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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Howard S. Becker
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.
Howard S. Becker
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
Howard S. Becker
In 1963, Howard S. Becker gave a lecture about deviance, challenging the then-conventional definition that deviance was inherently criminal and abnormal and arguing that instead, deviance was better understood as a function of labeling. At the end of his lecture, a distinguished colleague standing at the back of the room, puffing a cigar, looked at Becker quizzically and asked, “What about murder? Isn’t that really deviant?” It sounded like Becker had been backed into a corner. Becker, however, wasn’t defeated! Reasonable people, he countered, differ over whether certain killings are murder or justified homicide, and these differences vary depending on what kinds of people did the killing. In What About Mozart? What About Murder?, Becker uses this example, along with many others, to demonstrate the different ways to study society, one that uses carefully investigated, specific cases and another that relies on speculation and on what he calls “killer questions,” aimed at taking down an opponent by citing invented cases.

Becker draws on a lifetime of sociological research and wisdom to show, in helpful detail, how to use a variety of kinds of cases to build sociological knowledge. With his trademark conversational flair and informal, personal perspective Becker provides a guide that researchers can use to produce general sociological knowledge through case studies. He champions research that has enough data to go beyond guesswork and urges researchers to avoid what he calls “skeleton cases,” which use fictional stories that pose as scientific evidence. Using his long career as a backdrop, Becker delivers a winning book that will surely change the way scholars in many fields approach their research.
Howard S. Becker
OG Kush. Sour Diesel. Wax, shatter, and vapes. Marijuana has come a long way since its seedy days in the back parking lots of our culture. So has Howard S. Becker, the eminent sociologist, jazz musician, expert on “deviant” culture, and founding NORML board member. When he published Becoming a Marihuana User more than sixty years ago, hardly anyone paid attention—because few people smoked pot. Decades of Cheech and Chong films, Grateful Dead shows, and Cannabis Cups later, and it’s clear—marijuana isn’t just an established commodity, it’s an entire culture. And that’s just the thing—Becker totally called it: pot has everything to do with culture. It’s not a blight on culture, but a culture itself—in fact, you’ll see in this book the first use of the term “users,” rather than “abusers” or “addicts.” Come along on this short little study—now a famous timestamp in weed studies—and you will be astonished at how relevant it is to us today.

Becker doesn’t judge, but neither does he holler for legalization, tell you how to grow it in a hollowed-out dresser, or anything else like that for which there are plenty of other books you can buy. Instead, he looks at marijuana with a clear sociological lens—as a substance that some people enjoy, and that some others have decided none of us should. From there he asks: so how do people decide to get high, and what kind of experience do they have as a result of being part of the marijuana world? What he discovers will bother some, especially those who proselytize the irrefutably stunning effects of the latest strain: chemistry isn’t everything—the important thing about pot is how we interact with it. We learn to be high. We learn to like it. And from there, we teach others, passing the pipe in a circle that begins to resemble a bona fide community, defined by shared norms, values, and definitions just like any other community.

All throughout this book, you’ll see the intimate moments when this transformation takes place. You’ll see people doing it for the first time and those with considerable experience. You’ll see the early signs of the truths that have come to define the marijuana experience: that you probably won’t get high at first, that you have to hold the hit in, and that there are other people here who are going to smoke that, too.
Howard S. Becker
Based on three years of detailed anthropological observation, this account of undergraduate culture portrays students' academic relations to faculty and administration as one of subjection. With rare intervals in crisis moments, student life has always been dominated by grades and grade point averages. The authors of Making the Grade maintain that, though it has taken different forms from tune to time, the emphasis on grades has persisted in academic life. From this premise they argue that the social organization giving rise to this emphasis has remained remarkably stable throughout the century. Becker, Geer, and Hughes discuss various aspects of college life and examine the degree of autonomy students have over each facet of their lives. Students negotiate with authorities the conditions of campus political and organizational life--the student government, independent student organizations, and the student newspaper--and preserve substantial areas of autonomous action for themselves. Those same authorities leave them to run such aspects of their private lives as friendships and dating as they wish. But, when it comes to academic matters, students are subject to the decisions of college faculties and administrators. Becker deals with this continuing lack of autonomy in student life in his new introduction. He also examines new phenomena, such as the impact of -grade inflation- and how the world of real adult work has increasingly made professional and technical expertise, in addition to high grades, the necessary condition for success. Making the Grade continues to be an unparalleled contribution to the studies of academics, students, and college life. It will be of interest to university administrators, professors, students, and sociologists.
Howard S. Becker
Based on three years of detailed anthropological observation, this account of undergraduate culture portrays students' academic relations to faculty and administration as one of subjection. With rare intervals in crisis moments, student life has always been dominated by grades and grade point averages. The authors of Making the Grade maintain that, though it has taken different forms from tune to time, the emphasis on grades has persisted in academic life. From this premise they argue that the social organization giving rise to this emphasis has remained remarkably stable throughout the century. Becker, Geer, and Hughes discuss various aspects of college life and examine the degree of autonomy students have over each facet of their lives. Students negotiate with authorities the conditions of campus political and organizational life--the student government, independent student organizations, and the student newspaper--and preserve substantial areas of autonomous action for themselves. Those same authorities leave them to run such aspects of their private lives as friendships and dating as they wish. But, when it comes to academic matters, students are subject to the decisions of college faculties and administrators. Becker deals with this continuing lack of autonomy in student life in his new introduction. He also examines new phenomena, such as the impact of -grade inflation- and how the world of real adult work has increasingly made professional and technical expertise, in addition to high grades, the necessary condition for success. Making the Grade continues to be an unparalleled contribution to the studies of academics, students, and college life. It will be of interest to university administrators, professors, students, and sociologists.
Howard S. Becker
OG Kush. Sour Diesel. Wax, shatter, and vapes. Marijuana has come a long way since its seedy days in the back parking lots of our culture. So has Howard S. Becker, the eminent sociologist, jazz musician, expert on “deviant” culture, and founding NORML board member. When he published Becoming a Marihuana User more than sixty years ago, hardly anyone paid attention—because few people smoked pot. Decades of Cheech and Chong films, Grateful Dead shows, and Cannabis Cups later, and it’s clear—marijuana isn’t just an established commodity, it’s an entire culture. And that’s just the thing—Becker totally called it: pot has everything to do with culture. It’s not a blight on culture, but a culture itself—in fact, you’ll see in this book the first use of the term “users,” rather than “abusers” or “addicts.” Come along on this short little study—now a famous timestamp in weed studies—and you will be astonished at how relevant it is to us today.

Becker doesn’t judge, but neither does he holler for legalization, tell you how to grow it in a hollowed-out dresser, or anything else like that for which there are plenty of other books you can buy. Instead, he looks at marijuana with a clear sociological lens—as a substance that some people enjoy, and that some others have decided none of us should. From there he asks: so how do people decide to get high, and what kind of experience do they have as a result of being part of the marijuana world? What he discovers will bother some, especially those who proselytize the irrefutably stunning effects of the latest strain: chemistry isn’t everything—the important thing about pot is how we interact with it. We learn to be high. We learn to like it. And from there, we teach others, passing the pipe in a circle that begins to resemble a bona fide community, defined by shared norms, values, and definitions just like any other community.

All throughout this book, you’ll see the intimate moments when this transformation takes place. You’ll see people doing it for the first time and those with considerable experience. You’ll see the early signs of the truths that have come to define the marijuana experience: that you probably won’t get high at first, that you have to hold the hit in, and that there are other people here who are going to smoke that, too.
Howard S. Becker
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.
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