Evidence

University of Chicago Press
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Howard S. Becker is a master of his discipline. His reputation as a teacher, as well as a sociologist, is supported by his best-selling quartet of sociological guidebooks: Writing for Social Scientists, Tricks of the Trade, Telling About Society, and What About Mozart? What About Murder? It turns out that the master sociologist has yet one more trick up his sleeve—a fifth guidebook, Evidence.

Becker has for seventy years been mulling over the problem of evidence. He argues that social scientists don’t take questions about the usefulness of their data as evidence for their ideas seriously enough. For example, researchers have long used the occupation of a person’s father as evidence of the family’s social class, but studies have shown this to be a flawed measure—for one thing, a lot of people answer that question too vaguely to make the reasoning plausible. The book is filled with examples like this, and Becker uses them to expose a series of errors, suggesting ways to avoid them, or even to turn them into research topics in their own right. He argues strongly that because no data-gathering method produces totally reliable information, a big part of the research job consists of getting rid of error. Readers will find Becker’s newest guidebook a valuable tool, useful for social scientists of every variety.
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About the author

Howard S. Becker is the author of several books, including Writing for Social Scientists, Telling About Society, Tricks of the Trade, and, most recently, What About Mozart? What About Murder? He lives and works in San Francisco.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Jul 10, 2017
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780226466408
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Anthropology / General
Social Science / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Students and researchers all write under pressure, and those pressures—most lamentably, the desire to impress your audience rather than to communicate with them—often lead to pretentious prose, academic posturing, and, not infrequently, writer’s block.

Sociologist Howard S. Becker has written the classic book on how to conquer these pressures and simply write. First published nearly twenty years ago, Writing for Social Scientists has become a lifesaver for writers in all fields, from beginning students to published authors. Becker’s message is clear: in order to learn how to write, take a deep breath and then begin writing. Revise. Repeat.

It is not always an easy process, as Becker wryly relates. Decades of teaching, researching, and writing have given him plenty of material, and Becker neatly exposes the foibles of academia and its “publish or perish” atmosphere. Wordiness, the passive voice, inserting a “the way in which” when a simple “how” will do—all these mechanisms are a part of the social structure of academic writing. By shrugging off such impediments—or at the very least, putting them aside for a few hours—we can reform our work habits and start writing lucidly without worrying about grades, peer approval, or the “literature.”

In this new edition, Becker takes account of major changes in the computer tools available to writers today, and also substantially expands his analysis of how academic institutions create problems for them. As competition in academia grows increasingly heated, Writing for Social Scientists will provide solace to a new generation of frazzled, would-be writers.
Drawing on more than four decades of experience as a researcher and teacher, Howard Becker now brings to students and researchers the many valuable techniques he has learned. Tricks of the Trade will help students learn how to think about research projects. Assisted by Becker's sage advice, students can make better sense of their research and simultaneously generate fresh ideas on where to look next for new data. The tricks cover four broad areas of social science: the creation of the "imagery" to guide research; methods of "sampling" to generate maximum variety in the data; the development of "concepts" to organize findings; and the use of "logical" methods to explore systematically the implications of what is found. Becker's advice ranges from simple tricks such as changing an interview question from "Why?" to "How?" (as a way of getting people to talk without asking for a justification) to more technical tricks such as how to manipulate truth tables.

Becker has extracted these tricks from a variety of fields such as art history, anthropology, sociology, literature, and philosophy; and his dazzling variety of references ranges from James Agee to Ludwig Wittgenstein. Becker finds the common principles that lie behind good social science work, principles that apply to both quantitative and qualitative research. He offers practical advice, ideas students can apply to their data with the confidence that they will return with something they hadn't thought of before.

Like Writing for Social Scientists, Tricks of the Trade will bring aid and comfort to generations of students. Written in the informal, accessible style for which Becker is known, this book will be an essential resource for students in a wide variety of fields.

"An instant classic. . . . Becker's stories and reflections make a great book, one that will find its way into the hands of a great many social scientists, and as with everything he writes, it is lively and accessible, a joy to read."—Charles Ragin, Northwestern University
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