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Theory, Policy, Practice of a Career

by Susan R. Takata and Jeanne Curran
Revision of Text from 1993
Copyright on Revised Text: Summer 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: September 18, 1999
E-mail Faculty on the Site.

Chapter 2: How Do You Know What You Know?

Trying to make sense of the job market may be as simple as reading an article titled "10 Ways To Get Rich," which lists inheritance, marriage, lottery, crime, talent, invention, investment, longevity, entrepreneurship and none of the above. Another quick and easy way is looking at growth occupations. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (1992:9) notes: "Three out of the 4 fastest growing occupational groups will be executive, administrative, and managerial; professional specialty; and technicians and related support occupations. These occupations generally require the highest levels of education and skill, and will make up an increasing proportion of new jobs." So, your best bet would be to enter one of the fastest growing career fields, right? Well, it isn't as easy as all that.

What you need is to research your career field by gathering some information or what social scientists call "data." Review the sea of literature that is related to your career field. Check out newspapers, magazines, professional journals, books, and so forth. One book we highly recommend is Studs Terkel's Working (1974). In this book, "people talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do." That's a start! Conduct your own lifelong research project by gathering data on your career goal. Observe, survey or interview people in the workplace that you'd like to find yourself some day. Richard Bolles (1992:12) observes: "...the job-hunting system in this country is no system at all. It is in fact Neanderthal."

In this chapter, we are going to show you how to avoid the Neanderthal way of job-hunting by: 1) exploring a variety of social scientific research methods which can be used to collect information about your career field and 2) taking you step-by-step through a very simple research project. There are some endeavors one learns well only by doing. We believe data collection and interpretation to be one of them.

Common Sense and Sociology

Common Sense

Some people believe that sociology is nothing more than common sense. [omit = Through day-to-day living experiences, we add to our knowledge base]. This is called common sense. Charon (1989:32) defined common sense as "the minimum body of knowledge that one is expected to know in order to deal with everyday situations." Sociology goes way beyond common sense knowledge. Our common sense may tell us only what we want to hear and see. Our perceptions of the world are tinted through the "rosy-colored" glasses we choose to see through. It is biased. We all have our own unique biases, idiosyncracies, favorites, prejudices, and so forth. Bogdan and Taylor (1975:11) state: "Your task, as a qualitative researcher, is to cut through commonsense understandings of 'truth' and 'reality.'"Sociologists often study the topic of "common sense knowledge."

There is the "logic trap" that puts sociologists in a no-win situation (no wonder sociology gets such a bad rap). Common sense tells us if something "seems" reasonable and logical, it must be true and correct. But, that is not always the case. Let's explain the sociologist's quadruple bind which places her in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.

If the idea a sociologist investigates is:Widely AcceptedWidely Rejected
If investigation shows that it is:
Actually TrueBoreCharlatan
Actually FalseHereticFool

You see, if a sociologist studies the obvious to the public and the results agree that what was studied is "actually true," the sociologist is labeled a "bore," especially for spending all that time and money (often public and private agencies support research) on something everyone already knew about. On the other hand, if the sociologist found something to be true which the public widely rejects, he is called a "charlatan." You see, the public still won't believe him despite all the social scientific data. And then, there's the situation where the sociologist finds something to actually be false but it is something that the public widely accepts. She is then accused of being a "heretic" because she refuses to accept what everyone "knows" to be true. And finally, the sociologist is called a "fool" for wasting effort studying an obvious untruth.

So why in the world would anyone want to be a sociologist after being called such names and finding herself in a no-win situation. (Well, we're sociologists. We found something challenging and intriguing about sociological research methods, statistics, concepts and theories. Sociology is fun! And hopefully you will share our excitement by the end of the textbook. Sociology has many, many uses.) By using social scientific research methodologies and sociological concepts and theories, we like to think sociology is a very special science. Sociology provides us with a very special kind of reasoning, the sociological imagination (Mills, 1959), as we mentioned in the previous chapter.

How to Do Sociology (Using Social Scientific Methodologies)

First of all, before we get into how to do sociology, we need to explain a little about the scientific method. VanderZanden (1993:18) tell us that "the scientific method is a way of finding out about the world that relies on the rigorous and disciplined collection of facts and a logical explanation of them." According to Babbie (1989), the purpose of research is to explore, describe, and explain. Each way of collecting data or what social scientists call "research methodology" has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. There is no "right" method to get at the "answer" to a research question. Each method has its own strategies and tactics to avoid pitfalls and errors. If you are interested in an excellent overview of sociological methods, there are a variety of books available (Babbie, 1989; Neumann, 1991; Denzin, 1970; and Dooley, 1990) or if you really want to get into the ins and outs of research, take a sociological research methods course!

On the Shoulders of Giants (Archival Research)

One of the first things you should do, is find out what's gone on before. In other words, go to the library and see what others have written about your topic. (We sometimes call it "doing your homework!"). Some sociologists spend all there time in the library doing archival research, especially if what they are doing is comparative and historical. Neumann (1991:377) notes: "Historical-comparative social research is a collection of techniques and approaches. Some blend into traditional history, others extend quantitative social research." Durkheim, Weber and Marx all did historical comparative work.

Archival research may involve going to places other than the library for your data collection. For example, if you are studying the age of men and women who have spent twenty years or more in prison, you might go to a prison and examine their record-keeping. Or, if you are examining how newspapers cover the topic of gangs from 1865 to the present in your city, you might go to the newspaper's morgue to get a historical perspective.

The advantage of doing a historical study is that you can use sources from earlier times. You can study large-scale social phenomena or you can study something very rare and specific. Of course, everything has its drawbacks. You are dependent upon what's available. If there was a fire and the documents you need have not been maintained or preserved, then you're out of luck.

For the purposes of exploring your career goal, you might want to see what the historical trends have been. What changes over time have taken place in your career field? How have these changes impacted on the number of openings in recent years? Has technology had an effect on this career? Now, do you see how archival research can help you to make sense of your career goal?

People Watching (Field Observation)

Seeing is believing, right? (Wrong. We just discussed this in the section on common sense. Remember sometimes we see the world through our own rosy-colored glasses? Two people can watch the same car accident but have very different interpretations of what they saw.) First, we will focus on the outside observer.

Babbie (1989:285) tells us that "field research is especially effective for studying the subtle nuances of attitudes and behaviors and for examining social processes over time." We can increase the depth of our understanding by carefully watching what's going on. For example, you might be interested in studying how children play. So you stand back on a school playground and quietly watch what goes on. Who plays with whom? What kinds of things do kids like to do the most? The least? What role do adults play on the playground?

There are several advantages of being a field observer. It is flexible. You can change your research design as you go. Field observation is relatively inexpensive. You can watch how things happen in their natural setting. According to Babbie (1989:285), "First, being qualitative rather than quantitative, it seldom yields precise descriptive statements about a large population." What he means is that the conclusions as suggestive rather than definitive. The validity, reliability and generalizability of the data is questioned. There is observer effects (we all filter what we see through our very own rosy-colored glasses; even sociologists!). It is difficult to generalize from one's observations because what we have been keeping an eye is just one slice of the world. But what we did observe, we come to understand it indepth and in great detail.

One way of researching your career goal is to people watch. Have you ever watched a plastic surgeon in action? If that's what you want to be "when you grow up," then it's high time you follow a plastic surgeon around.(Would if you discovered you don't like the sight of blood? You might have a real problem being a plastic surgeon). By being an observer, you can become familiar with the day-to-day tasks. Another example: if you wanted to be a cop after watching "Top Cops" for several weeks, you might not get the same data from the television as you would following a real police officer. You might have thought that all cops do is go on high speed chases, bust down doors, and shoot at criminals. Did you know that only a fraction of the time, do police actually chase and shoot? Police officers spend most of their time doing paperwork.

Another way of getting an idea of what you're getting yourself into when you've selected a career field is get university credit for your career exploration. For example, look to doing an internship, field experience or independent study. Now is the time to explore; not after commencement when your grandparents ask you "Now what are you going to do with that degree? And your response is "Gee, I don't know."

Becoming One of Them (Participant Observation)

Another kind of observation is when one goes "native" or what sociologists call "participant observation." Denzin (1989:156): "Participant observation is a commitment to adopt the perspective of those studied by sharing in their day-to-day experiences." When a sociologist decides to become a normal part of the culture she wants to study, this is participant observation. You may have heard of anthropologists joining an exotic tribe. That's one example of participant observer. This is an exciting approach to collecting data but it has a risk factor. To illustrate, if you wanted to find out what life is like being a prostitute, there is great risk involved (mainly, violating the law). Another danger might be that you actually go "native." Bruyn (1966:14) notes: "The role of the participant observer requires both detachment and personal involvement."

Participant observation takes a great deal of diplomacy, tact, and guts. You need to win the trust of the "alien" culture that you would like to enter. Some "alien" cultures are more difficult to penetrate than others; for example, the Yakuza and the Mafia. While others are more open such as becoming a "burger flipper" at a fast food restaurant or working on an assemblyline.

Each social setting has its own code, language, jargon and culture. As Blumer (1969) tells us through participant observation we are able to create "sensitizing concepts." In other words, use the words and language of the culture being studied. To illustrate, Rosalie Wax (1971) did research on two Native American reservations and one Japanese-American relocation camps during World War II. She (1971:15) describes participant observation as "this process of 'living with' an alien people."

Similar to field observation, some of the same advantages and disadvantages exist. Rather than being an outside observer, you can learn a lot more by participating. But the downside to that is that you have a higher risk of going native or getting lost in the culture being studied as a participant than as an outside observer. Researcher objectivity comes into question, too. Becoming so involved, some wonder if you might lose your objectivity. Observer bias, replication, and limited application are some problems. But what better way to study a topic than to become one of them!! As an insider, you learn the deep dark secrets, the informal structure of a particular culture, and most of all, the parts that are hidden from the average Joe or Jill Citizen.

Talking to People (Interviewing)

Another way of gathering data is by talking to people or what sociologists call "interviewing." Interviewing is much more formalized than normal conversation. Gorden (1987: 22) tell us that "the main difference is in the central purpose of interviewing as opposed to other forms of conversation." Some conversations ramble on and on and on. And interview has a specific purpose in the kind of data it seeks. According to Babbie (1989:244), "the interview is an alternative method of collecting survey data. Rather than asking respondents to read questionnaires and enter their own answers, researchers send interviewers to ask the questions orally and record respondents' answers."

There are many ways to conduct interviews. There are open-ended questions (more like an essay exam question) and then there are close-ended questions (similar to multiple choice questions). There are structured interviews with a specific list of questions to be asked and then there are unstructured interviews which might be considered more freestyle. Interviews can be taped or video recorded or not. A non-recorded interview relies heavily on accurate note-taking. Interviews can be conducted one-on-one or in groups. All these ways of conducting an interview have their pluses and minuses. For example, an unstructured interview might not provide data that is comparable from one interview to the next. An interview that is tape-recorded might not get recorded because of a malfunction in the tape recorder. Careful planning can help avoid the downside of interviews. Interviews are sometimes seen as time consuming or might be perceive as a ego threat. There is always the risk of confusion, forgetting, or just plain lying during an interview.

Similarly with observation (both participant and outside), interviewing can provide us with rich indepth data on the natural social setting. There is great flexibility in this way of collecting data. You can ask for more elaboration on a question, switch the focus of the study, go back and ask more questions, and so forth. There are also the same problems of subjectivity, observer effect and limited applications.

One of the easiest and simplest ways to obtain data on your career field is to talk to people who are doing the work you would like to do. Ask them about the positive as well as the negative aspects of their work. Ask them how they manage to juggle career and family responsibilities. You can ask them just about anything. You'd be surprised how much people like to share with others what they do for a living. At the Career Center at U.W.Parkside, we have an alumni network where students can be matched with an alumnus. The student can then set up an appointment to meet with the alumnus and to talk about his or her career field. Get the inside scoop in the field where things are happening. Talk to people. Talk to lots and lots of people.

Getting Lots of People's Opinion (Survey Research)

We must admit that interviewing one person at a time can be rather time consuming. If you need to get lots of people's opinion at one time, you might resort to survey research. Denzin (1989:139) defined survey as "a methodological technique that requires the systematic collection of data from populations or samples through the use of the interview or the self-administered questionnaire." For example, you might want to interview all of the elementary school teachers to find out about the attractions and distractions of working with kids. Rather than setting up an appointment with each teacher (could be over 100 teachers easy!), all you might need to do is leave a pile of surveys in the teacher's lounge so they can take one and complete them by a particular deadline. Babbie (1989:237) tell us that "survey research is probably the best method available to the social scientist interested in collecting original data for describing a population too large to observe directly."

I remember when my first group of undergraduate student researchers were trying to collect data on the community perceptions of the gang problem, initially they wanted to go door-to-door to get as much data as possible. That would have been nice but we had a limited time to get a final report submitted to the mayor' task force (less than six months!). Often times, you cannot survey every airline pilot to find out his/her opinion on the pressures of flying for a commercial airline. First of all, it would cost a lot of money and time. We're sure that you'd like to gather data and get on with accomplishing your career goal within the next five years. What we're trying to say here is that you need to be realistic about the scope of a research project -- how much money, time, resources and energy do you have?

Survey research has become a "science" of its own. We sometimes call it "number crunching." One of the largest surveys occurs every ten years -- the United States Census. And we're all familiar with the various opinion polls -- Gallup, Roper, Harris, and so forth. There are a variety of ways to do a survey -- face-to-face (the man on the street type approach which is almost like an interview), anonymously (self-reports),by telephone or by mail. There are some obvious drawbacks with each strategy. For example, a mailed survey may get tossed in the "circular file." Or during a telephone interview, the respondent can easily hang up on you at any time. With surveys, the respondent can easily lie, exaggerate, forget, misinterpret the question, and so forth. Denzin (1989:146) tells us the sources of error in survey research: the variability in response; differences in the forms of interviews; bias and variation arising from the interviewer; bias arising from the agency supporting the research imperfections in the design of the questionnaire; ...errors in processing, coding, editing and tabulating; errors in interpretation (misunderstanding and personal bias in interpretation).

As Babbie (1989:254) notes: "Finally, standardized questionnaires have an important strength in regard to measurement generally." He (1989:254) also notes one of the weaknesses is "the requirement of standardization just mentioned often seems to result in the fitting of round pegs into square holes." What this means that it is difficult to quantify (put into numbers) qualities (characteristics) that are so different and utterly unique. In other words, the numbers gloss over or oversimplify the complex nature of an individual in society. In comparing field research (interviewing and observation) with survey research, Babbie (1989:255) states: "Survey research is generally weak on validity and strong on reliability. In comparison with field research, for example, the artificiality of the survey format puts a strain on validity."

Another way of exploring your career goal is to survey a large group of individual in the career field you wish to be employed in, eventually. You don't have to design a complex, sophisticated survey instrument like Gallup, but you can collect some interesting findings through surveys. In the second half of this chapter, we demonstrate step-by-step on how to do a mini-research project using a survey instrument.

Other Ways of Getting Data

What we have presented so far are the major data gathering methods that sociologists use. Just as a quick overview, we will mention a few others.

The first is case studies. A case study might be just a few, extremely indepth examinations of individuals. This approach is sometimes referred to as life history or the biographical method (Denzin, 1989). If your grandfather is a retired fireman, and your father is a fireman and now you want to become a fireman. You might have the makings of an interesting case study on the intergenerational linkages to common career aspirations. In recent years, much attention has focused on "narrative inquiry," (Connelly & Clandinin; 1990). Narrative inquiry relates to a kind of story telling of human experiences; of living the story.

The second method we would like to mention is longitudinal studies. That's when the researcher keeps returning to his respondents to find out what has happened since. In this method, they keep coming back for more. For example, if one is studying juvenile delinquents, she might interview them at age 10 and later at age 20 to see what has happened in their lives (i.e., if these kids are still breaking the law or not). Another example that is more career-related, is when the university's alumni office decides to survey the latest graduating class to see what their career aspirations are and then two or three years later, to survey again to see if career goals were accomplished. Another kind of research is applied or evaluation research.

According to Babbie (1989:326), "Evaluation research -- sometimes called program evaluation - refers to a research purpose rather than a specific research method. Its special purpose is to evaluate the impact of social interventions such as new teaching methods, innovations in parole, and a wide variety of such programs." For example, in 1988, Parkside students conducted a youth needs assessment in Racine, Wisconsin. We wanted to find out what program needs were met as well as unmet. Often times, such applied research has an impact on policy decision-making.

This way of collecting data might be a little more difficult unless you have access to a laboratory to conduct experiments. Some of the well known experiments are the Zimbardo prison experiment conducted at Stanford University where college students role played prison guards and prisoners and there is Milgram's electric shock where individuals were "ordered" to create pain for another individual (who they believed were the recipients of the electric shock controls). Babbie (1989:212) notes: "Experiments are especially well suited to research projects involving relatively limited and well-defined concepts and propositions," especially appropriate for hypothesis testing. One of the major advantages of an experiment is the control the researcher has in isolating variables. In addition, replication is easy to do. On the other hand, an experiment is limited in scope and the artificiality of an experiment can be questioned. In other words, the real world and the lab are not the same.

The Validity and Reliability of Data

Now that we've given you a little overview of the variety of research methodologies that sociologists employ, there is the question of gathering reliable data in order to make informed decisions. We explained how major methodologies has its unique advantages and disadvantages. So how do we come up with reliable and valid data? One way is by using a multi-methodological approach. In other words, as a means of checks and balances, use different methods. This is called "triangulation" (Denzin, 1989; Webb et al, 1966). As Deutscher (1973) notes in his book titled What We Say/What We Do. One example of triangulation might be to interview a kindergarten teacher in order to listen to what she says she does in the classroom and then to observe what actually goes on. Sometimes we don't always do what we say or say what we do. Triangulation is one way of testing the validity and reliability of the data gathered. Webb et al (1966:3) state: "The most persuasive evidence comes through a triangulation of measurement processes. If a proposition can survive the onslaught of a series of imprecise measures, with all their irrelevant error, confidence should be placed in it. Of course, this confidence is increased by minimizing error in each instrument and by a reasonable belief in the different and divergent effects of the sources of error."

Linking Theory to Data and Data to Theory

In the first chapter, we talked about sociological theories and concepts. In this chapter, we are focusing on sociological research methods. So how do we get theory and methods together? One way is called "grounded theory," (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). According to Glaser & Strauss (1967:viii): "We argue in our book for grounding theory in social research itself - for generating it from the data." Later on, they add (1967:1): "In this book we address ourselves to the equally important enterprise of how the discovery of theory from data -- systematically obtained and analyzed in social research -- can be furthered. We believe that the discovery of theory from data - which we call grounded theory - is a major task confronting sociology today..." So, how does all this work -- the sociological concepts and theories with sociological research methods and finally, grounded theory. What goes on?

The Research Process

This section focuses briefly on the research process. In VanderZanden (1993:19), he notes the following steps: 1) selecting a researchable problem, 2) reviewing the literature (remember when we discussed archival research?), 3) formulating a hypothesis, 4) choosing a research design, 5) collecting the data, 6) analyzing the results, and 7) stating conclusions. Because we believe that success is the best possible teacher, the second half of this chapter walks you through a whole research project, from stating the research problem to the summary and conclusion. In addition to the experience, the completed exercise will also afford you a model research report in a format acceptable for purposes from a sociology class paper to a research analyst's report, since the basic rules and components of social research vary within vary narrow limits. And even should you never plan to write a research report, an understanding of the processes involved is still essential to interpret the data you encounter daily in the media.

Statement of the Problem

We have chosen as a topic differences in males and female perceptions of the career paths open to people from their present job. Notice that we say "perceptions" since we are going to ask people what promotional opportunities are available to them. They may believe that they can be promoted to President of the company from their present job. The company, however, may have a very different perception of their opportunities for that job. If we said "sex differences in career paths" the title would suggest that we had tried to measure actual opportunities available differentially to males and females. That's much harder to do than simply asking people what their opportunities are.

In the following paragraph we explain what we hope to find out. Use the paragraph to help you to write the Statement of the Problem, the first component of a research report.

Men have traditionally had "careers", while women held "jobs" for pin money. This difference in socialization has created differences in their approach to career planning. We might hypothesize that women would be less able to identify career paths than their male counterparts. We might also hypothesize that this trend is changing with younger women. Let's do a little social research on this.

Write the Statement of the problem: __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________

Now examine the Statement of the Problem and see if you can find at least two hypotheses. A hypothesis is a statement of the type "If . . ., then . . ." For example, "If there are no women in executive or administrative positions in Company A, then women who work for Company A are less likely to have responsibility for decision-making than men who work for Company A."

Write in two hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: _______________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________

Hypothesis 2: _______________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________

Now that we know what we're looking for it's time to make a decision about how we'll get the data or information. That leads us to another section of the research project: Theory and review of the Literature.

Theory and Review of the Literature

You'll find that when you're working on a project or report of your own the theory and review of literature will come fairly early. That's because you should know quite a bit about the subject before you tackle a research project. In this exercise we're going to give you a few clues, and then ask you to write a very brief summary for your report.

There are several different theoretical approaches one might take to the problem we have chosen. We're going to illustrate two very different approaches for you. Explore others on your own.

One theory we might start with is developed in Robert K. Merton's Social Theory and Social Structure (1968). Our culture presents a generalized sense of rewards or ends toward which most of us strive. Especially in these days of instant media, the "goodies" we all theoretically seek are displayed before us constantly as advertisers convince us that we must acquire them. Now according to Merton's theoretical development, there are also means to these ends, some socially approved (hard work) , some not socially approved (illegal acquisition -- burglary, white collar crime, prostitution, etc.). Merton's theory predicts that when normal means are not available to people, they may turn to deviant means to acquire the ends they seek, or they may become indifferent and/or depressed (chronic).

Now suppose we say that job promotion with no built-in barriers or limitations is one way to make the money which leads to the means to the end we seek. If this means is available to men more than women, then we should predict that men (who are working -- an assumption in our study) would be more satisfied than women (again assuming to be working).

In applying this theory we should be safe measuring promotional opportunities by our respondents' perceptions. Whether they really are going to get the end matters less than whether they believe they will in gauging their satisfaction.

Needless to say, this is a simplistic application of sociological theory. But we hope it gives you a feel for how you might try it. Of course there are some pitfalls (limitations) you'll have to take into account. What if the women interviewed are married to men who do have access to the means if they themselves don't? Will this alter their satisfaction response? See, it's not so easy to design a simple study, after all! (Nothing is as simple as it might seem!)

Let's look very briefly at a very different theory we might use: socialization theory and sex role typing. Socialization is the process through which a society introduces new members to its cultures, norms and values. New babies are socialized by their parents, then later by peers, teachers, etc. New doctors and lawyers are socialized into the profession by older, more experienced doctors and lawyers, etc. (In this case we often refer to "adult socialization").

One of the characteristics of socialization in our society is that boys are socialized into different behavior patterns from girls. Despite some modern advances, dresses and dolls have traditionally been for little girls; pants and trucks for little boys. This we call "sex role typing," and it begins in infancy. One of the traditional tenets of sex role typing held that little boys grow up to be men who must be breadwinners for their families so they can strive for the means to reach these ends for the whole family. Little girls, on the other hand, must grow up (according to the old tradition, of course) to marry the men who achieve the means to gain the ends. (See, it was a lot like the House that Jack Built; but most of us really got caught up in it -- some of us still do!).

Now, according to this theory, men should be dissatisfied with their job unless they perceive a way to get promoted to earn the means to gain the end. Women, on the other hand, should be satisfied as long as they have or perceive a way to get the men to earn the means, etc. But wait; what if the younger women didn't buy the theory? And what cohort group (people born within the same decade, such as the 40's, 50's) might have been the one to stop buying into the theory? And would men as well as women have broken out of this part of the sex role typing? Now, look at the mess we're in!

In your theory section you should summarize briefly the theory on which you choose to base your study. Recognize that you may choose any of many different theories, each of which will dictate a slightly different approach to the problem. In your review of literature you should cite the sources from which you have drawn your theory (Merton, Clausen, etc.) and articles and books which discuss the findings of studies which bear some similarity to yours. Do not cite literature which is completely unrelated to your study! For example, if you are doing research on a youth employment program designed to provide practical experience for young people who hope to enter the advertising field, it would be inappropriate to include in your review of literature an article on the need for young employment programs in the inner city as a crime prevention factor. The article may be interesting; your professor may have insisted you read it; but what's it got to do with preparing for an advertising career?

One of the mistakes students most often make in their review of literature is to try to include everything they ever read that bears the slightest connection to their topic. Beware! It merely warns your professor you did a lot of reading (or copying); and very little thinking. Skillfully made, well-thought out connections between a few sources make a far more impressive review of literature than a hodge-podge of disjointed references. Two hints: 1) Always clearly justify to yourself the article's relationship to your topic. If you can't, chances are it doesn't belong. 2) Outline your review of literature by topics. for example, in the advertising example you might have one review of literature section on the need for early practical experience in a career field, another section of the usefulness of internships and/or summer programs for youth in helping young people make good career choices, another section on the kinds of training that might be included in such a program, and perhaps another on the value of such programs in furthering affirmative action programs. CAUTION: Your review of literature will grow like TOPSY unless you are careful to choose a tight focus for your paper. My bet is that any one of the above sections would provide you with enough material for a whole term paper! Narrow your topic to manageable limits.

Now write a brief theoretical framework for our study:

Theoretical framework: ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________

Methods and Procedures

Since we are planning to take the easy way and ask people what their promotional opportunities are (instead of trying to discover their actual opportunities), we are using what is called a "survey" design. And since, we are all going to use the same questionnaire (interview schedule), we are using "structured interviews." That means we don't make them up as we go along. We ask precisely the same questions of everybody in our sample so we can compare answers. And here's how we write it up:

STUDY DESIGN: Structured interviews were used to determine the extent to which respondents could identify specific promotional opportunities from their present jobs. Such identification was assumed to measure the respondents' perceptions of career paths available to them

Sample -- The next section under Methods and Procedures is a description of the sample. In our case we have no funds and very little power to make people answer our questions. Therefore, we're going to have to depend on the good will of friends and neighbors, or even strangers, to answer our questions. That makes it a volunteer sample. No matter how randomly we pick them, if they must agree to answer, it's a volunteer sample. Here's how we describe the sample in the research report:

SAMPLE: A volunteer sample of ____ men, under 35 and ___ 35 and over, and of ____ women, ___ under 35 and ___ 35 and over was interviewed.

Instrument -- The next section in this brief report presents the actual instrument. This permits the reader to know how we measured the data on which we based our conclusions. For example, if we reported that women had better promotional opportunities than men, but asked for their "perceptions" of the promotions available to them rather than measuring their actual promotion rates, our interpretation would not have been valid. We didn't actually measure promotion rates. You may present your instrument as an appendix to our report if you choose. But you should present it somewhere.

INSTRUMENT: (also referred to as an Interview Schedule).

1. What is the title of your present job? ____________________________________________________________

2. What job(s) would be available as a promotion to the next level up from your present job? ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

3. What job(s) would be available as promotions from the positions(s) in answering the previous question? ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

4. Are you satisfied with your present job? ___ Yes ___ No ___Somewhat

5. Sex (by observation): ___ Male ___ Female

6. Age (by observation, or confirm by asking if really unsure). ___ Under 35 ___ 35 or over

Notice that we began the interview schedule immediately with questions about jobs and promotions. It is very frustrating to people to be asked to answer a questionnaire about the "generation gap" only to answer questions about everything but the generation gap. Make sure you allude to the announced topic early in the instrument.

Notice also that our questions were logically graduated and very specific. In this case it helped to clarify for respondents the specific aspects of career paths in which we were interested. Had we asked "What career paths are available to you?" we could have gotten a wide variety of answers. Some people might have told us that they could go back to school for a degree. Some might have told us they could work at many different companies in their present job classification, so they'd never have to worry about being unemployed for long. Some might have told us they could get increasing responsibility and better pay if they took the management training program. And so on ad infinitum.

What we had to keep in mind when we said "career path" was an actual progression of jobs. And we wanted to know whether the respondents could name the jobs, so that we would have some idea of the specificity of their knowledge. Research on job opportunities has shown that since the advent of mass media, almost all children aspire to the same most glamorous jobs -- doctor, lawyer, professional athlete, etc. The differences that used to exist in job aspirations across social classes has vanished. Children across all socioeconomic lines can identify with Mark Green, M.D., Assistant District Attorney Cohen, Michael Jordan, Brett Favre, and so forth. This blurring of job aspirations which has occurred in studies on children might lead us to assume that the mass media and changing patterns of sex role typing might have led to the blurring of career path perceptions between men and women. Now you can see why we asked respondents to name the promotions. This allows us to measure not just their career path aspirations, but also their specific knowledge of the sequence of jobs that will get them from here to there. That same research on children's job aspirations have shown that the differences across socioeconomic lines now lie not in what the children want to be when they grow up, but in the accuracy of their perceptions on how to get there. This example should clarify for how the wording of questions determines what is really being measured.

Notice also that we put questions such as sex and age last. People resent personal questions and often refuse to answer them. Thus demographic variables, such as age, ethnicity, sex, income, are usually placed at the end of the schedule, since we hope to elicit confidence and cooperation by then, and at least to get some of our data, even if our respondents refuse to answer these last questions. We only asked about sex and age. We could have asked about ethnicity, and education, and income, and lots of other things, but then it would have taken us a much larger sample and six more months to analyze the data.

Analysis -- Aha! Now for the fun part. We've set ourselves a problem, reviewed the literature, designed an instrument, selected a sample, and collected our data. Now we get to analyze the data and find out -- was the theory right? Or wrong? Or somewhere in between? Do the data support our hypotheses? Or not? Or do they support one and not the other? Maybe we'll even discover a new theory! Fun! This is when all the hard work begins to pay off!

The analysis is the part you do in your lab or your office or at the desk in your bedroom. Sometimes you'll come out of your office to share an exciting finding with a colleague, but for the most part, you'll do analysis on your own. Then after it's done, and you have your notes and the tables you drew up, you write the results. You'll label the section of the report Analysis and Results but what you'll really write about is the results of your analysis.

First, we'll start you out with some dummy tables (tables which we make up to play with and plan our analysis -- not tables designed for dummies!) and show you how to put the numbers from the questionnaires in the tables and compute the percentages. Second, we'll show you how to write your own interpretation of the data in the table.

First, let's define some terms we'll be using for parts of the table. Dummy Table 1, below, shows graphically what we mean by ROW, COLUMN and CELL.





Second, let's talk about how you get the data from the interview schedules into the tables. Each question on the interview schedule represents a variable. We'll start with an analysis of two of these questions -- question #2: Promotional Opportunities Respondents Could Identify One Level Beyond Their Present Job, and question #3: Respondent's sex. For question 5, we will count the responses to produce the numbers that go in the dummy Table 2.

Number of Promotional Opportunities Respondents Could Identify 012 or moreTotal
Respondent's Sex
Female EFGH
Total IJKL

Now take the interview schedules and sort them into two piles: one pile for males and one for females. Count the number of males and put that number in Cell D. Now count the number of females and put that number in Cell H. Add the numbers in D and H and enter the total in Cell L. Now count all the interview schedules (keeping the male and female piles segregated of course) the total number of schedules should be the same as the number in Cell L. Now take the males' interview schedules and sort them into three piles: those who listed no jobs in question 2; those who listed one job and those who listed two or more jobs. Count the males who listed no jobs in question 2 and enter the number in Cell A. count the males who listed one job in Question 2 and enter the number in Cell B. Count the number of males who listed two or more jobs in question 2 and enter the number in Cell C. A + B + C should equal D. If it doesn't go back and check it again. Now sort the females the same way entering the number who listed not jobs in question 2 in Cell E, etc. Now add the numbers in the cells to get the marginal totals.

A + E = I

B + F = J

C + G = K

E + F + G = H

I + J + K = L

Next, we compute the percentages for each cell of the table. We use percentages so we can have a standardized number for purposes of comparison. For example, if we talked to 50 women and 30 men and if 10 women and 6 men reported no promotional opportunities in question 2, we might say that more women than men reported no promotional opportunities. But, we interviewed more women than men so the raw numbers can't be compared. We can, however, compare percentages -- 10 is 20% of 50 (ten divided by fifty times 100); 6 is 20% of 30 (six divided by thirty times 100). Aha! 20% of the men we interviewed and 20% of the women we interviewed reported no promotional opportunities one level beyond their present job. There's no difference between the two on this basis.

To compute the percentages for your table:

First, divide the number of men in Cell A by the number of men in Cell D. Multiply the result by 100. This equals the percent of men for Cell A.

Divide the number of men in Cell B by the number of men in Cell D. Multiply the result by 100. This equals the percent of men for Cell B.

Divide the number of men in Cell C by the number of men in Cell D. Multiply by 100. This equals the percent of men for Cell C.

Divide the number of women in Cell E by the number of women in Cell H. Multiply the result by 100. This equals the percent of women for Cell E.

Divide the number of women in Cell F by the number of women in Cell H. Multiply the result by 100. This equals the percent of women in Cell F.

Divide the number of women in Cell G by the number of women in Cell H. Multiply the result by 100. This equals the percent of women for Cell G.

These are the numbers you will need to answer the following questions. If you replace the "What" in each question with the percent from the right cell you've answered the questions, and your answers tell you what the data in Dummy Table 2 show.

Number of Promotional Opportunities Respondents Could Identify One Level Beyond Their Present Job NoneOneTwo or MoreTotal
Respondent's Sex
Male A 12% (24)B 64% (12)C 24% (48)D 100% (200)
Female E 33% (66)F 42% (84) G 25% (50) H 100% (200)
Total I (90) J (212) K (98)L (400)

Now that you've taken the major step of getting the raw data from the interview schedules into the tables, it's time to figure out what it all means. First, just look at the tables to see if it looks interesting. Are the cells roughly the same in number (or %)? some cells very small? some very large? These are the kinds of results we're looking for. Does breaking people's answers into these cells cause a pattern of any kind to emerge?

But when we write up the results for our Dummy Table 3, we can't exactly say, "Wow, look at that cell!" that's when we say in our offices in the hallowed halls of academia. But we are very cool about it when we write the results.

To help you capture the technical language we've set up some examples of the kinds of questions you should ask yourself about the tables using Dummy Table 3 as an example.

1. What % of women in the sample were unable to identify any promotional opportunities one level beyond the present job?

There were 200 women in the sample (Cell H). 66 women could identify no promotional opportunities one level beyond their present job (Cell E). So (66/200 x 100) % is our answer. 33%. Now we can write in our result, "33% of women in the sample were unable to identify any . . ."

The rest of the questions are answered by the same procedure:

2. What % of men in the sample are unable to identify any promotional opportunities one level beyond their present job?

There were 200 men in the sample (Cell D). 24 men could identify no promotional opportunities one level beyond their present job (Cell a). So (24/200 x 100) % is our answer. 12%. And we can write in our results, "12% of men in the sample were unable to identify any ..."

Now we have a result to discuss. 12% of the men and 33% of the women in our sample were unable to identify any promotional opportunities beyond the present job. This is one of the comparisons we were interested in.

But let's continue looking.

3. What % of women were able to identify exactly one promotional opportunity one level beyond their present job?

There were 200 women in the sample (Cell H). 84 women were able to identify one promotional opportunity beyond the present job (Cell F). So (84/200 x 100) % is our answer. 42%. And we can write, "42% of the women in the sample were able to identify exactly one promotional opportunity. . ."

4. What % of men were able to identify exactly one promotional opportunity one level beyond present job?

There were 200 men in the sample (Cell D). 128 men were able to identify exactly one promotional opportunity beyond the present job (Cell B). So (128/200 x 100) % is our answer. 64%. And we can write, "64% of the men in the sample were able to identify exactly one promotional . . ."

Another interesting result to discuss. 64% of men and 42% of the women in our sample were able to identify exactly one promotional opportunity beyond their present job.

5. What % of women were able to identify 2 or more promotional opportunities one level beyond their present job?

Of the 200 women in the sample (Cell G), 50 were able to identify two or more promotional opportunities one level beyond their present job (Cell H). So (50/200 x 100) % is our answer. 25%. Now we can write in our results, "25% of women in the sample were able to identify two or more . . ."

6. What % of men were able to identify two or more promotional opportunities one level beyond present jobs?

Finally, of the 200 men in the sample (Cell C), 48 were able to identify two or more promotional opportunities one level beyond their present job (Cell D). So (48/200 x 100) % is our answer. 24%. And we can write in our results, "24% of the men in the sample were able to identify two or more . . ."

And, another interesting finding to discuss -- 24% of the men and 25% of the women were able to identify two or more promotional opportunities one level beyond their present job.

Notice in Dummy Table 3, that there is almost no difference between males and females in the percentage who could identify two more promotional opportunities one level beyond their present job. All the action is in Cells A, B, E, and F. This is where the differences between mens' and women's perceptions shows up in this table. We have computed all the percentages to answer the six questions we listed for you above, but in order to describe the table adequately we don't need to discuss every number in every cell. Here's how we write it up:

The data in Dummy Table 3 show that 33% (66) of the women in the sample were unable to identify any promotional opportunities one level beyond their present job, while only 12% (24) of the men in the sample were unable to identify any promotional opportunities at this level. Additionally, 88% (176) of the men were able to identify at least one promotional opportunity one level beyond their present job, while only 67% (134) of the women could identify at least one promotional opportunity at this level.

Notice that in the write-up we used some percentages that were not in the table. We said 88% of the men were able . . . We added cells B and C (64% + 24%) to get this number. We didn't want to write about every number, only those which made a difference. So we collapsed two cells of the table (added them together) to make our point.

Notice also that we didn't say why men and women answered as they did. Figuring out why is called interpretation, and that comes later in the report -- after we have written the facts (and only the facts) about what the data in each table show.

And finally, we followed another rule of careful research reporting. Every time we reported a percentage, we included in parentheses, the number of people that percentage represented. When we said 88% of the men in the sample . . . we reported that 88% represented (176) men. If our sample were small, 88% might represent only (17) men and, if it were large, 88% could represent (17,600) men. It is necessary to include the number of cases that the percentage represents so that the reader can weigh for him/herself the substantive importance of your findings.

In the next section, seven tables are presented in research report format. After you have completed the analysis described above for each table, write the results in the following format.


Table 1 shows that __________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

Table 1
Number of Promotional Opportunities Respondents Could Identify NoneOneTwo or MoreTotal
Respondent's Sex
Male ------------
Female ------------
Total ------------

Table 1: Number of respondents able to identify promotional opportunities one level beyond present job by sex

Table 2 shows that _________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

Table 2
Number of Promotional Opportunities Respondents Could Identify NoneOneTwo or MoreTotal
Under 35 ------------
35 and Over ------------
Total ------------

Table 2: Number of female respondents able to identify promotional opportunities one level beyond present job by age.

Table 3 shows that _______________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________

Table 3
Number of Promotional Opportunities Respondents Could Identify NoneOneTwo or MoreTotal
Under 35 ------------
35 and Over ------------
Total ------------

Table 3: Number of male respondents able to identify promotional opportunities one level beyond present job by age.

Table 4 shows that ________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

Table 4
Number of Promotional Opportunities Respondents Could Identify Two Levels Beyond Present Job NoneOneTwo or MoreTotal
Male ------------
Female ------------
Total ------------

Table 4: Number of respondents able to identify promotional opportunities two levels beyond present job by sex.

Table 5 shows that _________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

Table 5
Number of Promotional Opportunities Respondents Could Identify Beyond Present Job NoneOneTwo or MoreTotal
Under 35 ------------
35 and Over ------------
Total ------------

Table 5: Number of respondents able to identify promotional opportunities two levels beyond present job by age.

Table 6 shows that _______________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________

Table 6
Number of Promotional Opportunities Respondents Could Identify One Level Beyond Present Job NoneOneTwo or MoreTotal
Satisfaction Level
Satisfied ------------
Somewhat Satisfied ------------
Not Satisfied ------------
Total ------------

Table 6: Number of female respondents able to identify promotional opportunities one level beyond present job by satisfaction with present job.

Table 7 shows that _______________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________

Table 7
Number of Promotional Opportunities Respondents Could Identify One Level Beyond Present Job NoneOneTwo or MoreTotal
Satisfaction Level
Satisfied ------------
Somewhat Satisfied ------------
Not Satisfied ------------
Total ------------

Table 7: Number of male respondents able to identify promotional opportunities one level beyond present job by satisfaction with present job.

Summary and Conclusion -- This is where we summarize the results we reported in the last section, deciding whether or not our findings support our hypotheses. At this point our interpretation is tied directly to the hypotheses we derived at the beginning of our study. Only after we have discussed the relation of our findings to our hypotheses do we go on to further conclusions. We have written two paragraphs of interpretation for you, interpreting the results in Table 1 and Table 2, respectively. Here's how you write the summary:

___ male and ___ female volunteer subjects were asked to identify promotional opportunities beyond their present job. ___% of the male respondents and ___% of the female respondents were able to identify at least one promotional opportunity beyond their present job. These results (support, do not support) _____________________the hypothesis that men are better able to identify career paths than their female counterparts.

___% of the female respondents under 35 and ___% 35 and over were able to identify at least one promotional opportunity beyond their present job. These results (support, do not support) ___________________ the hypothesis that younger women would be better able to identify their career paths.

Suggestions for Further Analyses -- One appropriate ending to a research report is to state that your results indicate a need for further research in a particular area. That's the way it works with social research. You set yourself a problem, ask some questions, get the answers and the answers raise a whole new set of questions. that's how we build knowledge. Since we don't know what your results were, we cannot suggest which areas need further research, but since we designed the interview schedule, we can, at this point, suggest further analyses of these data you can complete on your own -- more questions you can answer with the data you already have. For example, how could we measure the sophistication of planning for career paths from this data?

___________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

What possible conclusions could we draw if there proved to be no difference between males and females 35 and over? (HINT: consider the effect of age on career paths. What is likely to happen to promotional opportunities as we climb higher and higher? How could we control for this effect in this study, using data we collected but did not analyze?)

___________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

Deconstruction and the Politics of Knowledge

In the beginning of this chapter, we discussed the difference between common sense and sociology. We would like to end this chapter with a discussion of deconstruction, belief systems and the politics of knowledge. In other words, whose knowledge? Sometimes knowledge comes in waves or what Kuhn (1962) called paradigms. Kuhn (1962:viii) defines paradigm as the "universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners."

Deconstruction is a philosophical/literary theory which holds that the truth we seek and the answers we believe we have found are relative to our social and cultural perspective. [Derrida, translated by Bass, 1987] In deconstruction, one explores the context of the truths or beliefs, to discover why truth appears as it does. For example, instead of saying "I think, therefore I am," I might ask what led to this conclusion and whether someone else, in a different belief system might have said "I think, therefore I am not."

It is entirely possible to imagine a belief system in which thinking can lead to non-being. Think about the possibility of a totalitarian state run by orthodoxy. Having difficulty with that one? Read the excerpt from Atwood's The Handmaiden's Tale. Orthodox beliefs of any kind, religious, political, educational, require the suppression or assimilation of thought which would change them. That is what orthodoxy means, in conformance with tradition. [A basic assumption of the belief system is that the orthodox belief is correct and the one true and only belief possible. Such a system must be antithetical to a search for new knowledge or experience.] In an orthodox belief system, it becomes necessary to suppress "wrong thinking." In that system he who thinks, like Descartes, is very likely not to be, for his existence and the profession of his beliefs would threaten the orthodoxy. Remember the religious wars, fought on both sides in the name of God? Orthodoxy brooks no contradiction.

Central to all belief systems are certain major themes: "central/marginal; presence/absence; thought/language; nature/convention; reality/image; objective/subjective; masculine/feminine; soul/body; identity/difference." [Melzer, 1987) review of English translation (Bass) of Derrida's The Post Card] If one considers the masculine/feminine issue as central, as I believe Atwood does in The Handmaiden's Tale (1986), then one's existence might be defined by the central issue of one's gender. If on the other hand, one looks instead to the context in which the masculine/feminine dichotomy appears to be central, one can imagine a world or belief system in which "humanity" is more important than gender.

Such a world may be found in Alice Walker's writings. Alice Walker interprets "black" and "humanist" as more central than "woman," despite the importance she attaches to "woman." Her de-emphasis of the gender dichotomy, and re-examination of her world in terms of humanism is deconstruction. She actually lives in a world that is different from that of someone who sees gender as central. Melzer, supra, notes that Derrida, who was "[b]orn in Algiers in 1930 of Sephardic Jewish parents, educated in France...," and lives and teaches at the University of California, Irvine, has been sensitized by that experience "to the repressed or marginalized logic of any given cultural system."

In other words, ideas, such as concepts of gender roles, which are central to one culture, may be marginal in another. Remember how black women have complained about the feminist movement for so long, "What's all this foolishness about the right to work? We've been working all along."? The right to work is central to the white, middle-class woman, who has been made to feel that she cannot do any "useful work." Poor black women have known they were doing "useful" work all along. They see other issues as central.

These are my interpretations of Melzer's, Atwood's, Walker's, and Derrida's work. They might well disagree. You might disagree. Other concepts might be central to your understanding of their work. This course is not designed to encourage you to agree with my interpretations, but to explore and polish your own interpretations, your own belief system. Deconstruction, looking at your beliefs from someone else's viewpoint, is a valuable tool for that exploration.

Reading Excerpt - The Handmaiden's Tale

This excerpt is designed to show the belief system of the world Margaret Atwood (1986) creates in this book. As you read, look for the beliefs that make up the system so that you can compare them to ones that make up the general set of beliefs that belong to our world. For those of us who are tempted to say, as James Thurber did, our world and welcome to it, Margaret Atwood's story serves as a chilling reminder that "our world" has advantages we learned long ago to take for granted. From page 7:

There must have been a chandelier, once. They've removed anything you could tie a rope to.

A window, two white curtains. Under the window, a window seat with a little cushion. When the window is partly open- it only opens partly - the air can come in and make the curtains move. I can sit in the chair, or on the window seat, hands folded, and watch this. Sunlight comes in through the window too, and falls on the floor, which is made of wood, in narrow strips, highly polished. I can smell the polish. There's a rug on the floor, oval, of braided rags. This is the kind of touch they like: folk art, archaic, made by women, in their spare time, from things that have no further use. A return to traditional values. Waste not want not. I am not being wasted. Why do I want?

On the wall above the chair, a picture, framed but with no glass: a print of flowers, blue irises, watercolor. Flowers are still allowed. Does each of us have the same print, the same chair, the same white curtains, I wonder? Government issue?

Think of it as being in the army, said Aunt Lydia.

Virginia Woolf put very well the difficulty of "knowing" within the myriad belief systems. Our knowing is not a straight line, as Louise Bernikow put it. Instead it comes to us in bits and pieces and sometimes there are inconsistencies. One theoretical explanation for that is that we need many overlapping belief systems for the many different aspects of our complex lives. One of the problems with trying to understand belief systems and knowledge is solipsism. Solipsism is the philosophical theory which says that all knowledge is centered in our outlook and /or belief systems and that we cannot get outside that centering to get an unbiased look at the rest of the world. Consider the following explanation of solipsism from the Eleventh Edition of The Encyclopedia Britannica. There is a reason for using the 1910-11 edition. That was the greatest edition ever to appear. The writing is superb. You should know that the edition is prized so that when you have the time you can browse through it and appreciate a different source of your cultural heritage.

solipsism (Lat. solus, alone, ipse, self), a philosophical term, applied to an extreme form of subjective idealism which denies that the human mind has any valid ground for believing in the existence of anything but itself. "It may best be defined, perhaps, as the doctrine that all existence is experience, and that there is only one experience. The Solipsist thinks that he is the one! (Schiller) It is presented as a solution of the problem of explaining the nature of our knowledge of the external world. We cannot know things-in-themselves: they exist for us only in our cognition of them, through the medium of sense-given data. In F. H. Bradley's words (Appearance and Reality (1902): "I cannot transcend experience, and experience is my experience. From this it follows that nothing beyond myself exits; for what is experience is its (the self's) states."

See IDEALISM; also F.C.S. Schiller, Mind, New Series (April 1909)

The Encyclopedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, 1910-11.

Jean Paul Sartre, the French existentialist, explained this dilemma beautifully in his brief Existentialism Est un Humanisme, (1977). In that small treatise Sartre tells the story of a priest and an existentialist sharing a compartment on a train. The priest explains the clarity of his faith. He "knows" that God exists. The doubting existentialist asks, "But how do you know?" The priest answers gravely, "Because I received His call." "And who," queried the existentialist, "interpreted the call?"

Here we are face to face with the dilemma of every belief system. I have heard the call. But I had to interpret it. Perhaps, just perhaps, I interpreted it wrongly. Perhaps I heard it only because I wanted to hear it. These are ultimate questions to which we have no ultimate answers. It is at this point that each of us must make the decision to believe or not to believe. As Gide said, not to make the decision is to make the decision. We can run aimlessly away from the decision, but in the end our running has constituted a decision. We have run so long we have failed to either follow or construct a moral code, and so we have chosen to live without one. This the angoisse of modern man.


Using sociological research methods, does not have to be confined to doctoral students and those with Ph.D.s in sociology. We encourage you to experiment with the variety of methods introduced in this chapter. We have illustrated how your lifelong research project will be the exploration of your career goals. Predicting future job market trends through the use of social scientific research methods is much more reliable than crystal-ball gazing or the Ouiji board. You might want to talk to people or observe people in your career field. In addition, Babbie (1989) discusses the everyday uses of social research skills, especially in Chapter 19, "A consumer's guide to social research." In addition to explaining the major research methods that sociologists use, we have presented step-by-step a very simple survey research project from its inception in theory through design, sampling, and data collection to conclusions drawn from analysis and result.

Set yourself a manageable problem, use the theories to come up with the research question, design the study, collect the data, analyze the data and answer the questions. There are many myths about careers. Myths such as the ones we've just explored about male and female perceptions of career paths. In order to sort through these myths and make decisions about careers, you will need to gather information on you own. While you may never again write a research report on the data you gather, you need to understand the process. We organize data at an unconscious level on an everyday basis to check out our own ideas about the way the world works. Sociology has formalized these steps to knowledge in its research designs. Becoming aware of this process can help you sort through your everyday information overload and make decisions when advertisers promise you "no more cavities" or "more miles to the gallon," or "an exciting career in public relations." The basic process remains the same, whether you have a half-million dollar grant from the government to study mental health and unemployment, or only your time and curiosity to spend studying what you want to be when you grow up (for the third time).

One final caveat: Even after you have done all the research and evaluated job market trends, as Aburdene & Naisbitt (1992) advise -- Don't just go with the fastest growing career field, the bottomline is to enjoy doing what you are doing. You may find yourself landing a job in a growth field but if you're not happy, what good is it?

Appendix A

Codebook for Interview Schedule
Column Variable NameVariable Labels & Codes
1-3 IDRespondent Identification
5NOWOCCUPQ.1: What is the title of your present job?

1) Professional, technical

2) Managerial, official, proprietor

3) Clerical

4) Sales

5) Crafts/Foreman

6) Operative

7) Laborer

8) Service

9) No response

6ONELEVELQ.2: What job(s) would be available for you as a promotion to the next level from your present job?

0) None

1) One

2) Two or more

9) No response

7TWOLEVELQ.3: What job(s) would be available as promotions from the position(s) in answering the previous question?

0) None

1) One

2) Two or more

9) No response

8SATISFIEDQ.4: Are you satisfied with your present job?

1) No

2) Somewhat

3) Yes

9) No response

9 SEX Q.5: Sex (by observation)

1) Female

2) Male

10AGEQ.6: Age (by observation or confirm by asking)

1) Under 35

2) 35 and over

9) No response

Appendix B: Sociological Terms In This Chapter


Term similar in meaning to generation, only it covers a decade. Useful in sociological analysis because people in a cohort are closer to the same age as they experience historical events. For example, the cohort born in the 30's had a very different experience of the Second World War than the cohort born in the 20's, who fought in it!


Another name for the questionnaire or interview schedule.

Interview schedule

The list or schedule of questions that will be asked during an interview. Also called a questionnaire, and sometimes, an instrument.

Statement of the problem

A brief sample which describes what your research study is about.

Two-way classification table

A table showing the relationship between two variables. For example, sex and promotional opportunities.

Appendix C: Self-Diagnostic

The President tells you that 9 out of 10 executives say his is the best company to work for. More opportunity. Better promotions! Have you found the ideal spot for your exceptional talent? Can you tell a fish story from the real thing? Test you naivete! Enter T for True or an F for False.
-----1. Surveys are often used to collect information because they represent one of the easiest ways to get data.-----
-----2. Sociological techniques for collecting and interpreting data are directly applicable to information you encounter regularly in the media.-----
-----3. The Statement of the Problem is used to explain what has happened when you encounter a problem in your field research.-----
-----4. Often there are several theoretical frameworks that would fit a study equally well, so that the researcher may pick the theoretical approach in which he is most interested. -----
-----5. Your review of the literature for a class would summarize all the course material and everything you've read about the object.-----
----- 6. If you randomly select every 3rd student in the class for your survey, and they all agree to answer the questions, you have a random sample.-----
-----7. The interview schedule that should be included in your report is the list of the times and dates you interviewed people. -----
-----8. You can predict the growth in the number of professional jobs (doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.) by asking high school students what they are going to choose for careers.-----
-----9. A cell is the point of intersection between a row and a column in a two-way classification table (sometimes called a cross-tab). -----
-----10. We determine the extent to which data support our hypotheses by looking at the numbers in the cells.-----
-----11. The numbers in the cells come from enumerating the respondents' answers to the questions on the interview schedule.-----
-----12. It is important to include all the questions you can think of in the interview schedule. -----

Correct answers and career forecasts for this self-diagnostic may be found below. It should be noted that the logic of the justification for your answer is more important than the answer itself.

Scoring and Career Forecasts for Self-Diagnostic

Score one point for each correct answer.

1. True

2. True

3. False

4. True

5. False

6. False

7. False

8. False

9. True

10. True

11. True

12. False

Your Career Forecast for the Chapter

10-12 points: Can't put anything over on you, can they? You will have a successful career in research.

7-9 points: Don't feel bad. They can fool everybody sometime. Beware of jealous friends suggesting you accept the promotion to Vice President of the division at Podunk, U.S.A., population 2000.

4-6 points: You should seek competent professional advice when that fabulous Vice Presidency with Offshore Drilling for Peanut Oil.

0-3 points: So you still believe what your mother told you about the stork! Hire an agent. At this rate you'll end up as an usher believing you produced the film.


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