WEMSK42 - Getting Acquainted with a New Field - Sociology

Sociology is the most splintered of the social sciences.  You
notice this when you look at websites; contrary to practices in
other fields, they are often devoted to particular schools, there
is a Parsonsian website, a Simmelian website, etc. etc. Probably
the best approach to such a field is through vocabulary and
concepts, starting with introductions, such as those found in the
Sammlung Goeschen, the Que sais-je?, and the College Outline
Series, e.g. New Outline of the Principles of Sociology, ed. Alfred
McClung Lee et al. College Outline Series (NY: Barnes & Noble,
1946). Note that, at this stage, the age of the book is not
important. Elementary guides can be an aid along the way, cf. The
Student Sociologist's Handbook, ed. Pauline Bart & Linda Frankel,
4th ed. (NY: Random House, 1986). This is meant for the
undergraduate and is perhaps too hand-holding, but that may be what
you need at the moment.

                         Social Sciences

1. Your best first guide is: Sources of Information in the Social
Sciences: A Guide to the Literature, 3d ed., ed. William H. Web et
al. (Chicago: ALA, 1986).  The third edition of a noble old standby
edited originally by Carl M. White; great annotations.

2. Do not replace the above, but supplement it by: Social Science
Reference Sources: A Practical Guide, ed. Tze-chung Li, 3d ed.
(Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000).  Well annotated.
Particularly noteworthy for its "Reference Sources in an Electronic
Age," 3-21, and its "Appendix: Cited URLs," 447-452. For a
different list of WWW resources in sociology, see: Scientific
American Guide to Science on the Internet, ed. Edward Renehan (NY:
ibooks, 2000), "Sociology," 455-470.

3. A good read-through: Bert F. Hoselitz, A Reader's Guide to the
Social Sciences (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1959). With
contributions by various authorities.


1. Bibliography:

a. Stephen A. Aby, Sociology: A Guide to Reference Information
Sources, 2d ed. Reference Sources in the Social Sciences
(Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1997). Good annotations. Good
for online databases. Good list of journals with commentary.

b. Tom B. Bottomore, Sociology: A Guide to Problems and Literature,
3d ed. (London: Allen & Unwin, 1987). An old and trusted standby.

c. International Bibliography of Sociology (London: Routledge,
1952). The standard annual bibliography.

2. Concepts:

a. Your best first port of call is still Bernard Berelson and Gary
A. Steiner, Human Behavior. An Inventory of Scientific Findings
(NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1964).  Arranged by concepts, with
quotations, bibliography and discussion.  Here you can find out all
you ever wanted about such things as cognitive dissonance and
delayed feedback.

b. Another example of the `quotation' approach: Panos D. Bardis,
Dictionary of Quotations in Sociology (Westport, CT: Greenwood
Press, 1985).  By an authority.

c. An interesting book by a group of outstanding experts: The
Blackwell Companion to Major Social Theorists, ed. George Ritzer
(Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).

3. Readers:

a. Theories of Society, ed. Talcott Parsons, et al., 2 vols.
(Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1961).  Presents 86 thinkers who
between the years 1890 and 1935 had great influence on our thinking
on social issues.  A MUST read through, with bibliographies,
commentary, the whole works.

b. A good set of articles on methodology, in spite of its age:
Symposium on Sociological Theory, ed. Llewellyn Gross (NY: Harper
& Row, 1959).

c. Amitai & Eva Etzioni, Social Change (NY: Basic Books, 1964).

d. Sociological Methods: A Sourcebook, ed. Norman K. Denzin
(Chicago: Aldine, 1970).

4. Dictionaries:

a. Allan G. Johnson, The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology. A
User's Guide to Sociological Language, 2d ed. (Oxford: Blackwell,
2000). The best. Most of the items have bibliography.

b. Raymond Boudon and Francois Bourricaud, A Critical Dictionary of
Sociology, sel. & tr. Peteer Hamilton (Chicago: UChicagoP, 1989).
With a "thematic index".

c. A Dictionary of Sociology, ed. Gordon Marshall. Oxford Paperback
Reference (Oxford: OUP, 1998).  Good.

d. For a German counterpart to Boudon and Bourricaud (b above):
Woerterbuch der Soziologie. Kroeners Taschenausgabe 410 (Stuttgart:
Kroener, 1972). Extensive bibliographies.

5. Encyclopedia of Sociology, ed. Edgar F. Borgatta et al., 2d ed.,
5 vols. MacMillan Reference (NY: Gale Group, 2000). Much improved
in this 2d ed. It might be worthwhile xeroxing off the "List of
Articles" as a sort of taxonomy of the field.

6. Interesting:

a. The Sociology of Knowledge. A Reader, ed. James E. Curtis and
John W. Petras (NY: Praeger, 1970).  An interesting set of readings
in the then new field of the Sociology of Knowledge, "all knowledge
is social in nature".  For one man's view of the field: Irving L.
Horowitz, Philosophy, Science and the Sociology of Knowledge.
American Lecture Series 442 (Springfield, IL: Thomas, 1961).

b. Robert W. Friedrichs, A Sociology of Sociology (NY: Free Press,

7. I would be remiss if I did not mention two old standbys by
Pitirim A. Sorokin: Contemporary Sociological Theories. Harper
Torchbooks 3046 (NY: Harper & Row, 1964; repr. of 1928 vol.),
Sociological Theories of Today (NY: Harper & Row, 1966). These were the
guidebooks for the graduate students of yesteryear.