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On Narrative and Sociology

John Shelton Reed
Social Forces
Vol. 68, No. 1 (Sep., 1989), pp. 1-14
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2579214
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2579214
Page Count: 14
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On Narrative and Sociology
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Abstract

The dismal state of scholarly writing, especially in the social sciences, reflects (1) lack of training in effective communication, (2) lack of sanctions for bad writing, and possibly (3) a rhetorical strategy intended to validate claims to expertise. Good writing can and should be taught; its absence should be remarked, if not penalized; and rhetoric should be recognized for what it is. If sociological work is to be appreciated outside the discipline, good writing is a necessary first step. In addition, however, sociologists should reconsider the case for descriptive, interpretive work. Most sociologists now value such work less highly than hypothetico-deductive social science, but the application of sociological concepts and methods to the understanding of particular cases is a worthwhile undertaking, and one that the general public tends to find more interesting than the search for explanatory theory. There should be room in sociology, as in other disciplines, not just for different research styles, but for different goals.

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