In addition to the qualitative part of this project, I am considering adding a quantitative component to my research as well. This is actually something that I’ve been struggling with for some time now. You see, the substantive questions that I am asking do not necessarily lead me to quantitative methodology. My questions are more qualitative in nature and not something that is developed enough to be able to test quantitative hypothesis. However, while at UCSB, I’ve taken quite a few quantitative courses. Seeing as how I’ve always been good with numbers, it just made sense to develop that skill in order to make myself more attractive as a job candidate. It would be almost a waste of my training and my particular set of skills if I didn’t do something quantitative in nature. At the same time, I’ve been trained, as everyone should be, that you really shouldn’t let the method drive the research. In other words, I shouldn’t be trying to shoehorn a statistics project in just because I want to do statistics.
However, that is not to say that there isn’t a quantitative project to be done. In addition to being interested in how popular forms of knowledge become legitimized via science, I am also interested in the way that knowledge is disseminated and is used by organizations. There is a very rich literature on how this process works in business organizations. In particular, in thinking about this project, I was intrigued by John Sutton‘s (who is on my committee) work on US business firms response to EEOC law. In this particular piece, he and Frank Dobbin explore how well organizations adapted to the new equal opportunity employment laws through the adoption of human resource procedures. They find that indeed, that changes in culture could be effected through the adoption of laws.
I have been thinking about a similar project, in that I would be using the same methodology, event history analysis, a form of regression that takes into account when an observation is at risk for an event. I was thinking at looking at the diffusion rates or the factors that influence the adoption of Sabermetric analysis as a tool for making business decisions within professional baseball franchises. However, I am not sure how to frame this question in terms of a social theory. The vein of literature with which Sutton and Dobbin did their research was Neo-Institutionalism. And while this is very interesting stuff, and I feel that I could it feels a little disjointed from where my main interests lie, the sociology of culture and the sociology of knowledge. I mean could you imagine reading my dissertation with a bunch of chapters on how these stats geeks feel about their little hobby and then all of a sudden I have an organizational analysis of the hiring practices of Major League Baseball teams. I think that I could maybe make the link, but it would be a stretch and I want to avoid doing all of the work of doing such a study and then having to cut it out at the end.
One alternative posed to me by one of my committee members is to just make it a side project and try to get it published as an article on its own merits. While this would provide me with another publication for my CV, it would also provide me a ton of headaches as I try to hunker down and get out of school. The other thing is that I took the event history analysis seminar 4 years ago. And since no one seems to be interested in teaching it again at UCSB, I would have to pretty much try and teach it to myself, something that I think would make me want to shoot myself.
Like I said, I’m pretty undecided about this right now. It seems that the best option would be the side project thing, but I’m pretty hell bent on getting out of here ASAP. However, it is something worth documenting just in case, I can figure out an easy way to do this.