Friday Roundup: Nov. 15, 2013

RU111513The Care and Feeding of Co-Authors:

As Chris Uggen pointed out on the Twitters, it’s easy to disappoint your coworkers. Whether it’s producing actual Swedish Fish when a candy-mergency arises in a late-night writing session or dropping the ball when it’s your turn to write the lit review, there are just so many opportunities to co-write badly. Here’s my very quick editorial advice should you decide to undertake a co-authored project:

  1. Be sure everyone really has the time and inclination.
  2. Set intentions about who will do what—particularly who will take care of the final read and smoothing of the paper. One author needs to take charge of smoothing over the seams and making it an easy read that doesn’t feel like three separate papers fighting for control. Ask an RA to take over getting the bibliography right and consistent to avoid tedium and scrappy references.
  3. Stop worrying about author order.
  4. Have skype, phone, or in-person meetings regularly and write up a quick summary to share with the group right afterward. Be sure that you’re all on the same page (and in the same journal).
  5. Enjoy the MadLibs fun times that will occur when you let others bring in their own tangents, their own random inspirations, and their own misfit sentences that can be plugged into the article at will. Helping form ideas into real through-lines is fun work and a productive process, whether it ever results in an article or project at all.

Now, on to the fun here at TSP this week!

In Case You Missed It:

Is Sociology Ruining Your Fun?” by Alex Casey. Reviving an old but still relevant essay from a former TSP undergraduate assistant.

The Editors’ Desk:

Tenure, Time Use, and a Quick Laugh,” by Doug Hartmann. How professors want to spend their time and how their departments hope they’ll spend their time: a mismatch of mathematical impossibility.

There’s Research on That!

ENDA Ending Discrimination?” by Andrew Wiebe. Adding sexuality to the definition of workplace discrimination.

Shop and Frisk?” by Rahsaan Mahadeo. The author says it best: Shopping while black is not a crime, but what happens when a store assumes the customer is always white?

Citings & Sightings:

Squeaky Clean?” by Kat Albrecht. It’s not that 75% of Minnesotans aren’t criminals, they just haven’t been charged.

Slots, Pot, and the Culture Wars,” by Erin Hoekstra. Making choices about vice crimes.

Reading List:

The Precarity of the Glass Elevator,” by Erin Hoekstra. New research reexamines the “glass escalator” to see how men are faring in “feminine” professions in a recession.

A Few from the Community Pages:

Scholars Strategy Network:

Why Minorities and Low Income Americans Have a Big Stake in a Free and Open Internet,” by Roderick Graham.

Can Marriage Promotion Help Children Growing Up with Single Mothers?” by Angela Bruns.

Tenure, Time Use, and a Quick Laugh

Comic © Jorge Cham via PhDComics. Click for original.
Comic © Jorge Cham via PhDComics. Click for original.

The life and work of a sociology professor was a topic of conversation in my senior capstone course this week. It started when I asked students to estimate what percent of my time was allocated to teaching, research, service, and public outreach/engagement—and then told them about how formal tenure requirements and departmental expectations compared with my actual hours worked on any given week. I was trying to illustrate competing pressures and demands, and I couldn’t help but laugh when one student sent along this cartoon (with no comment or analysis).

Perhaps I’d gone overboard  stressing the disconnections? I really do love my job.

But back to class: one of the biggest topics of inquiry and conversation involved the question of where outreach and engagement fit in the world of higher education? My students this semester have been fascinated with and actually kind of inspired by what we call“public sociology,” while also puzzled by its lack of recognition and reward in the big scheme of academia, especially in the context of a public land grant institution like we have here at the University of Minnesota.

Friday Roundup: August 2, 2013

RU080213Still Wise Words

Hopefully, we all have a teacher or two who stirs fond memories. For me, one of the first to spring to mind is Loren J. Samons II, a professor of classical studies at my alma mater, Boston University. Prof. Samons is notable for many reasons (one of his brilliant strokes was to refer to the class, collectively, as “scholars”—a convention that set the tone for each lecture in just one word), but this week, I found an old syllabus. I wondered why I’d kept it—I took several classes from Prof. Samons in my time at BU, but it still seemed an odd document to cling to, some 12 years after graduation. And then I read. Nestled within many wise words for young students learning to learn, write, engage with literature, and find their way through sources both ancient and modern, was this gem:

Your most important functions on the computer are “delete” and “trash.” The more frequently you employ these, the better your paper will be. The most dangerous functions are “cut” and “paste.” No sentence or paragraph you compose has a right to exist. It is more difficult to correct a bad sentence than it is to write a new, good sentence. A paragraph that is ill-constructed in one part of your paper will be just as ill-constructed two pages later.

The italics are mine. Elsewhere, Samons states so many things that have become part of my standard advice to writers. Surely, I lifted them from this influential professor. For instance:

If you cannot point to a thesis statement or several sentences informing the reader precisely what you will argue, you need to rewrite your introduction.


The key to knowing whether a paper is long enough [or short enough] is the following question: Have I established my case?

And of course:

The best argument can be spoiled by poor or sloppy presentation… special care should be paid to spelling, punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary. The following tips may help…: Dictionaries should be consulted frequently… Read your work to yourself aloud… Give it to someone whose writing you respect or who will be brutally honest with you [to read].

Now, on to a few authors who’ve hit every item on Dr. Samons’ list this week.


Social Fact: The Homicide Divide,” by Lauren J. Krivo and Julie A. Phillips. Murder is the most common cause of death among young black males. Here are the facts.

Color-Blindness vs. Race-Consciousness: An American Ambivalence,” by Meghan A. Burke. Burke suggests that by avoiding claims to colorblindness and, instead, facing tricky racial issues head-on, the U.S. will arrive more quickly at a country in which race is present without being divisive.

The Editors’ Desk:

If You See Something, Say Something,” by Chris Uggen. The unexpected, but earnest compliment: a humble but effective bonding mechanism. Or: go out of your way to be nice. It’s worth the trip.

The Quarterback Sociologist,” by Doug Hartmann. The 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick is many things, but is he the prime example of QB habitus?

Citings & Sightings:

After DOMA,” by Erin Hoekstra. Sociologist Rick Settersten on “chasing the law” when it comes to marriage and adoption rights for all.

You’re Dad’s Favorite,” by John Ziegler. Resentment builds when fathers show their favoritism.

The More Things Change,” by John Ziegler. American time use hasn’t changed much in 50 years, though we are getting more ________ (hint: rhymes with “fredentary”).

Teaching TSP:

Book Review Speed Dating,” by Hollie Nyseth Brehm. A witty way to get students talking about their readings.

A Few From the Community Pages:

Oh noes. It’s late. The week’s nearly over. Today I must leave it with: the Community Pages are churning out great content as usual, so please, please, share your favorites in the comments!

Scholars Strategy Network:

Violence against Women Riding Public Transport Is a Global Issue—Especially in Developing Countries,” by Meda Chesney-Lind.

The Pros and Cons of State Tax Breaks for Senior Citizens,” by Bayliss J. Camp and Charles Lockhart.

Time and the Big Tent

Circus Tent by Thomas Totz via
Circus Tent by Thomas Totz via

This past weekend I came across a piece by Pulitzer Prize winner Gareth Cook in the Boston Globe about new research showing that spending time helping others can actually make it seem like we’ve got more time for ourselves. It sounded like a great, eminently sociological project in so many ways: its emphasis on the social meaning and variable experience of time, the importance of selflessness and interacting with others, the use of interviews and experiments, and, of course, the classic, counter-intuitive conclusion that the best solution for not feeling like you have enough time is to make time for others.

My first thought was to throw it over to our Citings & Sightings team as another cool case of how sociological research finds its way to public attention in and through the mass media. But a closer look made me pause. It turns out the research was produced by a team headed up by a professor in a business school (Harvard, no less).  Scholars who teach future MBAs to make millions taking on questions of selflessness and the social experience of time? Suddenly I found myself getting cynical about the researcher’s claim that such activities give us confidence we can get things done and allows us to feel more in control of our own lives.

Lately, whether it is management professors, researchers in public health, or cultural studies critics, scholars all over the academy seem to be taking on topics and using methods and theories pioneered by sociologists. It is easy to be a bit skeptical or defensive, but rather than getting caught up in turf wars, I think it better to celebrate such insights and accomplishments as part of the structure and functioning of social life, claiming them as part of the big, broad sociological tent. It’s not important who is researching sociological questions, but that scholars of all stripes are calling attention to the importance and complexity of social life and interactions—a broad context that’s so often missing from the individualist, economistic, and biological visions of human beings and social life that are otherwise dominant in our academic culture.