The SociologySource Podcast

Today we are launching the SociologySource Podcast. A lively discussion about the issues sociology teachers face and a whole lot more. We are making this a weekly thing, so subscribe via iTunes or check back every Thursday for a new episode. Our regular cohost is Chris Garneau from the University of Science and the Arts of Oklahoma.

We’ve had a blast recording the first two episodes and I can’t wait to share them with you all. If you have an idea for a show topic or if you have a question you’d like us to discuss on air, send an email to Podcast@SociologySource.com. So what are you waiting for? Go take a listen for yourself.

Framing is arguably one of the most crucial concepts our students can learn. Framing and social construction are inextricably connected processes. Only when you understand how frames are used to manipulate (and create) the public’s perception can you fully critically analyze social issues. If you don’t understand framing, it’s really easy to be taken by a well crafted message, regardless of how warranted and measured its claims are.

The problem is, students struggle with the concept. Framing is almost a meta-process. It’s something that often happens in between the lines. When done well it’s subtle and covert.

In class I will show my students a commercial, or some other curated message, and together we critically analyze each piece of the message. We work together to identify all of the symbols and frames used. Slowly, one by one, the class begins to nod along as we go through it until finally most of the class leans back in their chairs and smiles that, “A ha!” smile. However, the moment I ask them to do it on their own they struggle to see anything beyond the surface message.

The deep analysis of cultural messages is hard to teach and hard to learn precisely because cultural messages and frames hide in plain sight. So instead of starting the learning process by trying to give students the eyes to see their surround in new ways, I think it’s better to start with something much easier to see and then try to bring the skills gained back to the student’s everyday life.

I Need Your Help

The activity I am about to tell you about I’ve never been tried before. Unlike most posts on SociologySource, I won’t be talking about a project that worked smashingly for me. Rather, this is a call to our readers for help. I see a problem, I have an idea for a solution, and I need YOUR help to execute it.

Using Cover Songs to Teach Framing

Music provides a handy metaphor for framing. When a band or artist covers a previously popular song in a way that is all together different it demonstrates how the same base material can be framed in very different ways to create starkly contrasting affects. At the end of this post I have some examples of just the sort of covers I am talking about.

I want to design a simple in-class (and/or homework) assignment that asks students to read a bit about issue framing and then analyze two starkly different versions of the same song.

Here’s What I Need

  1. Song Recommendations.
  2. Help me find songs that have dramatically different versions between the original and the cover version. The Holy Grail would be a song with two versions that are diametrically opposed. For instance a song that is very stereotypically masculine and aggressive paired with a version that is stereotypically feminine and passive. I’m looking for contradictory versions of songs that illustrate a sociological concept (gender, race, class, sexuality, etc.)

  3. A great, short, intro level article or piece about issue framing.
  4. I have never found a concise discussion of framing that I’ve liked for an intro level class. It’s a complex idea that is hard to succinctly describe in simple terms. If you have an article or short piece that you’ve had success with I’d love to read it.

Want to help?

Send me your recommendations to me via Email: Nathan@SociologySource.com, hit me up on twitter (@SociologySource), or post it on our Facebook page.

All contributors will be given credit by name. Thanks in advance!

Example Songs

Below are just a few examples. The original version followed by the cover.

“WHIP MY HAIR”


Artist: Willow Smith


Artist: Jimmy Fallon (as Neil Young) feat Bruce Springsteen

“HURT”


Artist: Nine Inch Nails


Artist: Johnny Cash

“Suspicious Mind”


Artist: Elvis Presley


Artist: Dwight Yoakam[1]


  1. This song is a giant guilty pleasure of mine. The repeating guitar hook gets me every time. And I love how instead of saying, “I can’t walk out” Yoakam says, “iKaWaOu” in one syllable. My mother is an Elvis fanatic, she named our 3 cats Elvis, Pricilla, and Colonel Parker. TMI?  ↩

SociologySounds.com is the easiest way for you to find great sociological songs to play in your classes. Each song features lyrics that are relevant to the sociological topics you teach everyday. We sorted all of our songs by class topic making it a snap to find exactly the right song. Once you find a song you like, you can play that song for free right from SociologySounds.com. Best of all, you can recommend songs and we’ll include them in our catalog. We’ll even give you a proper shout out for each submission as a way of saying thanks![1]

Why You Should Use Music in Your Classes.

Playing sociologically relevant music before class starts is a fantastic way to set the tone. The right song can energize your students, create a poignant moment, or at least be thought provoking. Think of the music as priming your students for what your about to discuss in class.

A really nifty trick is to time the song so that it ends at exactly the time class starts. Then like a game of musical chairs your students know that when the music stops they need to be ready for class to begin. The trick is, you don’t even have to tell them you’re doing this. After a few classes classical conditioning kicks in and they automatically stop talking. If you are teaching 100+ students YOU MUST try this.

The idea for playing music to launch my class came from, of all places, comedy clubs and concerts. Comedians and bands use music to hype the crowd getting them ready for the show. Think of the excitement that washes over the crowd when the music dies, the stage lights go out, and everyone crushes to the front of the stage eagerly anticipating the first song at a concert. A sociology class is not a rock concert and you are not a comedian, but if you could get 1/10 of that excitement before you start class think of how different your class experience could be. I like to think of it as my entrance music before I enter the ring to do pedagogical battle[2].

This is, of course, just one of the many ways to use music in your classes and we are by no means the first to have this idea. There is a wealth of SoTL research on using music in your courses and I’d highly encourage you to use them in conjunction with our site. Here are just a few of the pieces available: Elterman 1983, Martinez 1994, Walczak and Reuter 1994, Martinez 1995, Martinez 1998, Ahlkvist 1999, Albers and Bach 2003.

The 100 Song Challenge: Join Us!

We are launching SociologySounds.com with a bold challenge. We want to hit 100 songs in our catalog in our first week. Help us reach our goal by recommending a song and spreading the word about us. Send an email to your department, Tweet it to your tweeps, post it on Facebook, or spread the word how ever you can.

We’ll be posting songs as fast as we can and you can follow our progress by checking our song counter. Thank you in advance for all your help![3]


  1. You can also opt to submit the song anonymously if you are shy or if you are embarrassed that you know of a Backstreet Boys song with a sociological message. It can be our little secret.  ↩

  2. Not really. I don’t see teaching as a battle nor my students as an opponent. But I do like the metaphor in that the music gets me hyped up to teach like I’m on fire.  ↩

  3. In case this is the first we’ve met and you are wondering who’s behind this venture or how it makes money: SociologySounds.com and it’s parent site SociologySource.com are public services put out by two sociologists from Georgia Southern University. Both sites make no money (in fact they cost money). We are just a couple of nerdy sociologists trying to give back to our community.  ↩

I felt like my hair was on fire after I finished listening to Don’t Lecture Me! by American RadioWorks.

Stop reading this and listen to it now.

I’ve known forever that lecturing was only effective in certain situations, but I like many of my compatriots use it almost exclusively in my 101 classes. After listening to Don’t Lecture Me! I am more committed than ever to finding a way to reduce the lecturing I’m doing in my classes.

I was particularly affected by the portion of the podcast focusing on Eric Mazur and his work on Peer Instruction (read | watch). Mazur, a physicist, found that the students in his large introduction to physics courses were not learning very much. He argues that this is largely because students come into the classroom with preconceived notions about how physics works based on their everyday usage of “intuitive physics”.[1] He found that many of his 101 students were learning the concepts of physics individually without ever connecting them to their larger understanding of physical world around them. So even his high performing students were learning the material, but they were not learning to think like a physicist.* Sound familiar?

I’ve been obsessed with the idea that my sociology students were held back by their faith in common sense that they’ve garnered from a life lived with intuitive sociology as their only tool for making sense of the world around them. Put another way: many of my 101 students are learning the concepts of sociology individually without ever connecting them to their larger understanding of the social world around them.

Mazur’s solution is outstanding (in multiple senses of the term). Stop lecturing. Instead of covering all the material in the textbook during class, expect your students to do this on their own. Then your class time is freed up to focus on application and understanding of the material. Mazur asks his students questions, has them respond with clickers, and then work with their neighbors to ensure they have the right answer.

How do we know Mazur’s method is working for him, SoTL baby. Mazur uses a standardized test of physics called the Force Concept Inventory (FCI). Mazur found that his students performed much better on the FCI when he used peer instruction.

As I listened to this part of the podcast I longed for a similar standardized test of sociology knowledge and understanding. I am not aware of any such instrument, but if you are, hit me up in the comments or at Nathan@sociologysource.com.

Anyways. You owe it to yourself to listen to this, like, now. I am sure I’ll be writing about this again, but today I just wanted to start the conversation and draw your attention to the podcast.


  1. If you stop and think about it, shooting a basketball into a hoop requires a great deal of intuitive physics knowledge.  ↩

I had the opportunity to talk with Jon Smajda on the most recent Office Hours podcast about SociologySource, the Soc101 Class Pack, and the SociologySource Manifesto. I am really proud of the podcast and I hope you’ll take a listen.

Listen Here

Subscribe to the wonderful Office Hours Podcast