salsa dancing with kristin luker

Dan Hirschman has a review of Kristin Luker’s book on research gestalt, Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences: Research in the Age of Info-Glut .  A few clips:

Salsa Dancing is not for everyone (much as salsa dancing is not for everyone, including me!). Luker’s book is specifically aimed at scholars doing “non-canonical”, usually qualitative research. And indeed, I think her division of the world of social science (really, sociology) research into two camps is one of the single most useful contributions of the book. This division is not based on methodology, in the old sense of “kind of data”, but rather in the kind of questions we are asking – and Luker argues that the non-canonicals have a lot of learn from the canonicals, and a lot to learn about how to talk to them and convince them of the value of our work.


rather than producing a random sample from an exhaustive (or nearly) frame of everyone you wish to generalize about, salsa-dancers should seek out “data outcroppings”, rich sites where the dynamics of interest should be easiest to see. Unfortunately, such sampling can (just as canonicals always allege) create a problem of bias that weakens generalizability. The non-canonical researcher relies on a logical generalizability rather than a statistical one – e.g. I have no reason to think that the public school I studied in my fieldwork is different from most other schools in ways that would affect my findings, and I put the burden on your to show me what I have logically missed. Having a few cases, or at least a shadow comparison, can help with this sort of argument. Luker also pushes us to generalize up, rather than across – not simply generalizing to all sites similar to where we do our fieldwork, but to broader kinds of problems (“how classes reproduce themselves without seeming to” p. 126).

Check out the book and the review.


Written by fabiorojas

September 16, 2010 at 12:20 am

2 Responses

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  1. So…induction vs. deduction?



    September 16, 2010 at 8:20 pm

  2. […] Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences by Kristin Luker […]


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