I have — I think? — mentioned “C.J. Pascoe”:http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~cjpascoe/ on this blog before. A sociology Ph.D. from Berkeley and post doc at the unstoppable “Digital Youth Project”:http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/, Pascoe’s work looks really interesting. Her research focuses on gender and discourse in highschool — hence the title of her book “Dude You’re A Fag”:http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/10671.html. I’m always on the lookout for high school ethnography (it is the only thing you can teach in intro courses that everyone has in common) and the title alone looks like it should hook students — it certainly hooked me.
I bring up Pascoe’s work here for another reason — it’s an excellent example of how we academics boil our work down when necessary. Pascoe’s writing on masculinity in high school can be found in her “dissertation”:http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?index=0&did=1216752651&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=2&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1183048200&clientId=13392&cfc=1 (a slim 232 pages!), or her “book”:http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/10671.html (only 8 pages longer). But you could also just read “the article”:http://sexualities.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/8/3/329 and then there is even the one-page “op-ed/ad that appeared on Inside Higher Ed this morning”:http://insidehighered.com/views/2007/06/28/pascoe.
I suppose some people would argue that this sort of repacking constitutes some sort of morally suspect double-dipping on publications, and I am sure that there is a sense in which this is sometimes true. But on the whole I think it is a good idea that academics learn how to scope their writing for different degrees of specificity. It is always good to have the full monograph to fall back on, but for non-specialists like me, the article may be all I need — and I may need to glance over the brief write-up to decide whether or not I read the article.
Scoping is important not just for readers doing literature searches, but for authors as well. One of the skills I try to teach my graduate students is the art of cooking their projects down to a sentence (‘I study mining and indigenous people in Papua New Guinea’) or up to a dissertation. They often feel — rightly — that a sentence can never capture the richness of their project. But one of the most valuable things about learning to boil things down is that shifting the form around often helps you get clear on the content. This process of inflation and deflation is thus, I think, one of the keys to getting clear on what specifically you are expending so much lung power on. And clearly Pascoe’s tagline is a great example how even a single sentence can signal to the reader what you study, and why they ought to find it fascinating.