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Doing Sociology: Analyzing Cultural Change over Time
The purpose of this assignment is to provide students with an opportunity to practice and refine sociologically-informed archival research skills. You will demonstrate your sociological imagination by thinking about how the data that you find tells us about social change over time. Thinking about the relationship between data, the conclusions we draw from them, and how we could reject our conclusions is a skill that you can use throughout the rest of their life.
You will practice the following skills that are essential to your development as a sociology student, including:
• Locating and acquiring information about cultural change by visiting archives data sources.
• Analyzing observational data for content.
• Speculating about relationships between social variables as well as change in social variables over time.
Find archival data, use it to create three hypotheses about social change over time, and consider how those hypotheses could be tested and falsified.
HOW TO COMPLETE THE TASK IN EIGHT EASY STEPS:
Hint: before you start, make sure to look at the example paper that appears in the same module as this assignment prompt.
1. Think about a product that has been advertised for at least sixty years.
Visit https://repository.duke.edu/dc/adaccess or another online ad archive to look for advertisements.
Warning: pinterest is really tempting, but very difficult to use.
2. Choose one product, and find six ads for that product.
• Pick a product that has been advertised for at least sixty years.
• Choose one ad for this product from six different decades (e.g. 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s). This means that you will have a total of six ads.
• Copy and paste the advertisements into a word document.
• Copy and paste the URLs into a word document.
• Warning: Make sure that you don’t choose an off-limits topic: United Airlines, Chanel #5.
3. [Observations] Describe the sociological information in the advertisements in rich detail.
Write down information from the advertisement that tells you information about social and/or cultural variables at the time the ad was created. Information to consider might include the following and more:
• Who is in the ad?
• Describe race/ethnicity, gender, and class data for the people in the ad.
• What relationships do you see in the ad?
• What values, beliefs, and norms do you see promoted in the ad?
• How does the presentation of the ad tell you about the social and cultural values of the time?
• Warning: make sure that the ads you choose have people in them. Doing so makes this assignment much easier.
4. [Speculations] Use your data to create three hypotheses
Based on the data from step 3, create three guesses about how social and/or cultural variables might be changing over time and explain a bit about why the hypothesis makes sense. Make sure that each guess is phrased in the language of the course by making a claim about how two variables relate to each other. For example:
My first hypothesis is that economic prosperity decreased sharply beginning in the 1980s as there is suddenly no reference to luxuries, which signals a decline in the ability to pay for services.
• In this example, “time” is the independent variable
• “economic prosperity” is the dependent variable and
• “decreased” describes the relationship between time and economic prosperity.
• Warning: Avoid the temptation to create hypotheses about product sales, the minds of the marketing team, or the product itself.
5. [Falsification] Reflect on falsifiability and how you could test your hypotheses
After creating three hypotheses in Step 4, consider what it means to say that they are falsifiable as well as how you could test them.
• Begin by defining what a falsifiable hypothesis is.
• Continue by describing data that would lead you to reject each of your three hypotheses.
• Finish by noting the type of study that you would use to evaluate each hypothesis.
If a hypothesis is falsifiable, it means that ____________________ My first hypothesis would be
falsified if there was no economic recession in the 1980s. The best test to evaluate this hypothesis would be an archival study.
6. Write a brief summary
In a short paragraph, review your experience by summarizing what you have done, what you know, and what next steps would be. Do you see a theme in the data? If so, point it out.
7. Cut unnecessary data in order to make your paper two pages or less.
Use your hypotheses to tell you which data in your description from Step 3 is necessary.
• If your hypotheses are about goats, sheep, and cows, you can cut all of the data that relates to apples, strawberries and mangoes.
• A good rule is to keep your data description to one page or less.