Tools of the Trade: Resources for Social Scientists

As part of our “Tools of the Trade” blog series, we’re highlighting resources for social science scholars and educators to aid in your research, writing, and prep work this summer. Look no further for a refresher of methods that you can use in your own work or share with your students.

How to Think Critically

Critical Thinking: Tools for Evaluating Research by Peter Nardi

This book prepares readers to thoughtfully interpret information and develop a sophisticated understanding of our increasingly complex and multi-mediated world. Peter M. Nardi’s approach helps students sharpen critical thinking skills and improve analytical reasoning, enabling them to ward off gullibility, develop insightful skepticism, and ask the right questions about material online, in the mass media, or in scholarly publications. Students will learn to understand common errors in thinking; create reliable and valid research methodologies; understand social science concepts needed to make sense of popular and academic claims; and communicate, apply, and integrate the methods learned in both research and daily life.

Stat-Spotting: A Field Guide to Identifying Dubious Data, Updated and Expanded by Joel Best

Are four million women really battered to death by their husbands or boyfriends each year? Is methamphetamine our number one drug problem today? Alarming statistics bombard our daily lives. But all too often, even the most respected publications present numbers that are miscalculated, misinterpreted, hyped, or simply misleading. This new edition contains revised benchmark statistics, updated resources, and a new section on the rhetorical uses of statistics, complete with new problems to be spotted and new examples illustrating those problems. Joel Best’s bestseller exposes questionable uses of statistics and guides the reader toward becoming a more critical, savvy consumer of news, information, and data. See also Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists, Updated Edition.

Methodology

Data Mining for the Social Sciences: An Introduction by Paul Attewell and David Monaghan

We live in a world of big data: the amount of information collected on human behavior is staggering, and exponentially greater than at any time in the past. Powerful algorithms can churn through seas of data to uncover patterns. This book discusses how data mining substantially differs from conventional statistical modeling. The authors empower social scientists to tap into these new resources and incorporate data mining methodologies in their analytical toolkits. This book demystifies the process by describing the diverse set of techniques available, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches, and giving practical demonstrations of how to carry out analyses using tools in various statistical software packages.

The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies, With a New Introduction by Charles C. Ragin

The Comparative Method proposes a synthetic strategy, based on an application of Boolean algebra, that combines the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative sociology. Elegantly accessible and germane to the work of all the social sciences, and now updated with a new introduction, this book will continue to garner interest, debate, and praise.

“While not everyone will agree, all will learn from this book. The result will be to intensify the dialogue between theory and evidence in comparative research, furthering a fruitful symbiosis of ‘quantitative’ and ‘qualitative’ methods.”—Theda Skocpol, Harvard University

Time Series Analysis in the Social Sciences: The Fundamentals by Youseop Shin

 This book is a practical and highly readable, focusing on fundamental elements of time series analysis that social scientists need to understand so they can employ time series analysis for their research and practice. Through step-by-step explanations and using monthly violent crime rates as case studies, this book explains univariate time series from the preliminary visual analysis through the modeling of seasonality, trends, and residuals, to the evaluation and prediction of estimated models. It also explains smoothing, multiple time series analysis, and interrupted time series analysis. With a wealth of practical advice and supplemental data sets, this flexible and friendly text is suitable for all students and scholars in the social sciences.

Regression Models for Categorical, Count, and Related Variables: An Applied Approach by John P. Hoffmann

Sociologists examining the likelihood of interracial marriage, political scientists studying voting behavior, and criminologists counting the number of offenses people commit are all interested in outcomes that are not continuous but must measure and analyze these events and phenomena in a discrete manner.

The book addresses logistic and probit models, including those designed for ordinal and nominal variables, regular and zero-inflated Poisson and negative binomial models, event history models, models for longitudinal data, multilevel models, and data reduction techniques.

A companion website includes downloadable versions of all the data sets used in the book.

Presenting Your Data

Principles of Data Management and Presentation by John P. Hoffmann

The world is saturated with data in words, tables, and graphics. Assuming only that students have some familiarity with basic statistics and research methods, this book provides a comprehensive set of principles for understanding and using data as part of a research, including:
• how to narrow a research topic to a specific research question
• how to access and organize data that are useful for answering a research question
• how to use software such as Stata, SPSS, and SAS to manage data
• how to present data so that they convey a clear and effective message

A companion website includes material to enhance the learning experience—specifically statistical software code and the datasets used in the examples, in text format as well as Stata, SPSS, and SAS formats.

 


Editor Spotlight: Seth Dobrin, Senior Editor for Sociology and Social Science Methods

photo-seth.dobrinIn this Q&A with Senior Editor Seth Dobrin, we learn about what brought him to publishing and his plans for Sociology and Social Science Methods. 

Why did you become an acquisitions editor? 

I’ve always liked how being an editor is half humanities and half problem solving. I think it’s a good fit for who I am. As an example, when I was a sophomore in college I decided to major in English and when I was a junior I became an EMT. It sounds naïve but I wanted to help people when they needed it. These days my authors and I aren’t riding an ambulance together – although sometimes hitting a deadline can feel that way – but we’re creating something that solves a real problem for real people. Being an editor means I get to work with authors and educators who improve their students’ lives by explaining something, or telling an important story. Hopefully, we make the world a little better.

What projects are you working on now to develop the Sociology and Social Science Methods list at UC Press? 

It’s been two years since I joined UC Press and I’m really excited about the books we’re producing. One that’s high on my list is Deviance: Social Constructions and Blurred Boundaries by Leon Anderson at Utah State University. We just finished our peer review and the manuscript is coming together nicely. I’m also thrilled to be publishing books that will help social scientists do research, like two books by John Hoffmann at Brigham Young UniversityPrinciples of Data Management and Presentation (publishing Fall 2017) and Regression Models for Categorical, Count, and Related Variables. These books strengthen data literacy, which fits well with the educational mission of the Press. And no, I have not been spending too much time in Utah. Great national parks!

You’re developing new textbooks and course books. Why is new content intended for use in courses important to you? 

Sociology is a hugely important discipline because it reveals things that we don’t always see or recognize about our society or ourselves. It does that through its unique perspective and rigorous research. Personally, I think that’s more important now than ever. Our world needs critical thinkers. We need people who can see, study, and critique social systems so that we can make progress.

Are there other particular courses where you’re looking to develop new content?

What’s exciting about the Press is that our Higher Education program allows us to help faculty in areas where big college publishers aren’t focused—on mid- and upper-level courses on social institutions and social change. I’m also looking to sign in courses like qualitative and quantitative methods—places where the rubber meets the road for would-be scholars. I want to find educators who teach these courses and who see the same needs and opportunities I do. It’s a new venture with a lot of support from the Press. We, alongside our authors and faculty, have the capacity to do something great with it.

Join Us 

Interested in publishing your work with Seth and UC Press? Contact Seth at sdobrin@ucpress.edu.

And learn more about Sociology and the Higher Education Program.

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