'Problem-Solving Sociology' Dissertation Proposal Development Workshop
Call for Applications
Doctoral students in departments of sociology who have not yet defended their dissertation proposals are invited to apply to a one-day dissertation proposal development workshop on “problem-solving sociology” to be held on Thursday, May 21, 2020. Northwestern University will pay for economy-class airfare to and accommodation in Evanston, Illinois, plus meals and transportation expenses. This workshop is made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Problem-solving sociology seeks to use sociological theory to shed light on solving (not just describing) contemporary social problems, and seeks to use investigation of these problems to further sociological theory. The approach proceeds from the assumption that mitigating critical social problems can be a catalyst for breakthroughs in the basic understanding of society. The workshop will include discussion of principles and techniques of problem-solving sociology and examples of sociological scholarship that applies the approach, plus extensive feedback on individual student projects.
To apply, please submit the following by January 15, 2020, via email to Miri Eliyahu:
- A short cover letter detailing your university, your department, your year in the program, whether or not you have defended your dissertation proposal, and any other information that might be relevant. If you know the date you expect to defend your proposal, please indicate it, but we also welcome students who are several years away from defending.
- A separate document, no more than 2 single-spaced pages, responding to some or all of the following questions (not all questions will be relevant for all applicants):
- What is the social problem that you seek to solve? What are some potential solutions, and how can research shed light on how to move forward with solutions?
- What social theories or approaches might be useful in solving this problem? If none, can you use this research as a way to critique and reformulate existing theories?
- (More relevant for some topics than others) Have you been involved with non-academic groups that work on this problem? Describe if so, or if you have plans to be in future. Do you see a way to engage sociological theory with the work of these groups?
- (If possible) How could short-term solutions feed into longer-term, structural change on this problem?
We welcome both creative and ambitious ideas, as well as focused and practical ideas, in addition to ideas that are somewhere in between. If the problem is the basic structure of the economic system and the only solution that you see is revolution, then think about how to bring about revolution. If the problem is colleges closing over spring break and low-income students having nowhere to go, think about how to nudge institutions to respond to the needs of nontraditional members. If the problem is racism or sexism, think about how to solve (not just describe) racism or sexism. If you already know the solution to the problem, but the problem is convincing policymakers, then focus on how to convince (or change) policymakers.
Problem-solving sociology is discussed here, but we are less interested in whether or not you have read this material and more interested in hearing your original ideas.