Sociology Graduate Students Build an Outstanding Publication Record

Author: Heather Price

A unique departmental approach to graduate students’ professional development is paying dividends for Notre Dame’s Department of Sociology.

Over the past two years, more than 18 students have published a book, article, or book review in a peer-reviewed journal—for a combined total of 26 articles, three books and two book reviews. Nearly half of the publications have appeared in top-ranked journals.

Sociology seminar, 2009

Although publishing an article or book is not a requirement for any Sociology course, there is definitely a normative push in the department for students to be active in pursuing publication of their research. “Publish, publish, publish” is a familiar phrase at colloquia, lectures, graduate student lunches, and even the Christmas lunch.

But how does this normative push turn into actual publications?

First, role-modeling of the faculty is critical. As a group, Notre Dame’s highly ranked Sociology faculty is among the most productive in the nation.

Second, according to department chair Dr. Rory McVeigh, “Our program is unusual when compared to sociology programs at other universities in terms of the way in which we are able to quickly integrate students into ongoing research projects of the faculty. Most of our students earn their stipends by working as research assistants, which typically gives them access to both data and valuable experiences. In many cases, our graduate students become co-authors on papers published by faculty members. After they have been through the process once or twice with a faculty mentor, they are better prepared to fly on their own.”

As Sociology’s Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. William Carbonaro, elaborates, “Early integration familiarizes students with the process of sending out publications. Students overcome the anxiety of submitting a paper, and it also gets them on the radar of journal editors. Many of our graduate students serve as peer-reviewers for multiple journals, including the well-known journal on social movements, Mobilization, which is published here at Notre Dame.”

A third factor in Notre Dame Sociology students’ excellent publication record is the presence of multiple centers in the department that facilitate collaboration around big, new ideas. The Center for the Study of Social Movements and Social Change, the Center for Research on Educational Opportunity, the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, and the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications provide the resources and intellectual space to develop deep, theoretical sociological research. It is the cutting-edge nature of the work, often funded by competitive grants, that graduate students are working on in the centers and with faculty that fueling much of the publications.

Notre Dame graduate student Brandon Vaidyanathan acknowledges the importance of the centers when he says, “The research centers in our department bring students and faculty together to work on projects that, while not always directly related to students’ dissertation research, leads to submission of papers to leading journals in the field. I think this helps familiarize students with the process of sending papers out, revising repeatedly, handling rejections, and working towards successful publication. It’s a tough process, but it helps when you don’t feel alone.”

He adds, “I have never found a sense of harsh competitiveness or mistrust among students in the department. Not only do we get along well with each other, but we typically work well with each other and seek out opportunities for collaboration.”