Sociology 2429: Women in Society

Battered women, work, and welfare: A research seminar

Fall Semester 2001: Thursdays, 2:00 pm to 4:25 pm, 406 Information Science Building (N. Bellefield)

Dr. Lisa D. Brush
Office: 2J28 Posvar Hall (formerly FQUAD)
Office Hours: Thursdays, 1:00 pm and by appointment
Office phone: 412-648-7595
Email address/electronic office hours: Talk Back To Dr. Brush

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Course Description

This is a research-oriented course on battered women, work, and welfare. Seminar participants will use readings, consultations with guest speakers, and our collective resources to contribute to their choice of several on-going research projects on the costs of taking a beating in the context of welfare reform.

The shared readings will include current research reports and publications, along with methodological and theoretical readings on battering, work, and welfare.

Discussions and written work will address the theories, methods, and substantive examples from the readings, but the main focus will be on analyzing data from one of three recent or current projects on battering and welfare-to-work transition for poor women in Allegheny County. One project involves statistical analysis of a large administrative data set on battering, welfare, and work. One project involves data from brief, structured interviews with 122 employment training program enrollees collected in 1998. Another project involves extensive structured retrospective and prospective longitudinal interviews with 40 employment training program enrollees.

Course Requirements and Grading

Discussion participation

Graduate study means learning to learn from every possible source -- from your readings, your peers, your life experience, your professor, your research. Participating in seminar discussions is one of the best ways to learn. You are expected to contribute your questions and insights to the class. The culture of the seminar will, I hope, be a congenial one for self-expression. I will work to maintain such a culture by swiftly countering displays of contempt and by practicing principles of pedagogical equity to the extent possible. I cannot help you learn if you don't participate in discussion, however. Doing excellent written work is not enough to demonstrate adequate performance in graduate school. So show a little backbone, organize yourselves in whatever way you need in order to ensure broad participation in the discussion, and whatever you do, don't suffer in silence. Say anything you can defend against reasoned argument. Treat your colleagues' contributions with respect (which means taking them seriously and challenging them as well as extending basic courtesy).

This should go without saying, but attendance at each seminar meeting is required. More than one absence that is not due to extraordinary circumstances will result in a lowered grade.

In addition to participating in seminar discussions, everyone enrolled in this seminar is expected to complete the following assignments:

Abstracts (10 percent of final grade)

Before 9:00 am on Thursdays (that is, the day of the seminar meeting), submit to the seminar distribution list an analytical abstract of not more than 300 words. Summarize the purpose, framework, sources, findings, and significance of the reading. Comment succinctly on what you found most interesting, important, puzzling, infuriating, fundamental, etc. about the readings. Distributed over email in a timely manner, these abstracts will not only help you organize your response to the readings but will also serve as a guide for discussions. Altogether, these short written assignments contribute ten percent to your final grade. Submit three abstracts over the course of the term.

Critical reviews and class presentations (40 percent of final grade)

Each student must write a publication-length (800 words) formal review of the text for one week. Most disciplinary journals include examples (I suggest you look over the most recent issue of Contemporary Sociology, the journal of reviews for sociology, American Journal of Sociology, or Gender & Society, the journal of Sociologists for Women in Society). Your review should respond to the text in an evaluative way by placing the work in scholarly context, assessing the methods and findings of the research, and identifying controversies. You will present your review and be responsible for facilitating discussion in the first hour of our session in that particular class. Your presentation should set out what you see as the context, key concepts, and controversies from the readings. At the minimum, presenters should identify particularly problematic passages in the text and help the group engage with them, either by providing and then eliciting alternate readings of the text, contextualizing the debates implicit or explicit in the text, or preparing specific questions for discussion. Submit two reviews and present the same number of times over the course of the term.

Final project and presentation (45 percent of final grade)

During the final session (or perhaps two, depending on enrollment) of the semester, you will present the results of your analysis/research to the seminar group. The final written version of this work is due at the last class session. You must submit a draft of your text to another seminar participant for comments (see below). This is your opportunity to present your own work in a supportive-yet-critical setting. The presentation and written project together count for 45 percent of your grade.

Comments on drafts (5 percent of final grade)

Each participant will be responsible for reading, and providing written and oral comments on, the draft project text of one fellow participant. This will be your opportunity to provide supportive-yet-critical feedback to your colleagues at a crucial stage in the development of their projects. You will receive drafts by the third-to-last class session and must return comments by the beginning of the following class to allow time for revisions. You may also serve as commentator on final presentations. Hand in your colleague's comments with the final version of the paper. These comments count toward five percent of your grade.

Grades will be assigned on the following scale:

A: Truly exceptional and outstanding work
B: Solid, acceptable graduate-level work
B- or below: Below acceptable level for graduate work

Undergraduates enrolled with special permission of the professor will be graded appropriately.

Schedule of Meetings

All texts should be available at the Book Center. Most are also available on reserve in Hillman library.

Course participants will work individually and collectively on a research project on battering, work, and welfare, and will contribute data and analysis to a Reporting of Findings. During the first several weeks of the term, seminar participants will read and evaluate similar research, consult with guest speakers, and generate precise research questions and analytic strategies. Two weeks of analysis and interpretation will be followed by the final two weeks of write-up, including both documentation of the research process and drafts of individual contributions to the Report of Findings. The exact schedule is subject to change depending on the availability of guest speakers, especially in the month of October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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