The Top 11 from ’11: Religion Research Studies in Sociology

The new year is always a time for lists, all kinds of lists. So I decided to try a new list, and one that hopefully helps readers learn what sociology profs do with all these charts, graphs and theories when they don’t teach it or blog on it. I’m teaching a graduate seminar class on how to publish in sociology, a kind of reverse engineering of the basic “product” that academic sociologists are known for: the research article. To that end, and since it’s the beginning of the new year, I thought this might be a useful experiment to review how religion shows up in the top research journals in sociology.

Like any job that has products attached with it, some are better than others and this inevitably means there’s a ranking. Scientists of all stripes rely on auxiliary and neutral organizations like ISI Web of Knowledge (which is part of Thomson Reuters) to create databases that list the research journals where scholars get their work published. But what’s more these lists include formulas to determine which journals are “better” than others. One way to measure quality is by “impact” or the degree of influence that a journal has on other journals. Basically if more papers in journal A are cited in the references of journals B, C, and D, then that journal is said to have a greater impact. And therefore if you get published in a journal with a higher impact score, you and your research supposedly gained more visibility and consequently more prestige. You can see what the “Impact Factor” rankings look like in the Social Sciences Edition of the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) [access might be limited if you're not linked with a university library]

That said, I selected only the sociology journals and the JCR gives me 132 journals (that’s actually not a lot compared to other sciences but regardless, we read a lot of research papers). When we look at them by impact factor we get this list of “top 19” journals (as of January 2012):

1 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

American Sociological Review

2 ANNUAL REVIEW OF SOCIOLOGY

3 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY

4 GENDER & SOCIETY

5 INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY

6 SOCIOLOGICAL METHODS & RESEARCH

7 SOCIOLOGIA RURALIS

8 ANNALS OF TOURISM RESEARCH

9 HUMAN ECOLOGY

10 LANGUAGE IN SOCIETY

11 BRITISH JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY

12 SOCIOLOGY OF HEALTH & ILLNESS

13 JOURNAL OF MARRIAGE & FAMILY

14 SOCIAL NETWORKS

15 ECONOMY & SOCIETY

16 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER CULTURE

17 SOCIAL PROBLEMS

18 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

Seems simple enough, but if you’ve gone to graduate school in sociology you will notice that you may have never heard of journals like Human Ecology, Language in Society, and the Annals of Tourism Research. So if readers will excuse my bias, I skipped over a number of journals that somehow wind up having high impact but aren’t usually recommended for getting your research published. The edited list looks like this and in parentheses at the end I include the number of papers that had any mention of “religion,” religious groups, practices or beliefs in the abstracts:

1 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW (1)

2 ANNUAL REVIEW OF SOCIOLOGY (0)

3 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY (2)

4 GENDER & SOCIETY (0)

5 INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY (0)

6 SOCIOLOGICAL METHODS & RESEARCH (0)

7 SOCIOLOGIA RURALIS (0)

8 ANNALS OF TOURISM RESEARCH 9 HUMAN ECOLOGY

10 LANGUAGE IN SOCIETY

11 BRITISH JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY (1)

12 SOCIOLOGY OF HEALTH & ILLNESS (0)

13 JOURNAL OF MARRIAGE & FAMILY (2)

14 SOCIAL NETWORKS (0)

"Research" by Martin Gareth Edwards

15 ECONOMY & SOCIETY (2)

16 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER CULTURE (0)

17 SOCIAL PROBLEMS (2)

18 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY (2)

To put it another way, I had to skim through all issues of each of the top 18 (or the top 15 of the ones I had heard of) most impactful journals in sociology just to identify 11 studies that had religion somewhere in the summary abstract. Each journal contains about 6-8 articles and there’s about 4 to 6 issues per year for each one. We’re talking maybe 500 studies all told.

So I’ll end with a salute to the authors who have published their work from these top-ranked journals and invite readers to take a look at some of these studies – which one seems the most intriguing to you? I’ll blog about the full study based on popular vote since you can only access the abstracts here.

1 Buyukokutan, Baris. 2011. “Toward a Theory of Cultural Appropriation: Buddhism, the Vietnam War, and the Field of US Poetry”, American Sociological Review 76:620-639

2 Bailey, Amy Kate and Karen A. Snedker. 2011. Practicing What they Preach? Lynching and Religion in the American South, 1890-1929 American Journal of Sociology 117: 844-887

3 DiPrete, Thomas A. and Andrew Gelman, Tyler McCormick, Julien Teitler, and Tian Zheng 2011. “Segregation in Social Networks Based on Acquaintanceship and Trust.” American Journal of Sociology 116: 1234-1283.

4 Goh, Daniel P.S. 2011. State Carnivals and the Subvention of Multiculturalism in Singapore. The British Journal of Sociology 62: 111-133.

5 Ellison, Christopher, Marc A. Musick, George W. Holden. 2011. “Does Conservative Protestantism Moderate the Association Between Corporal Punishment and Child Outcomes?” The Journal of Marriage and Family 73: 946-961.

6 DeMaris, Alfred, Annette Mahoney, Kenneth I Pargament. 2011. “Doing the Scut Work of Infant Care: Does Religiousness Encourage Father Involvement?” Journal of Marriage and Family 73: 354-368.

7 Schiller, Nina Glick. 2011. “Localized neoliberalism, multiculturalism and global religion: exploring the agency of migrants and city boosters.” Economy and Society 40: 211-238.

8 Biebricher, Thomas. 2011. “Faith-based initiatives and pastoral power.” Economy and Society 40:399-420.

9 Ilir Disha, James C. Cavendish, Ryan D. King. 2011. “Historical Events and Spaces of Hate: Hate Crimes Against Arabs and Muslims in Post-9/11 America.” Social Problems 58: 21-46.

10 Haydu, Jeffrey. 2011. Cultural Modeling in Two Eras of US Food Protest: Grahamites (1830s) and Organic Advocates (1960s-70s). Social Problems 58: 461-487.

11 (TIE) Jepperson, Ronald and John W. Meyer. 2011. “Multiple Levels of Analysis and the Limitations of Methodological Individualisms.” Sociological Theory 29:54-73.

11 (TIE) Goldberg, Chad Alan. 2011. “The Jews, the Revolution, and the Old Regime in French Anti-Semitism and Durkheim’s Sociology.” Sociological Theory 29: 248-271.

  • Pingback: The World Wide Religious Web for Friday, January 6, 2012 « GeorgePWood.com

    • Jerry Park

      Thanks for your vote! You may win by a landslide ;)

  • Neil

    I can’t claim to have read all of these articles, but if we limit the possibilities to contemporary studies that have to do with religion, I’d be curious to know your thoughts about two of them.

    More specifically, I’m interested to know what you think about the relevance for us members of the general public of the DeMaris, Mahoney, and Pargament study on father involvement in childcare. The authors write, “More-religious couples displayed a greater gender gap than others in caring for newborns, with mothers doing substantially more of the work than fathers. Further investigation revealed this to be largely a function of the association of religiousness with more conservative sex-role attitudes.” (They note that this is not necessarily a negative thing.)

    The authors do note the limitations of their work – they didn’t assess whether the mothers in question were breastfeeding, they had a convenience sample of “mostly White, middle-class, happily married biological, first-time parents,” and they couldn’t “disentangle causality from selection” – after all, those with conservative sex-role attitudes might then gravitate towards religious communities that support those attitudes. Are these limitations problematic?

    Furthermore, they use two constructs that just might be questionable. One is “biblical conservatism,” which they measure with the responses to two statements: “The Bible is God’s word and everything will happen exactly as it says,” and “The Bible is the answer to all important human problems.” Another is “sanctification,” which they define as “a process through which aspects of life are perceived as having divine character and significance.” Thus, a representative item in the 10-item scale of “theistic sanctification” is “God played a role in (our getting pregnant/our baby coming into my life”), and there can be “low-sanctifying biblical conservatives.” While neither construct proved significant, do you find them to be useful even though they seem to be somewhat theologically unintelligible?

    Also, I did find the Disha, Cavendish, and King study on hate crimes to be interesting because it was at least relatively counter-intuitive. Their work supports a power-differential perspective instead of group threat theory (that large or growing minority groups would elicit a reaction from a majority group), because, as they note, an Arab is nine times more likely to be a victim of a hate crime in Hennepin County, Minnesota (slightly above average Arab population) than Wayne County, Michigan (Arabs are 2.7% of the population). Furthermore, their work goes against the frustration-aggression hypothesis to find that anti-Arab/Muslim hate crimes are actually more common in affluent communities, here echoing Christopher Lyons.

    I suspect that if you talked to the average person (if there is such a creature), they would gravitate towards group threat theory and a frustration-aggression hypothesis. Do these need to be retired?

    Also, the authors were able to aggregate their data to the county-level, not the community-level. For this sort of study, how problematic is this?

    Thanks. (I realize that some of these questions might be unanswerable. Sorry.)

    • Jerry Park

      Thanks for these questions Neil – I will hold on to these comments and respond to them when I return to them through the semester. You have an amazing sociological lens!


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