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In Defense of DisciplinesInterdisciplinarity and Specialization in the Research University$

Jerry A. Jacobs

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226069296

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226069463.001.0001

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(p.229) Appendix: Data Sources

(p.229) Appendix: Data Sources

In Defense of Disciplines
University of Chicago Press

The research presented in this book draws on many sources. While in some cases, I cite the findings of others; more often, I sought out untapped data sources to address previously unanswered questions. The strategy was to examine in detail some of the many questions underlying the case for a more interdisciplinary university. I summarize these data below in order to provide sufficient detail about these investigations without unduly distracting from the flow of the text.

  1. 1. Citations. Citation data speak to the question of the extent of communication between disciplines. In chapter 5, I draw on citation data from the Web of Knowledge as reported by the National Science Foundation. I also conducted subject matter queries to estimate the volume of research directed at various social issues. Searches of article titles tend to understate the extent of research on a topic, since the precise words may not appear in an article title. On the other hand, keyword searching may overstate the prevalence of research because the terms may refer of a variety of issues beyond those of interest. I employ both these methods to obtain low-end and high-end estimates. I also conducted similar searches in Google Scholar, which also provides useful citation data. Google Scholar results tend to be significantly higher, typically by a factor of two. The principal virtue of the Web of Knowledge data for our purposes is that a large number of journals are classified by field in a consistent manner. In contrast, Google Scholar does not neatly classify citations into detailed subject matter areas. In chapter 6, I analyzed Web of Knowledge data in more detail by utilizing their subject classification system. By comparing the timing of citations in education versus neighboring fields of research, I can address questions of whether research is significantly delayed when it crosses the boundaries between fields. (p.230)

  2. 2. Research Centers. The Cengage Learning (2012) compiles information on organizations. I queried this database for research centers based in educational settings. These data allow me to estimate the number of research centers in American higher education based on a consistent definition, and to report the number based in each of the top twenty-five research universities. In order to check the validity of the data, I conducted my own investigation of university-based research centers based on information gleaned from a school’s website. These figures match the results obtained from the Gale data quite closely. This evidence is pertinent to the analysis in this volume because the vast majority of these research centers are inter disciplinary in orientation.

  3. 3. New Peer-Reviewed Journals. Journal data from Ulrich is examined in chapter 4. Ulrich compiles information on journals, including the date when it was established, whether it is peer reviewed, the country of publication, and other useful data. While it may not be completely comprehensive with respect to new journals published in foreign countries, such as China, it nonetheless is the most comprehensive database of academic journals of which I am aware. The analysis in chapter 4 focuses on 740 new peer-reviewed journals established in 2008.

  4. 4. Degrees and Programs. I examined several different types of data on degrees. While the Department of Education provides information on the number of students receiving degrees, these data are not always the best source for obtaining the number of schools offering degree programs in particular areas. Specifically, the national tables reported in the Digest of Education Statistics provide a wealth of detail on particular degree offerings, but the data sets that allow for analysis of degrees offered in particular institutions are more highly aggregated. Consequently, I compiled data on degree offerings from individual schools from The College Blue Book.

    Chapter 3 relies heavily on data from The College Blue Book. The Blue Book is a rich source of data on degree offerings by particular schools. Its coverage is quite systematic dating back to the late 1960s. This continuity helps in terms of examining growth of applied programs.

    In chapter 3, I also draw on data from a series of reports entitled American Universities and Colleges published by the American Council on Education (1928–36). In the first three editions, published in 1928, 1932, and 1936, data on the number of faculty by department and rank are reported. I included data on full, associate, and assistant professors, but not instructors. The 1936 volume included data on 514 colleges and universities (teachers’ colleges and normal schools are not included in this analysis of liberal arts departments). Of these, twenty-one, including Harvard and Penn, did not list the number of faculty in individual departments.

  5. 5. Department Structure. While the Blue Book data identify degree programs, they do not report on department structure. Thus, these data indicate the (p.231) presence of a degree in French language and literature, but they do not indicate whether this is awarded by a French department, a Romance language department, a foreign language department, or some other type of entity. For this level of detail, I examined several selected fields of study across 383 colleges and universities. The sampling frame was drawn from Brint’s Institutional Database. Brint and his colleagues had already identified a representative sample of institutions that was manageable in size, and so it seemed opportune to take advantage of this sample of schools. The fields of study were selected because of their substantive interest.

  6. 6. Trends in the Field of Sociology. The discussion of trends in the size of the field of sociology are based on data obtained from the American Sociological Association. The name changed from American Sociological Society to American Sociological Association during the 1950s. I use the current name throughout for consistency. I calculated department size in 1950 by tabulating ASA membership by department (American Sociological Society 1950). This technique probably understates department size to some degree, because not all faculty members would have been members of the association. The 1950 membership directory lists faculty in 438 US colleges and universities.

  7. 7. Faculty Hiring Patterns. I examined data on faculty hiring patterns by discipline from the National Survey of Post-Secondary Faculty (National Center for Education Statistics 2011).

  8. 8. American Studies. Chapter 6 draws on a wide range of data pertaining to the field of American studies. Estimates of the number of American studies programs are based on the American Studies Association’s (ASA) annual surveys (conducted from the 1960s through the 1980s), as well as data from The College Blue Book and estimates from Brint’s databases. Data on participation in annual meetings, data on American studies dissertations, and other material are also obtained from the American Studies Association website.

  9. 9. Student Values and Learning. Data from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institution on freshman norms is examined to shine some light on trends in student values and intended majors. Richard Arum and Josipa Roska, generously provided analyses of their data on college student learning. These results speak to the selectivity of interdisciplinary students and the learning gains of those enrolled in interdisciplinary programs. (p.232)