As a framework for presenting ideas on developing ways to make sociology more applicable, we focus on the recent state of medical sociology research. Data for this paper were generated through a content analysis of a twelve-year period (1993-2004) of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (JHSB) and Social Science & Medicine (SSM). The analysis aims to determine if the content of JHSB and SSM reflect the breadth of the sub-discipline of medical sociology as well as the stated goals of the journals. The selected issues of JHSB and SSM were coded on the basis of the following attributes: (1) Primary Substantive Topic, (2) Methodology, (3) Data Type and Analytic Technique, and (4) Research and Policy Recommendations. We found that the orientation of JHSB articles was towards generating research and theory that shy away from policy, interdisciplinary approaches, and applied issues. SSM content tends to display more interdisciplinary breadth and variety, but also reflects a dearth of applied recommendations. Our discussion focuses on what JHSB and SSM could be. We present ideas on how the sociological discipline in general—and JHSB and SSM in particular—can help generate and nourish new forms of inquiry that can impact the way research questions are framed. We conclude that such a shift is needed in order to maximize the applicability of social scientific evidence to everyday life, and we share examples situated within a socio-medical context, where there is a particular need for the application of social evidence to practice.
Table of contents
Table of contents4
Editorial calls within the journals8
Data and methods11
Stage I: JHSB11
Stage II: SSM16
One key feature that distinguishes a profession from other occupations is a focused arena of discourse, where an abstract body of knowledge is discussed, altered, fleshed out, ultimately evolves, and, optimistically, improves (Goode, 1957). Through efficient and guided discourse, the profession sets standards for research and requires serious productivity. But insofar as a profession retains the ability to autonomously direct its own discourse, it also has a responsibility to fully explicate the ideas within it. Sociology, as a profession, not only must take the responsibility of a full discourse seriously, but also direct that discourse outward and, at least to some extent, apply it to practical situations within everyday life.
This paper provides a content analysis of the two most prestigious journals in medical sociology, the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (JHSB) and Social Science & Medicine (SSM). Our goal was to address two questions:
(1) Does this published work predominantly serve to inform the academic disciplines in which it is grounded, or is it directed toward a broader socio-medical community?
(2) Is the breadth of the substantive and methodological focus of medical sociology reflected in these top journals?
We offer a partisan stance on these issues, suggesting that the top journals of the discipline ought to be both broad in focus and direct research outward to inform medical and public health practices. Our thinking is that prominent journals should reflect as well as drive the state of ...