research rating scale

Here’s how I evaluate research importance in social science. Averages, of course:

  1. Great problem, great solution.
  2. Great problem, partial/boring solution.
  3. Decent problem, great solution.
  4. Great problem, empirical/descriptive work.
  5. Decent problem, partial/boring solution.
  6. Decent problem, empirical/descriptive work.
  7. Small problem, any solution.
  8. Bizarre/highly technical approaches to any problem.
  9. Definitional/taxonomic/philosophical writings on any problem.
  10. History of social thought.

Random comments: I love good research in all categories. Social science journals usually only deal with #5 and up. Grad students dream of #1, but you usually start with something lower on the list. Great researchers can do it many ways – the once in a lifetime #1 or the expert who hammers home a bunch of #4’s. #8 may be in the eye of the beholder. European/critical theory people love #9 and #10. Strong disciplinarians would move #8 a few notches, perhaps to #5.


Written by fabiorojas

October 10, 2010 at 12:43 am

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I am tempted to say that the trouble with this list is that the criteria for allocating items to slots 1-8 are established in the main by facts about slots 9 and 10.



    October 10, 2010 at 1:14 am

  2. A few, misc points:

    1) “great” can be subjective vis-a-vis problems AND solutions (or, at least it can take some time to truly identify them as great, or not), witness some of the reactions, and not, to Coase’s 1937 question (and Williamson’s work).

    2) Do great questions map squarely with great problems?

    3) Where would a paper like the 1985 Granovetter piece fit? Certainly at least some of 9 and 10 in that one (imported from anthropology), and perhaps a ‘great problem’ (though also imported) without a specific solution. Though it arguably ushered in an era in sociology.



    October 10, 2010 at 2:09 am

  3. Dude. I thought we were friends.

    What makes you think that philosophical or intellectual-historical work doesn’t have problems or solutions and is categorically different from everything else?


    Jacob T. Levy

    October 10, 2010 at 2:22 am

  4. I myopia a great problem, a decent problem, or just a small problem?


    Philip Cohen

    October 10, 2010 at 9:13 am

  5. This list is unusable to the extent that it does not define what a “great” problem and “great” solution is as compared to less great ones. (And, it’s not adequate to say that these are merely subjective issues, as that would suggest it’s impossible to assess the quality of one solution over another…and, were that to be the case, then we should all just pack our bags and go home).



    October 10, 2010 at 4:26 pm

  6. […] few days ago, I wrote a ranking of research and listed “history of social thought” as last. Jacob Levy wrote: Dude. I thought we were […]


  7. […] England, of course. Recently, at Org Theory, there were two posts that I found rather annoying. The first laid out what they thought of as a “research rating scale.” At the top of the scale […]


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: