Doing what Sociologists do: A student-engineered exercise for understanding workplace inequality

Timothy J. Haney


This exercise is designed to help instructors, even those with moderate to relatively large enrollments, lead students through interviews and data analysis. Instructors in a number of fields including sociology, economics, political science, public policy, anthropology, business, or human services may find this exercise useful. Students devise their own research questions and interview questions from course readings on workplace and labor market inequality. They are responsible for conducting four short interviews; two with service-sector employees and two with managers or owners of similar establishments. Students are then responsible for assessing the extent to which the two sides converge and diverge. Along with a description of the exercise, I present a suggested format for students’ final papers, as well as sample research questions, interview questions, and sample establishment-types that students may use to create their own independent research project. My students are often surprised by the richness of their data and the consistency of their conclusions with existing theory and empirical research findings.


inequality; work; interview; service sector; experiential learning

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ISSN 1527-9316