Sociological Research Online

Thinking and Working Sociologically: a call for contributions

The editors would like to invite further contributions on the subject matter of Les Back's piece published here in which he reflects on the guidance that can be given to research students as they develop the skills of thinking and working sociologically. Various of the points made in this piece echo and elaborate on comments made by earlier sociologists about their vocation or craft. The observation that insights do not always come to us when sitting at a desk echoes Max Weber's remark that 'Ideas occur to us when they please, not when it pleases us' (Weber 1970: 136), for example when out for a walk. And the advice to have a notebook for recording these ideas follows on from C Wright Mills's guidance about how to practise 'intellectual craftsmanship': 'keep a journal. Many creative writers keep journals; the sociologist's need for systematic reflection demands it' (Mills 1967: 196). The wisdom contained in such advice has been acknowledged down the years, but it is particularly timely to reflect on how sociologists do sociology in an era of radical restructuring of universities and the wider research environment. Whether this restructuring is understood as 'modernization', 'rationalization', 'McDonaldization', or something else, it is a process that has profound consequences for the training of researchers, and reflection on what goes into that training is therefore a matter of very real concern.

Graham Crow and Larry Ray (Editors)


MILLS, C. Wright (1967) The Sociological Imagination. London: Oxford University Press.

WEBER, M. (1970) 'Science as a vocation', in H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (eds) From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.