Sociological Research Methods by Amy Blackstone *Published and Live*
This week we hear from amazing author and teacher Amy Blackstone, whose first textbook Principles of Sociological Inquiry: Quantitative and Qualitative Methods is now *published and live.* Even after a year of working with Amy, her interview answers still surprised us!
Why did you publish a book with Flat World? What was the process like?
I love the Flat World model. While my primary concern when choosing textbooks for my own classes is of course quality, a very close second is cost to students. I believe the financial strain that textbook cost places on students and their parents is avoidable, and I’ve always tried to find creative ways to help ensure that my students have access to the materials they need to fully participate in class. Flat World was the perfect solution to the problem I’d been working to overcome individually for years.
The process of publishing with Flat World has been amazing. I’m new to textbook publishing. What’s similar to my experience publishing in scholarly journals is the rigor of the review process. Flat World sought feedback from a diverse array of methods instructors, and that feedback made the book much stronger than it would have been otherwise. What’s different from my prior experience is how much fun the process has been. The folks at Flat World are a smart, creative, optimistic bunch – I can’t think of better qualities to have in the the people with whom one works. They are also clearly committed to making quality textbooks accessible for students. I haven’t found many other publishers who care as much about that as I do.
What’s your favorite…
Chapter or Topic in the Book?
My favorite chapter in my book is Chapter 4, Beginning a Research Project: Choosing a Topic. What I like about the chapter is that it urges students to begin to formulate their own identities as sociological researchers. When I teach research methods, I require students to conduct their own, original research projects. I’ve always felt the best way to learn and retain material is to actually apply it rather than simply reading about how others have done it. The material in Chapter 4 helps prepare students for that journey.
One thing I most appreciate about the Sociology Department at University of Maine, where I teach, is that my colleagues and I each have our own unique approach to teaching but we all value teaching and we’re all really excellent teachers. Working with colleagues who share my commitment to teaching, but who all teach using different strategies, has taught me that there is no “one right” way to teach. If there is a common theme across our diverse approaches, I’d say that it is that we all treat our students with respect. To me, the best learning environment is one in which the instructor and students share a mutual respect for one another and value what each brings to the table.
I only recently began reading fiction again, after a long hiatus from it during grad school and my pre-tenure days. Lance, my husband, finally got me to start reading fiction by introducing me to some pretty cool science fiction. I never thought I’d be a sci fi fan but two books really opened my eyes to how cool a genre science fiction is: “Kiln People” by David Brin and “Ring of Swords” by Eleanor Arnason. Both raise lots of interesting questions for sociologists!
Most of what I read is non-fiction. I love any story that features the human capacity to endure against all odds. Climbing stories in particular are fascinating to me. Give me any book about Everest and I’ll devour it. Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” is a favorite. Other favorite authors include Bill Bryson and Ruth Reichl. I love reading anything about food, wine, and travel. Linda Ellerbee’s “Take Big Bites” made me feel like I was right there, wherever she was, enjoying every meal with her.
I’ve recently been reading a cookbook, “The Food of Morocco.” Cookbooks make the best bedtime reading. Bizarre, I know, but by reading cookbooks you not only learn about food (and often about wine), but you also learn about a particular society, locale, or culture. Kind of cool.
Hands down a cork screw. I’m a huge wine person; I love to taste it, of course, but I also love reading about, learning about how its made, and making up my own descriptive terms for its taste. When I taste wine with Lance, I like to reinvent the rather snobbish descriptions that professionals tend to use. For example, I described my favorite at a recent tasting in this way: “it starts with essence of moldy bacon and then moves into rancid caramel.” The nastier the taste, the more I like it!
I’m an adventurous eater and could never commit to just one favorite snack food. I’ll try any food once, and most twice.
I can’t say that I have a life motto, other than perhaps “Never have a life motto.” While I certainly have a few core principles that guide me, I’ve never felt confident that I have enough of the answers about life to be able to identify a single motto that could guide all aspects of my life for all time. But perhaps that’s just my fear of commitment talking.