Category Archives: From Practicum to Publication

P2P: Authentic, Exotic and Racialized Food

Every student in the Sociology PhD program at the University of Toronto completes the Research Practicum course in their second year. This course involves each student working directly on a research project with a faculty member through the various stages of research and writing while also meeting with other graduate students in the course to tackle the hurdles of clarifying, strengthening, and sharpening one’s ideas in a journal-length research article. In this series, we highlight the practicum papers that went on to become published articles, and the students who wrote them.

Oleschuk, Merin. “Foodies of Colour: Authenticity and Exoticism in Omnivorous Food Culture”. Cultural Sociology. 2016 doi: 10.1177/1749975516668709

Merin enteremerin-oleschukd the PhD program knowing that she wanted to work with Professors Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann on research related to the sociology of food. Intrigued by their research on Foodies (2007; 2015) which builds on omnivorous cultural theory and highlights the persistence of inequalities within gourmet food culture despite its increasing democratization, Merin was curious about the ethno-racial inequalities that are embedded in foods being seen as “authentic” and/or “exotic.” This curiosity marked the genesis of her practicum paper.

Merin enrolled in the Research Practicum in 2013 and immediately set out to collect the data she needed for the paper. Her background in anthropology, working within the areas of ethnicity and food, provided her with the substantive knowledge and methodological skills needed to carry out the research. The data collection consisted of conducting 20 semi-structured qualitative interviews with foodies of colour in Toronto. She then analyzed these interviews alongside five additional interviews with foodies of colour that were shared with her from work done for one of Professor Johnston’s related research projects.

Merin’s analysis finds that the frames of “authenticity” and “exoticism” each possess the potential both to encourage cross-cultural understanding and to essentialize or exacerbate ethno-cultural difference. Study participants in this project drew from foodie discourse to determine what they considered “good food”, but they also critiqued it for perpetuating ethno-racial inequalities, such as by making them feel tokenized or “Othered” in the process. On an individual level, participants’ own ethno-racial identities provided them with greater access to cultural capital because they had (or were perceived to have) ties to foods that foodies often valorized – others often looked to them to pass judgement on a food’s “authenticity” or have insider knowledge into the “exotic.”  In her paper, Merin stresses that this does not mean, however, that the frames of “authenticity” and “exoticism” necessarily disrupt the racial and economic ideological structures propping them up. Ultimately, the endowment of cultural capital in foodie culture is still attained through economic privilege and at the expense of reinforcing stereotypes that sustain ethno-racial inequalities.

While writing her paper, Merin received valuable feedback from her practicum supervisors, Josée Johnston, Monica Boyd, Ann Mullen, Ronit Divonitzer, and Phil Goodman as well as fellow students in her cohort. Merin particularly appreciates that the format of the practicum gave her practice presenting her paper orally in front of the group, and gave her insight into questions that the research commonly raises. Merin then submitted and presented a draft of the paper for presentation at the American Sociological Association and Canadian Sociological Association annual meetings that year. Feedback from these presentations helped to further refine the paper for publication. She submitted the paper to Cultural Sociology the following year, and it was accepted for publication. The practicum process ultimately provided Merin with the valuable opportunity to publish a sole authored paper early in her program.

By now, Merin has completed her coursework and is working on a dissertation that she has titled Health and Cooking in Value and Practice: A Mixed Methods Study of Food in Family Life. While still in the general area of sociology of food, the dissertation project charts a slightly different course from the one taken in this paper. In general, her dissertation examines the relationship between peoples’ values and practices when cooking at home, particularly within a context where home cooking is advocated as a key strategy for promoting family health. She uses diverse qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore how and why people cook what they do, while taking into account that the meaning of cooking varies across social positions such as gender, class, and race/ethnicity.

P2P Regulating Digital Rights

Gabe Menard squareEvery student in the Sociology PhD program at the University of Toronto completes the Research Practicum course in their second year. This course involves each student working directly on a research project with a faculty member through the various stages of research and writing while also meeting with other graduate students in the course to tackle the hurdles of clarifying, strengthening, and sharpening one’s ideas in a journal-length research article. In this series, we highlight the practicum papers that went on to become published articles, and the students who wrote them.

Menard, Gabriel. “Copyright, Digital Sharing, and the Liberal Order: Sociolegal Constructions of Intellectual Property in the Era of Mass Digitization.” Information, Communication & Society, ISSN 1369-118X, 08/2016, Volume 19, Issue 8, pp. 1061 – 16

One of the defining features of our age is the ability to share information, ideas, knowledge, and entertainment in ways never before imaginable. Gabriel Menard began the PhD program with an interest in the social and political implications of the internet and instant communications technology. For him, the practicum was an opportunity to explore some ideas he had about the tension between access to information and regulation.

When he began planning for the practicum, Gabriel decided to ask Professor Jack Veugelers to supervise the project. Professor Veugelers is a specialist in social movements, political sociology and social theory. Though Veugelers’ own research is not connected to intellectual property rights, Gabriel knew he would provide useful support for this project because he had worked with Professor Veugelers as a Research Assistant and had developed a strong rapport with him throughout that project, What impressed Gabriel the most about Professor Veugelers was his ability to condense a “messy jumble of thoughts and ideas into a very clear and succinct summary of points.” Gabriel said that it didn’t really matter that his paper wasn’t in Professor Veuguelers’ substantive area of research, because he knew that his keen analytic mind would help him make sure he had all the elements of a strong paper in place. In the end, he found that the advice he received from Professor Veugelers was instrumental throughout the project, but especially crucial when Gabriel was revising the paper for publication. Professor Veugelers helped him restructure the paper around a cohesive narrative, and to fine-tune the analysis so as to more effectively communicate his findings.

Gabriel’s paper focuses on copyright reform in Canada. He started the project hoping that the Canadian case could illustrate some of the complexities of IP reform – and the tension between access and regulation – with more nuance than previous literature. The guiding research question is whether digitization of communications and media is having an impact on the development of intellectual property rights regimes. Gabriel was interested in this because it taps into a much broader discussion of whether and how digital technology disrupts existing institutions. With intellectual property rights, the tendency for a long time has been for rights protections to increase over time (with consequences for access to information and social inequality), but it seems digital technology might be disrupting this trend. The paper was about exploring that disruption.

For data, Gabriel used the text of legislative committee meetings, Parliamentary debates, and bills related to copyright reform in Canada (centering on the 2012 Copyright Modernization Act). During the practicum period, he accessed the data online, coded it for what stakeholders in the debate sought during committee meetings (as copyright reform was being considered), and compared that with the policies that came out of the reform process and into law.

By the time he finished the practicum, Gabriel had fully analyzed this data and found that, contrary to what much of the literature would lead one to expect, corporate interests are poorly represented in outcomes of the reform process. This finding caused him to interrogate the data through a variety of theoretical lenses. The practicum was a great venue for this. It provided him with the opportunity to explore a variety of literatures, theoretical frameworks, and academic perspectives even while focusing on his own particular research questions. Gabriel claims that the most useful aspect for him was the sheer diversity of feedback, which helped him consider the project from a wide variety of angles. Ultimately, Gabriel suggests that the poor representation of corporate interests is bound up with the rise of internet sharing practices which force us to reconsider longstanding assumptions about how, and to what extent, creative works can (or should) be exclusively controlled by individual legal ‘owners’ of those works.

When he finished the course, Gabriel’s paper was solid but he felt that it was bulky and cumbersome to read. He presented a draft at the annual European Consortium for Political Research Workshop in Spain shortly after the practicum had finished, and used the summer and part of the fall to consolidate his feedback. In early January, Gabriel submitted a revised draft to Information, Communication & Society, and the article was accepted for publication.

P2P: Underpaid But Satisfied

Every student in the Sociology PhD program at the University of Toronto completes the Research Practicum course in their second year. This course involves each student working directly on a research project with a faculty member through the various stages of research and writing while also meeting with other graduate students in the course to tackle the hurdles of clarifying, strengthening, and sharpening one’s ideas in a journal-length research article. In this series, we highlight the practicum papers that went on to become published articles, and the students who wrote them.

Narisada, Atsushi and Scott Schieman. 2016. “Underpaid But Satisfied: The Protective Functions of Security.” Work and Occupations. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0730888415625332

Atsushi came Atsushi.Narisadato the Research Practicum with an interest in work and justice. In an ideal world, workers would be paid appropriately for their inputs—but the reality is quite different. Researchers estimate that roughly half of American workers feel underpaid, and note that the perception of under-reward is an important element of chronic stress. Atsushi focused his time in the Research Practicum on answering the questions: What are the consequences of perceived under-reward for employee well-being; and what are the conditions that may neutralize its harmful effects? To address these questions, Atsushi analyzed data from Professor Scott Schieman’s Work, Stress, and Health study. The resulting paper has recently been published online ahead of print in the journal Work and Occupations.

The article reports on analysis of data from a national survey of American workers. Under Professor Schieman’s direction, Atsushi probed the data to understand whether various forms of security functioned to ameliorate the job dissatisfaction of workers who felt they were underpaid. The analysis found that job security, financial security and employment in the public sector neutralize the pain of perceived under-reward but that work autonomy, decision-latitude, and authority did not have the same effect. These findings provide a valuable contribution to the scholarly understandings of distributive justice and theories of equity.

The paper developed over the course of the practicum and benefited greatly from the feedback and suggestions provided by the practicum directors, Professors Adam Green, Candace Kruttschnitt, and Ronit Divonitzer, and the other students in the course. Atsushi submitted a draft of the paper for presentation at the ASA annual meeting and, after it was accepted, presented a practice talk for the ASA in front of faculty and graduate students in the department. The critical feedback advanced the paper further, while also providing the opportunity for him to practice how to handle critical questions in the Q&A.

Atsushi and Professor Schieman submitted the paper to Work and Occupations and received a request for major revisions. The reviewers’ comments were tough—requesting clarifications and reconsiderations of the theoretical framework and methodology. Atsushi says that the revision process pushed him to engage with diverse literature and theoretical ideas more deeply, articulate the theoretical integration more compellingly, and understand the assumptions behind statistical methods more thoroughly. The process required multiple iterations of re-thinking and re-writing, with painstaking attention to detail in both the manuscript and the response memo. It also required many meetings with Professor Schieman and further consultations with Professor Blair Wheaton and Professor Geoffrey Wodtke. The entire process was riddled with emotional highs-and-lows, but it was ultimately a very rewarding experience. After submitting the revisions and a few months of anxious anticipation, the paper received conditional acceptance and was later finally accepted for publication. Atsushi claims he will not forget the excitement he felt when he saw the final product in print.

When asked about what he learned from the process, Atsushi said that, more than anything, the experience of turning a paper into a publication taught him the value of persistence. During the revision process, there were multiple instances where Atsushi felt like he hit a wall. He overcame those obstacles by persistently engaging with ideas, making multiple revisions, and by consulting with Professor Schieman and other faculty. Persistence didn’t mean struggling in isolation; it also meant asking for help when appropriate and learning how to approach leading scholars in the field both in person and through email. As he begins his dissertation research, Atsushi intends to remember and apply the lessons he learned in persistence in addition to the important lessons he learned regarding how to effectively develop research questions, structure a paper, and respond to reviewers.

P2P: Marital Monogamy as Ideal and Practice

Every student in the Sociology PhD program at the University of Toronto completes the Research Practicum course in their second year. This course involves each student working directly on a research project with a faculty member through the various stages of research and writing while also meeting with other graduate students in the course to tackle the hurdles of clarifying, strengthening, and sharpening one’s ideas in a journal-length research article. In this series, we highlight the practicum papers that went on to become published articles, and the students who wrote them.

Green, A. I., Valleriani, J. and Adam, B. (2015), Marital Monogamy as Ideal and Practice: The Detraditionalization Thesis in Contemporary Marriages. Journal of Marriage and Family. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12277

Jenna2 Jenna was a Master’s student when she began working with Professor Adam Green as a Research Assistant on his SSHRC-funded project studying how heterosexual and same-sex spouses conceive of and structure their marriages. The next year, when she enrolled in the research practicum, she asked Professor Green if she could work with this marriage data, and if he would advise her on the project. She had already learned some of the skills she would need while she was a Research Assistant but the practicum honed the skills further. Professor Green agreed and they began what would become a three-year odyssey exploring the changing meanings of marriage and monogamy. The resulting paper was published in December 2015 in Journal of Marriage and Family.

The paper, drawing on 90 qualitative interviews with heterosexual and same-sex spouses, focuses on Giddens’ 1992 detraditionalization thesis which argues that marriage is increasingly characterized by goals of individual satisfaction and mutually-fulfilling partnerships. They found that heterosexual couples speak to a widening acceptance of diverse marital lifestyles, but have not changed their personal preferences regarding their own relationships. Of all married respondents in this study, gay men’s relationships embody most what is described in the detraditionalization thesis. While a minority of these men were committed both in the abstract and in practice to marital monogamy, the majority understood monogamy in reflexive and plastic terms, not as an ethical choice but as a flexible, pragmatic arrangement designed to suit the needs and wishes of the partners.

While the general contours of the paper were established in the course of the practicum, Jenna says that it still needed a lot of work when the practicum finished. After taking a short break from the paper, she and Professor Green began to loosely brainstorm about the findings via email, which ultimately led to them reshaping the findings and discussion collaboratively. Jenna says that it was a slow process, but that through a series of meetings and emails, it started to come together. Having learned that the Journal of Family and Marriage was looking to incorporate more qualitative studies, they decided to submit there. Their first submission came back with a request for major revisions. Jenna and Professor Green then worked more and made the paper stronger. When they resubmitted for the second time, it came back with a request for minor revisions, and later, was finally accepted!

Throughout the practicum process, Jenna says, there were many times she “had to go ‘back to the drawing board’ with encouragement from my peers, professors, and advisor, but it ultimately was an unparalleled experience which taught me practical skills I can carry forward.” While the content isn’t her current area of focus, Jenna’s experience working with Professor Green’s marriage project was, she says, extremely beneficial and helped her develop her methodology and qualitative research skills. This has been useful in her current dissertation studies where she has conducted 60 in-depth interviews to understand the issues surrounding the regulation of medical marijuana. Jenna says that the practicum process was also instrumental in teaching her how to structure an article, how to contextualize the findings, the review process and also how different audiences may receive an article.

Giddens, A. (1992). The Transformation of Intimacy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.