Interest (Concepts in the Social Sciences)


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For similar reasons historians are often suspicious of courses in methodology and hostile to any kind of normalization of research procedure. If historiography is art, it cannot and must not be reduced to some kind of routine. These values have, to be sure, a strong intellectual justification. Insofar as history attempts to see things whole, it is more dependent than other disciplines on individual perceptions.

Interpretation and understanding are never routine; there are too many variables to reduce the analysis to some kind of procedure. Hence it is important that each scholar dig down to bedrock. He comes with new questions and concepts to old material as well as new; and if he permits himself to rely entirely on the ruminations of others, he has given half the game away. It is one thing to justify this attitude in principle, however, and another to establish it as a moral absolute. No other discipline builds so slowly, because the members of no other discipline are so reluctant as historians to stand on the shoulders of others.

All historians can recall criticisms of colleagues and students on the ground that their work was too derivative at one point or another, that it relied too heavily on secondary sources.

Social science

Does our picture of the historical profession seem exaggerated? What do individual historians say about their conditions? To get some idea, we asked them. In April and May, , the History Panel mailed a short questionnaire to about one thousand regular members of the history departments of twenty-nine American colleges and universities. Over the next six weeks, roughly six hundred of those historians returned usable questionnaires, forty sent word of their refusal or inability to answer, one hundred replied in some other form, and two hundred and sixty did not respond at all.

In the selection of departments the Panel intentionally emphasized large, prestigious graduate departments, but also included six good institutions where there was little or no training of graduate students in history. The twenty-nine departments together gave 64 percent of the PhDs in history granted in the United States during — The sample therefore provides a fairly good picture of what is going on in the institutions giving the bulk of American historians their advanced training, even if it seriously underrepresents the smaller and less prestigious departments.

The topographic map of the profession that emerges shows a rough, uneven terrain. Four fundamental features are shown by the data: 1 a rather unequal distribution of historical specialties among different sorts of departments and academic positions; 2 wide variation in research interests, needs, and support according to special field, type of institution, and position within the institution; 3 a standard life cycle of research experience; 4 some change in these matters from one generation of historians to the next.

Let us examine each of these briefly.

Within the sample, African and Asian historians are disproportionately concentrated in the institutions with highest prestige, West European historians in the smaller liberal arts colleges, intellectual historians in both, rather than in the departments of middling reputation. Historians of Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe fairly frequently had affiliations with research centers in their institutions, while historians of the United States or Western Europe rarely had such affiliations. Yet the latter groups show the highest proportions of full professors, while the newer fields of East European, Asian, African, and Latin American history include many of lesser rank.

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Likewise, diplomatic historians, economic historians, and the much younger group of historians of science are concentrated in the senior ranks, while political, social, and intellectual historians generally occupy the junior positions. Thus an economic historian of Asia to take an extreme case is likely to hold senior appointments in both a department of history and a research center in a high-prestige institution, and a historian of European science is likely to hold a similar position without the research affiliation, while the odds are better that an American political historian will hold high rank, without research appointment, in a less distinguished institution, and that a Latin American social historian will hold a similar appointment at a lower rank.

There are, for example, marked variations in research funds available to historians in different fields, as shown by the data on funds received from outside the university between and , reported by historians in the twenty-nine departments surveyed.


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Except for the history of science which is the best-supported field in almost every respect , the specialties receiving heavier outside support are generally those connected with interdisciplinary research centers. Among geographical specialists, historians of Latin America, Africa, and Asia do best. Over and above these differences by field, our data show the decided advantage not only in outside grants, but also in university support, teaching load, and time released for research of the historian in a high prestige institution or with a research appointment.

On the whole, with the important exception of historians of science, the kinds of historians who are best supported also show the closest ties to the behavioral and social sciences. Distinguishing between fields, we find that we can divide our historians into three categories: uninterested, involved, and frustrated. Historians of science and intellectual historians, especially those dealing with Europe and North America, typify those with little social science training, little current contact with social science fields, and little desire to change in this regard.

Economic historians of the United States, Latin America, or Asia provide a good example of the involved: likely to have substantial formal training in economics, staying in contact with economics and economists, and interested in extending their knowledge of social science. The frustrated are those with little previous social science training who have come to think that it is vital to their own work: social historians of the Americas tend to fall into this category. While in this case everything depends on the definitions, it would not be outrageous to label a fifth of the historians answering our questionnaire uninterested, another third involved, and nearly half of them frustrated.

Series of interest

A fairly standard life cycle of research also appears in the findings. Within the sample the men just getting started tend to have heavy teaching loads, course assignments alien to their research interests, and poor support for their research. Those who are farther along begin to acquire funds, time off, and greater control over their teaching assignments, but also begin to feel the pinch of administrative responsibilities and outside commitments to writing and public service.

The most senior historians are less likely to be involved in large and expensive research, although they continue to bear the burden of administrative and outside commitments.

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The more distinguished the institution and the closer the affiliation with a research institute, the earlier the historian achieves the perquisites of seniority. Finally, some features of the historical landscape are changing with time. Judging by age, year of acquiring the PhD, or academic rank, we find senior historians concentrated in the traditional fields of North American and West European history especially diplomatic, intellectual, and political history , and junior men in the newer specialties of East European, African, Asian, and Latin American history.

These latter fields include very few scholars who earned PhDs before In recent years Eastern Europe appears to have lost favor, but all the others have more than their share of PhDs earned since So the very fields that involve their practitioners most heavily in the behavioral and social sciences are the ones that are growing and are currently staffed with junior men. The younger men have a different outlook on their profession. I was trained as one and view my work as a historian as developing and testing social science theory and method with historical data.

I think that the historian is generally more penetrating in his search for evidence, and is more rigorous in his application of the method. As new fields of inquiry flourish within history, the division of opinion is changing, and the genteel poverty of historical researchers may change as well. An increasing number of historians are working in fields that bring them into interdisciplinary research centers and other forms of contact with more favored disciplines. Since they are better financed and equipped than their fellows, they inevitably produce a kind of demonstration effect among them.

Historians—at least many historians—have not yet learned to live with these uncomfortable intruders on a world of art, intuition, and verbal skill. We generally assume a higher homogeneity within STEM-L, which means that interest differences decrease. Research question 2 analyzes the match between the interests of the individuals and the interest profile of the vocational aspiration, which is the congruence between the individual and environment.

Generally, we would hypothesize that people seek occupations that suit their interests Gottfredson, , ; Lent et al. Although there may be a higher chance for female students in STEM-L to have competing social interests that reduce their congruence, we assume that these females are able to seek a job that fits their interest profile.

In the context of research question 2, we aim to investigate two alternative assumptions:. According to Su and Rounds we would assume that there are no differences regarding congruence between different fields of study. Students have to overcome obstacles in subjects where they are under-represented. Data sources used for the analysis were the cohort of first year students SC All students from this cohort gave informed consent to participate in the panel. The dataset SC These were represented by a three-digit classification of the German Federal Statistical Office Destatis [Statistisches Bundesamt], a.

Therefore, each student was assigned a variable with the proportion of females within the first study subject based on the data provided by the German Federal Statistical Office Destatis [Statistisches Bundesamt], b. Students were classified with respect to their first study subject according to the number of females within it see e.

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The subjects were furthermore clustered according to their area of study e. The sample also includes medicine with a moderate proportion of females because this field is often discussed within the context of STEM careers European Commission, ; Su and Rounds, ; Ertl et al. The control sample for comparison included economics with a moderate proportion of females, educational sciences with a high proportion of females, and languages with a high proportion of females mainly German, English, and the Romance languages.

These sub-samples were selected because they had comparably high numbers of students in the respective category and no admission restrictions.

Each had a range from one to five. Please find the means and standard deviations for each dimension in Supplementary Table 1.

The Philosophy of Social Science

For our sample, the correspondence index CI was 0. In total, 9, out of 10, vocational aspirations Three hundred and eighteen vocational aspirations were NEPS coded as ISCO code , which is a container category usually not foreseen as code in the ISCO classification; the coding reflects a relatively vague aspiration in the context of doing something with technology. A total of 18 students 0. Table 1.


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We can recognize large variability when looking at the most frequent three-letter codes Table 1. Looking at the things and people orientation, we can see significant differences in the realistic interests in all but the educational sciences see Figure 3. For medicine, the means were between STEM-M and the remaining fields, although the confidence intervals were partially overlapping.

Figure 3. Please find the means, standard errors, and confidence intervals for each group in Supplementary Table 2. Here, we can see that all but the interests of the males in STEM-L were above the middle of the scale of 3. For the social interests, females showed significantly higher values for all but the educational sciences. Students showed the highest social interests in medicine and the educational sciences, and the lowest in STEM-L and economics, which showed significant but only marginally higher values than STEM-L.

Figure 4. Please find the means, standard errors, and confidence intervals for each group in Supplementary Table 3. In light of the hypothesis that females have higher social interests go more into people-related careers and males have more realistic interests go more into thing-related careers , we can verify this hypothesis for all but the educational sciences, which showed significant differences for neither of the dimensions. The results furthermore showed that STEM-L is the most things-oriented, and medicine and educational sciences are the most people-oriented.

Economics is neither, and its values are among the lowest for both categories. In medicine their focus was on investigative activities, while in economics the focus was on enterprising activities for the female students and on conventional ones for the males. These kinds results are also reflected in the distributions of the three-letter codes of the different aspirations.

Table 2.

What is SOCIAL SCIENCE? What does SOCIAL SCIENCE mean? SOCIAL SCIENCE meaning & explanation

In terms of the realistic or things dimension see Figure 5 , we can only observe one significant difference between females and males in STEM-L, which is noticeably small when comparing it with the differences between the STEM-L group and the other groups in the study. This indicates that females tend toward more social aspirations within each field of study. With the social dimension, almost all aspirations besides STEM-L and economics show high to very high characteristics of this dimension. This allowed us to partially verify the hypothesis that the fields of study are linked to differences in the things dimension and people dimension.

However, for this particular student population, we obtained stronger evidence for the things dimension. Figure 5. Please find the means, standard errors, and confidence intervals for each group in Supplementary Table 5. Figure 6. Please find the means, standard errors, and confidence intervals for each group in Supplementary Table 6.

Focusing now specifically on STEM-L, the following reports the data from subjects with more than students in the sample. Regarding the realistic dimension, we can see that females score notably lower in all subjects except general and electrical engineering, and that the confidence intervals are generally larger for females than for males which can be attributed to the reduced sample size.

We can furthermore observe that the significant difference between males and females seen in Figure 3 disappears on the subject level for all subjects except mechanical engineering and traffic engineering see Figure 7.

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