Citing more broadly

How do you decide what literature to cite when you write an article? Sociologists routinely complain that economists fail to cite the sociological work on the topics they write about. But sociologists themselves are typically citing too narrowly. Most view citations as a matter of nodding (or genuflecting) toward the “key” people or concepts with special attention to making sure to cite anybody who they think might end up reviewing the paper. In the process they focus on a few famous people (mostly White men), often those assigned in the courses taken in grad school, and/or articles published in the American Sociological Review or the American Journal of Sociology. We may also include people we know personally or have met at conferences.

These practices both tend to downplay the contributions of women and people of color and tend to exacerbate the prestige hierarchy in sociology. The #CiteBlackWomen campaign has been importantly pushing back against these practices, but even intentionally citing Black women runs into the problem that there are no race designations in citations so you have to know who is a Black woman to cite them, leading to citations of a few famous people, not a broader base of citations. Reviewers are notorious for “cite me” recommendations or the occasional suggestion of lines of research the writer has missed, but apart from that, a typical journal reviewer is not generally going to have an encyclopedic knowledge of all research in an area and it is not reasonable to expect reviewers to do their own literature searches as part of a review.

I’ve talked to students about their citation practices, and it appears that the most common approach involves sorting Google Scholar search results by number of times cited, and citing the most commonly-cited sources. This, of course, just exacerbates inequality.

So how can we get out of this box? I have been as bad as everyone else for most of my career, but I have recently been working hard to push back against the elitist bias, and want to share some of the strategies I have used to try to expand my citation networks. I urge others to share yours.

Since this post has gotten long, let me begin with my three main take-away points. The rest is strategies for implementation.

  1. Look for and cite the most recent work on your empirical topic, paying special attention to work coming from people who are not already highly-cited, less-prestigious institutions, and less-prestigious journals. This requires a broad search strategy, about which more below.
  2. If your work takes off from some key theoretical or empirical papers, look for the recent work that cites those papers in Google Scholar or Web of Science, again paying special attention to works by those who are not already elites.
  3. Pay attention to work in progress including dissertations, conference papers, and publications in journals your library does not subscribe to.  PDFs of many of these are available online through working paper repositories (SocArXiv, ResearchGate, Academic, SSRN, and many campus or personal web sites); good libraries subscribe to the dissertation database. You can also do an Internet search for the author and email them to ask for a copy of the work and to ask whether there is a published version or related papers. Most people are happy to cooperate when you make these requests.

Continue reading “Citing more broadly”

legal estrangement and police reform in minneapolis

The following is a co-authored post by Michelle Phelps, Amber Joy Powell, and Christopher Robertson.

Since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, in 2014, the topic of police violence and police reform has been at the forefront of the debate about the future of criminal justice in the U.S. Questions about policing have peppered the recent Democratic debates and have featured prominently in some of their policy plans. This week, several candidates met with a group of men and women who were formerly incarcerated to discuss criminal justice reform.

Yet often missing in the public conversation about police reform are the voices of community members most heavily impacted. While some of these residents get involved in community organizing, through #BlackLivesMatter chapters and other groups, many never have their opinions on police reform heard.

During 2017-2019, our research team traced the process of police reform through the eyes of the local police (Minneapolis Police Department), professionals and activists involved in reform, and residents in North Minneapolis, the residential community in our city most impacted by high rates of poverty, racial segregation, street crime, and police contact.

In this post, we provide some preliminary results from our interviews with residents in North Minneapolis. We conducted over 120 interviews, collecting survey responses about attitudes toward the police and in-depth qualitative accounts of their experiences with police and attitudes about police, policing advocacy groups, and police reform.

Continue reading “legal estrangement and police reform in minneapolis”

live-tweeting the harvard affirmative action case

Today, a US District Court ruled that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies passes strict scrutiny. The full ruling is here. I live-tweeted a read through of the decision here, in case you’d like a bit of rambly commentary mixing Gelman-esque critiques of statistical methodology with a smattering of critical race theory. Here are some of my takeaways:

Continue reading “live-tweeting the harvard affirmative action case”

on exactitude in social science

…In that Empire, the Art of Machine Learning attained such Perfection that the data of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the data of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Datasets no longer satisfied, and the Machine Learning Faculty built a Dataset of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Machine Learning as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Dataset was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Data, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Statistics.

—Jorge Luis Borges, Obras Completas v7, translated from the 20th century by @asociologist

imagining sociology’s theorists as contestants on a home design show

A while back, I made a joke on Facebook about panopticons and open floor plans, and a friend commented that she’d love to see a version of the television show House Swap featuring Goffman and Parsons. That gem of an idea (thanks Carolyn Chernoff) then became this Twitter post, imagining various sociological theorists as contestants on a home design competition show (I was bingeing Ellen’s Design Challenge at the time).

I ended up sharing the thread with my Intro Soc students, and I thought I’d share it here, too. It’s a clever way to help students compare key points from each theorist, and it could also work as inspiration for a creative class assignment. You could have your students apply the same concept and imagine various theorists as contestants on food competition shows or quiz shows or as popular athletes or musicians.

Here’s the setup: Imagine that some of Sociology’s theorists are contestants on a home design competition show. Each theorist has been asked to choose a chair to complete a particular room. 

chairs

Host: Welcome to Soc Theory Design Challenge! First up, we have Talcott Parsons. Tell us about your design.

Continue reading “imagining sociology’s theorists as contestants on a home design show”

the science of gay gene science

The following is a guest post by Jeff Lockhart.

It is that time of year again: Science has a new study by Ganna et al. on the “gay gene,” and major outlets like the New York Times have picked it up. While many are just encountering this area of research for the first time, numerous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of sexual orientation have been published since the invention of GWAS in the early 2000s. Like others in the genre, Ganna et al. uncritically cite and perpetuate research with deep theoretical, methodological, and ethical flaws, like the Wang & Kosinski “gayface” paper. But rather than frustration, I’m taking my cue from XKCD: this is an opportunity to introduce others to an exciting area of Science and Technology Studies.

Continue reading “the science of gay gene science”

the first day of school

Wednesday was my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten. And I managed to get through the whole day without any tears. I got through Thursday’s drop-off, too, even when my daughter stopped me outside the school and said: “You don’t need to come in, Mom. I know where to go.”

As I walked back home, I scrolled through Twitter on my phone. And that’s when I first saw the articles.  On Wednesday, hundreds of immigrant workers in Forest, Mississippi had been detained, taken away without warning when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers raided the food processing plants where they worked.

The children of those workers came home from school to empty, locked houses. They were crying and looking desperately for their parents. It was their first day of school, too.

Wednesday was my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten. And I managed to get through the whole day without any tears. I got through Thursday’s drop-off, too, even when my daughter stopped me outside the school and said: “You don’t need to come in, Mom. I know where to go.”

As I walked back home, I scrolled through Twitter on my phone. And that’s when I first saw the articles.  On Wednesday, hundreds of immigrant workers in Forest, Mississippi had been detained, taken away without warning when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers raided the food processing plants where they worked.

The children of those workers came home from school to empty, locked houses. They were crying and looking desperately for their parents. It was their first day of school, too.

Continue reading “the first day of school”