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February 27, 2017

How to Survive a Plague: Fighting AIDS and Challenging Stigma

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Journalist David France’s book on the history of the AIDS crisis, How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, provides an important reminder of how the fear of marginalized groups can delay research and treatment of a deadly disease. Effective drug therapies, now in use for more than 20 years, may have made it easier for people to forget—or perhaps never to learn in the first place—the toll that indifference and fear took on so many peoples’ lives. Between 1981 and 1995, before effective treatments existed, more than 500,000 people contracted the disease, and more than 300,000 of those people died.

The disease was first identified in the United States in 1981, when a handful of young gay men in Los Angeles had very unusual symptoms for otherwise healthy men. Reports of gay men with similar symptoms in other parts of the country soon surfaced. The disease was soon called “gay cancer” and later “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency” (GRID), suggesting that this was something that could only afflict gay men.

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February 20, 2017

Can Teachers Speak the Truth about Donald Trump?

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Consider this statement: Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, is a racist, sexist, xenophobic bigot who constantly tells lies and makes wildly misleading claims.

I offer this statement not as an accusation against the President but as an assertion. It is not based on what Trump’s advisors call “alternative facts” but is based on actual verifiable facts. And it is not the subjective opinion of a left-leaning professor but is an objective truth that can be unequivocally demonstrated and proven.

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February 17, 2017

Telling True Stories

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Story telling is not just about fiction and fabrication. Good scholars are gifted at telling compelling true stories using data from research findings.

If you think about a book or article that you have read or a class you have taken that made a big impact, chances are good that the author or instructor had a knack for telling a story that you were interested in hearing. They draw you in, convincing you that their story is important, and encourage you to stick with them to learn what they have learned.

Sociology at its best is good storytelling: researchers who are skilled at convincing us why the issues they investigate are important, how their findings can inform us more about this issue and walk us through the complexities and even contradictions of their research produce work that is exciting to read. They bring to life the cliché that truth is stranger than fiction, or at least more interesting.

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February 14, 2017

Creativity and Sociology

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Are you new to sociology? If you are, you might think ”creativity” and “sociology” are words that don’t go together. In introduction to sociology classes, the texts we read seem to arrive from on high as if tablets of stone from Mt. Sinai. Some of what you read might, indeed, seem to be dry-as-dust. But I would like to convince you that each concept that read about, every theory or idea, is the result of some whimsy, some poetry.

Sociology is a vibrant and lively field, and thinking sociologically requires imagination and inventiveness at every stage: from hypothesizing and theorizing, to writing and teaching. (In reviewing my earlier, ten metaphors blog post, there is absolutely some creativity that is at work in those examples!) Generating new ideas, thinking about things in new and exciting ways is the cornerstone of all scientific work, not just sociology.

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February 10, 2017

How Do You Study?

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Are you studying smarter, or spending lots of time that accomplishes relatively little? Do you have those oh-so-familiar moments of reading your text and waking up to realize you have stared at the same page or paragraph for way too long without really seeing it? Or do you skip the readings, thinking you can get by without them?

Well, of course, from my perspective as a professor, your notes, textbook, and other readings are important for the learning process to occur. We choose those readings carefully, so that once you read them, digest them, and can apply whatever gems of knowledge are in them, you have gone a long way towards developing an effective sociological imagination.

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February 02, 2017

Predicting the Future and Getting a Job

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Demography is a useful tool for being able to make projections about the future based on the composition of the population. It’s not just the size of a population that matters, but who makes up a population. Population projections are useful in a number of ways, especially for economists and policy analysts, who might use data on populations to predict a country’s needs. It is also useful to think about for those who might be thinking about future careers. Demography can inform us years in advance about what jobs might be available in larger numbers, and which jobs might be in decline, technological advances aside.

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January 30, 2017

Meet Four “Lazy” Millennials

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Millennials are not getting much love these days. If you do a Google search for the phrase “millennials are” the top five autofill suggestions are: lazy, having less sex, dumb, poor, and stupid. In all fairness, if you do a similar search for baby boomers or generation X you get similar disparaging suggestions. Still, it seems as if millennials, more than their predecessors, have been branded as being the laziest of generations.

Most of the news reports and assertions that criticize the work ethic of millennials are based on anecdotal and unscientific data. For example, I recently did a search with the prompt, “millennials are lazy,” and one of the first links that appeared was based on statements from lifestyle businesswoman Martha Stewart. Although some might seek Martha Stewart’s advice on recipes and home décor, her social scientific insight is not what she is known for.

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