Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Research Blog #2: Scouting The Territory

1. My ideas for my topic from Blog Post One have not changed. I am still interested in writing a final paper centered around the idea of College Majors. I don't want to commit to a more specific topic as of yet, as I am still doing research.
2. Some interesting articles I've found online include an article by Business Insider that lists the most popular Majors of Wall street Professionals. The majority of which are Finance Majors, but there were some interesting Majors included in the article that caught my attention. I've also found several articles by the Princeton Review that discuss the most popular college majors, as well as how they've changed throughout the generations.
3. I have not yet visited the Library to look through books but I plan to do so this week. As far as Scholarly Articles, I've come across several that seem important to include in my paper. One of the questions I've been seeking to answer is how many College Students, on average, change their majors before graduation, and for some, how many times? I good article Scholarly Article I found to address the issue was titled "The Developmental Disconnect in Choosing a Major: Why Institutions Should Prohibit Choice until Second Year". Having read it I think it gives some valuable insight to the topic and would be beneficial to my final paper.
4. I found it interesting that through broad searches on the topics of College Majors, an overwhelming majority of the resources I found centered around the difficulty choosing a major earl yon in college, and how students should not have to so early in their college careers. These were not the results I necessarily expected. I assumed there would be more articles similar to Karen Ho's, discussing the recent loss in diversity of college majors as more and more people go into STEM fields. I think before I conclusively say that I am going to focus on the difficulty of choosing a Major, I'd like to do further research,.
5. Several of the resources I uncovered are attached and discussed within my blog post.
6. The main conflict that seemed to frequently arise was that first year college students are too young to commit to a  Major and career path, as I stated above.

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-most-common-college-major-on-wall-street-2015-11

https://dus.psu.edu/mentor/2013/06/disconnect-choosing-major/

http://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/top-ten-college-majors

7 comments:

  1. Just discovered your blog today or I would have commented sooner.

    The subject of college majors is good, it just needs a more specific focus. You might get some ideas from my student Gino's blog from last semester, which began just on the idea of majors but evolved toward the question of how we can keep more women and minorities in STEM areas (mostly because he found a lot of research on that question):
    http://cortescollege201.blogspot.com/

    There are lots of other ways to go, and your friend David was going to do gender and major choice, which is also interesting, though now it looks like he might switch his topic. Adriano is interested in whether students have less motivation when they choose a major for external rewards like money rather than internal rewards like personal interest or satisfaction.

    An article on average earnings for various majors would be a useful source for Adriano, but you might find it useful too:
    https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/whatsitworth-complete.pdf

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    1. Erin from our class is also interested in majors. After talking to her about her project, I remembered a project I did long ago as an undergraduate myself on why students chose their college major. It took a more anthropological approach, though I did talk more generally about the meaning of major and associated career in the creation of a coherent sense of self.

      This was for an "anthropology of college life" course with Michael Moffatt I took in the 1980s. Moffatt's work actually inspired me to come up with this class.

      I did a study of why students chose their college majors, based mostly on interviews. My research was inspired by the work of Charlotte Linde in "Life Stories":
      https://catalog.libraries.rutgers.edu/vufind/catalog_search.php?record=872758
      http://www.amazon.com/Life-Stories-Creation-Coherence-Sociolinguistics/dp/0195073738
      She also wrote a series of articles in the mid-eighties on her research that I read, and I found the articles better than the book.

      I do not have my essay on the subject, which is a shame, as the interviews I did were very extensive and I had transcribed them. I was also studying journalism back then, so it was a natural topic for me.

      Linde argued that, in telling stories about themselves, people rely upon a fixed set of "explanatory systems." She asked people about their choice of career and found people relied upon psychological explanations ("I became an accountant because I enjoy being fastidious about details"), etc. I found the same was true with major choice, though I also found a very broad range of explanatory systems in operation back in the 80s, including careerism, aspiration to a higher social class than uncouth parents (an explanation for studying Art History), "calling," and even astrological tendencies ("I majored in acting because I am a Pisces"). Linde's argument was that, in order to make yourself understood by others you would feel compelled to explain your choices based on a mutually available "explanatory system," and she thought there could not be an infinite number of explanatory systems available but just a fixed set operating within different discourse communities.

      It may be that today there are fewer explanatory systems available, or that people always feel they have to justify major choice based on money in some way. A study of people's life stories and major choices might show the dominance of neoliberal discourse, for example. Or it might reveal that, despite the apparent dominance of neoliberalism and careerism, students still fall back on their own personal interests in choosing college majors. Or maybe their stories reveal constant conflict between those two registers.

      It might be rather ambitious as a research project, but I found it fun and interesting myself. You'd still have to do library research, of course, but you'd also have primary research to illustrate your theories. You could just interview five people you know. But record the interviews and transcribe them. And the transcriptions could be from a couple paragraphs to a couple pages in length. You just want the narrative essence of why they chose their majors. And then you would be able to quote from them in your paper.

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  2. Based on the sources you sent me, which reference gender, you might be interested in a classic study, which clearly inspired Armstrong and Hamilton's study, by Holland and Eisenhart titled "Educated in Romance":
    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/E/bo3633720.html
    https://catalog.libraries.rutgers.edu/vufind/catalog_search.php?record=661768

    A late chapter titled "Pathways to Marginal Careers" talks about how women often choose less challenging majors with a view toward having a career that is secondary to their future husband's. So, for instance, a woman interested in medicine might choose Nursing instead of Pre-Med. Or a woman interested in education might choose to be an elementary school teacher rather than a professor. You can find this chapter and chapter 12 in the Supplemental Readings folder under Resources on our Sakai site (see Holland and Eisenhart, Educated in Romance).

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