ask a scatterbrain: managing workflow.

As I have admitted before, I am a terrible electronic file-keeper. If I was to count up the minutes I have wasted in the last 15 years searching for files that should have been easy to find or typing and retyping Stata code that would have (and should have) been a simple do-file or doing web searches for things that I read that I thought I wanted to include in lectures or powerpoints or articles but couldn’t place, I fear I would discover many months of my life wasted as a result of my organizational ineptitude.

For a long while, these bad habits only affected me (and the occasional collaborator). It was my wasted time and effort. Now, though, expectations are changing and this type of disorganization can make or break a career. I think about my dissertation data and related files, strewn about floppy disks and disparate folders, and I feel both shame and fear. Continue reading “ask a scatterbrain: managing workflow.”

you could be the new theory newsletter editor


The Theory Section is looking for a new editor or editorial team for its newsletter, Perspectives. We are now soliciting self-nominations from faculty members or students currently enrolled in a sociology PhD program. Teams of 2 or 3 people are very welcome to apply.

Previous issues of Perspectives can be viewed at, but prospective editors are free to innovate in terms of content and form. Tenure is for a 3-year term.

Please submit a CV and a 2-page letter of interest (including a short description of how you envision the newsletter) to the members of the Advisory Board:

We look forward to hearing from you!

ask a scatterbrain: writing goals

A colleague of mine has set up a writing accountability group for the summer. They’ll check in once a week to see how the past week went and to map out the coming week. The group is not explicitly about reading one another’s work, but about ensuring that such work is accomplished. I thought some of her questions and concerns would be a worthwhile discussion to have with a wider audience and something that others who might plan such groups could benefit from.

  • Should these groups be about encouragement, measuring progress, evaluating goal achievement, all of the above, or something else?
  • If the group is about encouragement, how can one balance encouragement with enabling? What happens if someone always has an excuse for why they’re not writing? Should they continue to be part of the group?
  • If the group is about progress, what are some of the ways that we can measure progress on intellectual work when it’s not always clear-cut (e.g., an argument is developing, even if I haven’t written the introduction, the paper might not be getting longer, but it’s getting more polished) ?
  • If the group is about setting and evaluating goals, what type of goals are most effective? Is it better to say, “I’ll finish the data and methods section of Paper A this week,” or to say, “I will actively work on Paper A five days this week,” or something in-between?
  • Are there ways for fellow group members to motivate progress and goal achievement? Gold stars worked in grade school, but what works in grad school or on the tenure-track?
  • If someone is working on a number of projects, should they work on each of these a little each week, or focus on them one at a time? Is it possible for people to move projects forward in tandem, in ways that are mutually beneficial, or does multitasking come with too much of a cost?

Finally, are there other things that readers would suggest about such groups? Do you have good success stories, things to be wary of? Any feedback is welcome.

(grad)student-faculty interaction

Notre Dame loves to make videos. They are currently working on a series about graduate students’ experiences on campus and I had a meeting with the production company today to discuss one of the videos, a segment focused on (grad)student-faculty interaction. As great as the meeting was, I left feeling incredibly discouraged about the state of (grad)student-faculty interaction and wondering what, if anything, can be done to change it.

Continue reading “(grad)student-faculty interaction”

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.