Adventures in academia: the real problem with sociology (and academic writing)

Sociology is a big topic, that’s basically about defining human behaviours and the constructs in which they interact (say, society, groups, etc).

I’ve been doing this subject for nearly a year in my course, and the main thing I’ve noticed is that no-one seems able to clearly define their terms.

Agency and Structuralism is one such area. The writers I’ve come across seem to delight in giving background history, comparing the opinions of different sociologists (Marx and Durkheim to name but two) and generally disappearing up their own arses while totally avoiding defining the very terms they are speaking about.

I don’t hold to the position that you can assume that the writer knows what you’re talking about unless you expressly state this.

I do hold that writers who fail to define their terms and talk around subjects are lazy and dishonest in their attempts to communicate their ideas. In this context, lazy refers to the apparent lack of care with which terminology is defined. If in an academic essay I have to define and prove what I’m talking about then this should logically extend to the very books which are held to be academic subject-matter. Dishonest in this context then refers to the level at which academic texts are held to be suitable reference material for subjects and the students who study them; this extends logically to the position that writers hold in academia as experts and people whose writing students must reference in order to make arguments academically rigorous.

And it is this rigour that seems missing in many texts. Simply speaking about a particular subject at length is not enough; academic writers need to do more to make subject matter available, accessible and therefore useful for educational purposes.

</end rant. >


Author: gotheek

Sometime writer, full time human.