that sociology engages and how sociology has a unique perspective relative to other disciplines.  In particular, I was thinking about how we always talk about the “sociological imagination” but often don’t give that enough context.  The sociological imagination relative to what?  What are the alternatives?  How does that make it different from other disciplines?  Different from how we might be
accustomed to thinking?

The thing that first excited me about sociology was that it offered an entirely different way to think about the world than what I was accustomed to.  In our modern era of individualism, it seemed like an entirely different paradigm.  So I was thinking about how to convey this basic fact to Intro students and it led me to think that it might be interesting to try to give them a sense of the big questions that sociology engages and how it does so in a distinct way in order to better illustrate to my students how sociology is situated within the larger pursuit of knowledge and has a unique contribution to make.

ask a scatterbrain: what four words best describe you

My wife is working on analyzing the results of an instrument that included “what four words best describe you?”. So for each questionnaire, there are four free-form words that the subjects (generally, adolescent patients in clinics) put down. They’re looking for a coding schema for categorizing these words–anything come to mind? Any advice?

a philosophy cheat sheet for social theory

As I’ve been preparing to teach, for the first time, an Advanced Social Theory graduate seminar this fall, I’ve realized that it would be helpful to have a “cheat sheet” of philosophical terms useful for social theory. I am going to put one together and distribute it the first day of class. I ask you, O Scatterbrains, what terms ought to be included thereupon. Below is what I’ve thought of thus far. Let the suggestions begin; I will post the sheet when I complete it.

  • Ontology
  • Epistemology
  • Emergence
  • Metaphysics
  • Phenomenology
  • Positivism
  • Realism
  • Analytic

ask a scatterbrain: qualitative informants

I’m posting this question for a friend. I suggested for a project she’s working on that she consider asking focus group participants about what they think others might say about the same issues. The idea is to think about these (relatively few) respondents as informants about the field in which they move. In this case, the focus groups are with health-care providers, typically doctors, and she wants to ask them to what extent they’d expect their own concerns to be similar or different to the concerns of other providers they know.

She’s proposing this strategy to her funder, but I can’t provide citations where people have argued for and/or used it. I see it as asking people to report on their networks and fields instead of just their own experiences.

Any pointers? Thanks.

ask a scatterbrain: blogging for class assignments

Look, two scatterbrain questions in 24 hours!

This fall I’ll be teaching my first-year seminar, “Citizenship and Society in the United States.” It’s great fun, and the basic framework stays the same each time. However last time around (Fall ’08) I added a blogging component where the students were to write weekly entries on a class blog. I’d say the results were OK, but not as exciting as I’d hoped. The students, too, commented that they found it more a chore than an intellectual stretch.

So… have you used blogging of any sort as an assignment in class? Other than the anonymity question which we’ve discussed before, what worked well? I want to insure that they take it seriously and work at it, and that the overall effort is similar to that of a final paper. But I also want it to be flexible enough that it doesn’t end up forced.

ask a scatterbrain: textbook payola

Posted for an unnamed friend:

A college textbook representative, upon learning I was dropping a book I formerly used in a large class, wrote:

Is there ANYTHING that I can do to help make it possible for you to use at least one of our titles?  …

If it could make a difference for you, I’m sure that I could arrange for you to do some paid  reviewing for us, or even just provide you a grant to support something special for your course — like a couple of videos that we can purchase for you, or perhaps a grant of a gift card to a really nice restaurant that you can use in your professional life to interview work assistants, or entertain visiting sociologists.

I was as surprised by the blatant payola attempt as I was by my own naivete at seeing it for the first time. Is this common? Does it work?

ask a scatterbrain: advanced social theory

OK, it’s time to order books for the fall (zoinks!). I’m really excited about my graduate seminar in the fall, Advanced Social Theory, the first time we’ve been able to offer an advanced (meaning beyond one single semester!) social theory graduate course in the 9 years I’ve been here. I offered three general ideas for the course:

  1. Mid-20th-century American social theory and kin (e.g., Parsons, Merton, Lazarsfeld, etc.)
  2. Late Marxist and Postmodern theory (Frankfurt School, Foucault, Lyotard, Baudrillard, etc.)
  3. Theory in method, contemporary sociological work on theorizing the practice and result of sociological research

To my delight, the overall response has been most positive for option 3, so this time around it will be a “where the rubber hits the road” kind of course, considering current theoretical work that is in one way or another closely tied with empirical research.

So, dear scatterbrains – I ask you, what books shall I order? Of course article-based material will constitute a substantial portion of the syllabus, and that can be added later, but I need to order a few books. I think I’m looking for 3-4 books. Some of the possibilities I’m considering are below, but I’d love to hear your other thoughts too.

In no particular order, here are some of my ideas:

  • Ragin, Redesigning Social Inquiry
  • John Levi Martin, Social Structures
  • Ann Mische, Partisan Publics
  • Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran
  • Norton, 95 Theses on Culture, Politics, and Method