Doctoral students in departments of sociology who have not yet defended their dissertation proposals are invited to apply to a dissertation proposal development workshop on “problem solving sociology.” Northwestern University will pay for economy-class airfare and accommodation in Evanston, IL, plus meals and transportation expenses, for a one-day workshop to be held on May 27, 2021. If an in-person workshop cannot be held, the workshop will be held online over two days, May 26 and May 27. This workshop is made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Problem-solving sociology uses sociological insights to attempt to solve (not just describe) contemporary social problems, and uses 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, and that sociological perspectives have much to contribute to changing troubling patterns and dynamics. For more on problem-solving sociology see our website at https://problemsolvingsociology.com.
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. Facilitators will include Gianpaolo Baiocchi (New York University), Bruce Carruthers (Northwestern University), and Monica Prasad (Northwestern University).
To apply, please submit by January 15, 2021, to firstname.lastname@example.org (1) 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. Please also submit (2) 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):
- In a paragraph or two, what is your project?
- 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, as well as 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.