Sociological Approaches to Field Methods and Differences in Influence: Chicago and Columbia Compared

Daniel Menchik, University of Arizona

What might contribute to variation in ideas about what constitutes quality social science? This paper examines the way quality work was understood in the scholarship and correspondence of teams of influential sociologists at the two leading sociology departments in the 1950s, Chicago and Columbia. Drawing upon interviews and archival sources that capture the teams’ work within and between multiple departmental, university, and fieldwork venues, I examine their differing approaches to researching the same subject: the process of becoming a physician. I find that scholars’ ideas about rigor were associated with their ideas about how they thought about themselves as sociologists, self-understandings that varied in light of the various tasks organizing the venues they frequented. In particular, their orientations towards quality research differed in terms of their ideas about the place of sociology as a science, perspectives towards the relationship between sociology and ‘outside’ stakeholders, and best practices for organizing and executing a research project. Given the influence of these scholars in American social science, these differences suggest why sociologists’ ideas about rigor remain consistently heterogeneous.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 140. Reflexivity, Ethics, and Translations in the History of Social Science