Careers: April 2006 Archives

I've recently read a fascinating book called Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences by Andrew Abbott. This book explores the various ways by which social scientists develop and test the hypotheses and heuristics that drive their work. It's fascinating reading and highly recommended to graduate students about to begin their studies (or writing up their dissertations).

The book made me a bit reflective about my own doctoral studies, especially as my first book is about to be published by Cornell University Press this summer. My hypothesis going into field work was:

Changes in deaf identity in Japan were due to globalization effects and the importation of American cultural Deaf identity principles by younger deaf activists.

After I spent more time, my hypothesis was revised to:

Although it would on first glance appear to be biologically bound, deaf identity is constructed through individual interaction with social institutions (most importantly: schools for the deaf and associations of the deaf). In order to understand generational changes in deaf cohorts, one must begin with a study of the particular histories and institutional environments that members of those cohorts experienced.

Most of my book is a narrative history of deaf communities in Japan, interspliced with microhistories of five deaf women born into the three main cohorts that I explore.

When I was in graduate school, there was no discussion about how one's choice of research topic would affect your marketability. The general atmosphere at most programs is that marketability is a bad word, that you need to focus on being the best scholar possible, that you need to pursue your intellectual passion with no thought as to how your findings will be received.

I am swayed by this argument but I do think graduate students need to give some thought about how their topics will be received by other scholars. While you shouldn't change topics to match market demands (as no one knows what the market will be in 10 years or what topics will be hot), you should at least think about the intellectual "spin" that you choose to attach to it.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Careers category from April 2006.

Careers: February 2006 is the previous archive.

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