Undergraduate Research Opportunities
2011-12 RESEARCH PROJECTS: The following research projects will hire undergraduate research assistants:
Social Adaptations of Lymphoma Patients through the Life course.
(Faculty Leader: Karen Cook)
DESCRIPTION: This is a continuing project that examines the patterns of social adaptation of transplant recipients at various stages of their lives. Qualitative data from in-depth interviews and quantitative data from self-administered questionnaires will be analyzed to increase our understanding of what cancer means to patients and how patients perceive its effects on their careers and relationships.
Responsibilities: Undergraduate research assistants will assist in analyzing survey responses and qualitative coding in order to examine patterns and to refine instruments used in data collection. The team will meet regularly to discuss research design and methods, especially as they relate to mixed-methods studies.
Norms, Emotions and Strategic Action in Responses to the Housing Crisis.
(Faculty Leader: Karen Cook)
DESCRIPTION: The housing crisis is a hallmark of the Great Recession (2007-2009). When the housing bubble burst, millions of homeowners saw their primary nestegg, housing equity, depleted. These “under water” homeowners are facing a decision they may have never imagined—should I walk away from my mortgage? Although strategic default and voluntary foreclosure have received much media attention in the current recessionary environment, few have tackled the sociological question at the heart of the housing crisis.
Responsibilities: Undergraduate research assistants will assist in creating a dataset of content, coding the content, and administering the survey experiment, among other things related to the completion of this study. Professor Cook will meet bi-weekly with these research assistants, along with the graduate students working on this project.
Undergraduate Methods Textbook Design and Edit
(Faculty Leader: Shelley Correll)This project will produce a new undergraduate methods textbook.Responsibilities: The student will help proofread the manuscript, with an eye to answering whether it is readable for college students, whether the examples are interesting and clearly described. The student will also help format the chapter and find up references. And s/he will get to see how textbooks are created.
Project: Redesigning / Redefining Work
(Faculty Leader: Shelley Correll)
Description: This project examines how alternative work structures such as Telecommuting, Results Only Work Environments, Compressed Work Weeks affects employee outcomes, including work-family conflict, workplace satisfaction, worker productivity and worker retention.Responsibilities: The student would be responsible for developing a database of real world examples of alternative work structures. S/he would summarize case studies of different work structures and participate in weekly team meetings with the RAs and faculty on this project.
Project Title: Accounting for Status.
(Faculty Leaders: Shelley Correll and Cecilia Ridgeway)
Description: This project seeks to understand how accountability in decision-making influences the preferences of decision-makers. When we have to explain our decisions to others, does this cause us to move away from our own personal preferences and towards those that we think will be consistent with the preferences of others? We rely on two different laboratory experiments to answer these questions: 1) a consumer decision experiment involving chocolate preferences; and 2) a hiring experiment.
Responsibilities: RAs will run experimental sessions, assist with scheduling and data entry, and will be involved in the design of experimental materials and procedures. Correll and Ridgeway will meet bi-weekly the research team to discuss research design and methods and solicit input from team members.
Project Title: Immigration and US History High School Text books.
(Faculty Leader: Tomas Jimenez)
Description: This project will examine how US history high school textbooks from 1930 - 2008 have discussed immigration as part of the American national narrative. The US is a self-described "nation of immigrants," but we have limited sociological understanding of how this self-description has developed over time. US history textbooks are concrete instantiations of the American national narrative and are a perfect source of data for understanding how the "nation of immigrants" came about.
Responsibilities: An RA willlocate, scan, and code relevant portions of text from high school US history textbooks and will also be involved in the preliminary analysis of these texts. Jimenez will meet with the RA bi-weekly to discuss progress on the project, and to map out the broad trends in portrayal of immigrants and immigration in the texts.
Project Title: The Impact of Protest on Gay and Lesbian Business Organization.
(Faculty Leader: Susan Olzak)
Project Description. This project explores the impact of social protest activity mobilized by both pro- and anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LBGT) organizations in a sample of cities in the United States, 1989-2007. Recent research in sociology and organizations also suggests that the vitality of LBGT communities depend on the nature of organizational resources, numbers of supporters, and the overall political climate in a city or town. Our research contribution will be to link urban political climates, social movement activity, hate crime attacks, to understanding the organizational vitality of an increasingly visible and important community in our urban areas.
Student Tasks. Students will be engaged in collecting information on protest and attacks using online archives of local newspapers to code information on gay and lesbian rights’ protest and anti-gay and lesbian attacks. Students will meet each week, and one student will be designated as the “quality control leader,” and will check others’ work for errors and discrepancies. At least one student has expressed an interest in developing a senior thesis using these data. Students will gain on-hands experience in understanding how hate crimes are reported and how communities react to attacks. Students will also prepare memos at the end of each quarter, summarizing their findings. Several students have been trained on this project, and they have begun by coding high priority city newspapers for the years 1989-2007. Each student will be encouraged to write a final research paper, summarizing their results and linking their findings to the overall goal of the project.
Project Title: Sources of Anti-Immigrant Attacks in Western Europe
(faculty Leader: Susan Olzak)
Description: This project examines pro- and anti-immigrant social movement activity during the 1990s in Western Europe. Our project tracks the influence of socio-economic factors and changes in public policy in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and France. We have obtained a unique dataset collected on public events involving immigrants collected over the 1990-1999 period that contains information on over 6000 conflict events. The next step in our research will be to collect data on relevant social, economic, and policies relevant to immigrants in these 5 countries over time.Responsibilities: Students will be engaged in searching online and library census data on all of the socio-economic characteristics required to answer our research questions. Students will specialize in either economic or political data, and we will meet weekly to discuss ongoing progress. Students will prepare and learn how to develop coding schemes for collecting and analyzing data. Each student will be required to prepare weekly memos and graphs examining the covariation in economic, political, and conflict measures over time within each of the five countries. Students interested in contemporary Western European politics, immigration and its consequences will gain specific knowledge about the trends in each of these countries.
Project Title: The Changing Dynamics of Mate/Partner Selection.
(Faculty Leader: Michael Rosenfeld)
Description: This project will examine how couples meet, in other words where and when in the life-course people first meet the individuals who will later become their partners and spouses.We will examine how new technologies, such as the Internet, are changing the dating market. The project will gather and analyze two sources of data: 1) narrative descriptions of how 3000 randomly selected Americans met their current partners, and 2) in-depth interviews.
Responsibilities: The undergraduate RA will interview subjects, always together with Professor Rosenfeld. The undergraduate RA will be responsible for transcribing the interviews, and the undergraduate RA, together with professor Rosenfeld, will work on interpreting the interviews.
Title: Remembering the Dawsons: The Role of Legal and Legislative Processes in Structuring Collective Memory
(Faculty Leader: Corey Fields)
Description: Early in the morning on October 16, 2002, Darnell Brooks broke into the Dawsons’ home in the Oliver neighborhood in Baltimore, MD and started a fire. Angela Dawson, her husband, and five of her children died as a result of the fire. Later, it was discovered that the arson was retaliation for reporting neighborhood drug dealers to the police. Soon after the initial outpouring of grief and outrage, multiple interpretations of the crime (and who its victims were) emerged. The project examines the process through which one interpretation “wins.” This research asks, “How did one narrative come to dominate the telling of the Dawson family story?” Using news accounts, archival documents, and interviews with key actors, the research explores how legislative and bureaucratic processes shape collective memory.
Responsibilities: Students involved will collect news accounts and archival documents (speeches, legal documents, legislative reports) related to the Dawson family, and will be supervised in the development and implementation of a coding scheme to analyze the articles. The student will work closely with Professor Fields as he develops an article manuscript, and receive full acknowledgement of his/her efforts in any resulting publications.
Covering African-American Republicans
(Faculty leader: Corey Fields)
Description: This project explores how media coverage of African-American Republicans has evolved over time. The project involves the analysis and coding of over 1,800 newspaper articles.
Responsibilities: The student responsibilities will include collecting archival materials relating to African-American Republicans, tracking popular press articles about African-American Republicans, reading and coding newspaper articles under faculty supervision, and meeting regularly to discuss progress with members of the research team.
(Faculty Leader: Corey Fields)
Description: Demographers and sociologists have pointed to lack of marriageable black men, white men’s lack of interest in black women, and black women’s preferences for dating black men. Yet, media coverage of this issue often cites black women as the “problem,” pointing to things like their impossibly high standards or their overly domineering nature. Given these two divergent accounts of black women’s single status, this study asks how people account for women’s single status in practice, and using experimental methods attempts to see how those accountings vary by race. Data for the project will draw on an experimental study that exposes respondents to hypothetical online dating profiles.
Responsibilities: The student RA will work with Professor Fields to develop an extensive literature review on racial differences in dating and dating attitudes, as well as an media analysis of stories about black women's singleness.
The trade of magic
(Faculty Leader: Paolo Parigi)
Description: For centuries, people in Europe thought that pieces of the bodies of saints had healing powers. They used them the way we use medicine. The goal of this project is to code the exchange of relics that took place among German towns from the X to the XIII centuries. For each town or city a list of relics present at the time is listed, along with information pertaining the original location from which the relic came and the date when the relic arrived to its destination. Relics therefore symbolically united cities in Germany and my goal is to superimpose this sort of magic network with a more traditional trade network between locations that can be reconstructed from secondary sources.
Responsibilities: Part of the challenge of the project is that the data comes in the form of a map, with writings in Italian and Latin. However, the prospective student does not need to read the two languages since as Professor Parigi will translate the legend used by the cartographer.
The Impact of Unemployment and the Great Recession on Social Institutions
(Faculty Advisor: Cristobal Young)
Description: Large scale joblessness can have wide ranging impacts on society, influencing patterns of marriage, divorce, crime, education, immigration, health, charitable giving, and political engagement. This research project will collect current data on how the Great Recession has diffused into many areas of social life. Hospitals are coping with a flood of uninsured patients in emergency rooms. The strained criminal justice system must address higher crime rates. Young people are delaying marriage, but also staying in school longer – with fewer high school drop outs, and more college entrances. Unauthorized immigration has dropped sharply. Military recruitment is up. More people are buying lottery tickets. As in past recessions, rates of suicide, divorce, and child abuse are all likely rising. With detailed data in these areas, this project will offer a comprehensive picture of American society under the pressure of high and prolonged unemployment.
Responsibilities: Students will focus on exploring data sources, searching through newspaper articles, and reports from government offices and social service agencies. The goal will be to collect descriptive data and identify possible data sets that would allow more detailed statistical analysis. For example, the Giving USA Foundation reports that charitable giving has dropped sharply during the recession, especially donations to food banks and homeless shelters. Students will obtain the published data, enter it into a spreadsheet, conduct a basic graphical analysis, and write an interpretive memo. Much student time will also be focused on identifying similar data for other areas such as church attendance, mental health prescriptions, or state-level sales of alcohol and tobacco. The project has inter-disciplinary appeal and should interest students majoring in a variety of fields. Many of the subtopics would be suitable for development into a senior thesis, and the skills they build while researching and writing short memos will help them on their way to an empirical senior thesis project. We will meet bi-weekly
Economic Elites in Eastern Europe
(Faculty Leader: Andrew Walder)
Description: Theories about Eastern European transformations often emphasize the role of economic elites in shaping national outcomes, but little is known about who currently holds economic power in these emerging economies. We plan to use “Top 100” lists from several countries to collect data on the age, professional background, sectors of activity/ownership, net worth and political affiliation of the “100 richest” businesspeople in various post-communist countries. This will shed light into elites’ relationship to the old communist regime and to current democratic parties or movements, and will allow comparative analysis of how elites shape market institutions, democratic reform, and economic performance in post-communism.
Responsibilities: Research assistants fluent in the respective languages will identify and review the “top 100” lists in each country, collecting data on age, professional background, ethnicity, sectors of activity/ownership, net worth, political affiliation and other variables relevant to economic and political change. They will translate this data and input it in a cross-national database.
Elite Mobility in the Chinese Bureaucracy
(Faculty Leader: Xueguang Zhou)
Description. This research project examines elite mobility in the Chinese bureaucracy. The main purpose of the research is to examine patterns of cadre mobility in selected Chinese regions to shed light on the interconnectedness and intraorganizational relationships among bureaus and offices in the Chinese bureaucracy. Patterns of personnel flow and career trajectories will also help answer questions about the incentives and capacities of mobilization in the Chinese organizations.
Responsibility. Assist in data collection, data cleaning and data analysis on this project. Since last year, we have already begun the data collection process, and the RA will help us consolidate the data already collected and start the process of data analysis. The student can learn real processes of conducting social science research, from data collection, data cleaning, to data analysis and report writing. Knowledge of Chinese characters is required.
Surveying the Surveyors – Definitions of Race in Social Surveys
(Faculty leader: Aliya Saperstein)
Description: Debates over the definition of “race,” and the origin of racial differences, have continued across the academy for more than a century. This project considers whether and to what extent these debates are reflected in how data on race and ethnicity has been collected in large-scale social surveys. What do the practices of data collection and coding suggest (or assume) about the characteristics that define races? How are the boundaries between groups defined and do the definitions change over time?
Responsibilities: Primary research tasks will involve tracking down codebooks, questionnaires and/or interviewer instruction manuals for major surveys in the United States conducted over the past 50 years. Additional responsibilities may include scanning materials, identifying key passages, coding and analyzing preliminary data and writing memos reporting results. The RA will also attend bi-weekly meetings to discuss the research and progress on the project.
The Role of the Census in U.S. Racial Discourse, 1830-1980
(Faculty leader: Aliya Saperstein)
Description: The Census is often accused of creating the reality that it counts just as much as, if not more than, it catalogues objective facts about the population. This point has been argued especially vehemently when it comes to counting Americans by race and ethnicity. This project examines the relationship between public discourse about racial differences and the racial categories employed in the decennial census through a content analysis of major U.S. newspapers.
Responsibilities: Research tasks will include conducting keyword searches of historical publications, entering data into statistical or spreadsheet programs, writing memos to identify key findings, and attending bi-weekly meetings to discuss the research and report on progress. Other responsibilities may include: analyzing quantitative data, qualitative coding of relevant articles, and reviewing and summarizing scholarly work on the history of racial terminology in the United States.