What motivated you to join WikiProject Sociology? Do you have an academic or professional background in sociology? Have you contributed to any of the project's Good or Featured Articles?
A computer-generated social network diagram. Sociologists increasingly draw on computationally intensive methods to analyze and model social phenomena.
Meclee: I was motivated by running across several articles with a wide range of competency in coverage on the topic of social complexity. So, I made suggestions to merge and followed through with a thorough re-write of one article on the topic. I next saw a request to do some editing in the area of social networks, and after participating in a discussion on issues, performed a split and re-write of that article.During the course of writing those articles, I began to notice that quite a few sociology articles were in need of attention. I am an academic (currently) sociologist who does more teaching than publication of research these days, so thought that editing Wikipedia was a good use of my time.
Piotrus: I joined this WikiProject nearly a decade ago as a graduate student in sociology; now I am an assistant professor in the field. I was able to contribute to several Good Articles, such as those on classic theorists (Max Weber, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim).
DASonnenfeld: I've been a member of WP:Sociology since 2009. My earliest contributions to Wikipedia's sociology articles related to my primary focus within sociology, environmental sociology. I was interested in helping strengthen Wikipedia's coverage of sociology topics, through identifying and filling in gaps and developing existing articles. I have a PhD in Sociology and work in an interdisciplinary academic setting. I served as a peer reviewer and contributed to the development of the article on sociologist Erving Goffman, a Good Article. DA Sonnenfeld (talk) 02:26, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
How detailed are Wikipedia's articles about sociological concepts and social problems? Has it been challenging to write articles that are substantive yet accessible to the layperson?
Meclee: Some articles are incredibly detailed. With some complex theoretical topics, such as the theory of structuration, it can be very difficult to make it accessible to laypersons.
Piotrus: What Meclee said. We have some very good articles, but like other topics on Wikipedia, those that are high quality are just a tip of the iceberg. The biggest challenge is to be able to cover the "big" topics, one that have hundreds of books written about them. That requires serious expertise and experience, and our little project, with few active editors, is hard pressed to be able to tackle them quickly. With our current workforce, it will take us decades to get just the core topics up to high quality, I am afraid.
DASonnenfeld: Wikipedia has a lot of articles on sociological topics, but relatively few really well-developed ones. There remains a lot of room for further development, and for creation of new articles on foundational topics in sociology. The largest number of sociology articles might, from my perspective, be considered on "pop(ular) sociology" topics; especially popular are those related to sexuality. My broader focus in sociology is what I would term social change; there are fewer strong articles in Wikipedia on such more abstract topics.
Are some branches of the discipline better covered by Wikipedia than others? Which topics most desperately need a glance from an expert in the subject?
Meclee: Sociology is a very broad field that can be applied to any phenomenon in which human interaction plays a part. Wikipedia contents give very good coverage to the most common, popular, and basic areas of research. One area that could use more coverage and more updating of current information is the area of social inequality.
Piotrus: I think some topics of particular interest to our active members are covered better than others. For example, I am interested in social movements and new media, and those topics are, I'd like to think, a bit above the average due to that. To build on what Meclee said, I am still surprised that the topics related to social inequality are drawing so little attention; for all the press they are getting in media, and professional literature, there are very few Wikipedians working on them.
For readers discovering sociology for the first time, which articles would you recommend they begin reading? How can non-expert editors contribute to Wikipedia's sociology articles?
Meclee: The main Sociology article is a very good starting place to learn more about Sociology and its branches of study. The Social research article gives a good overview of methods used in the study of society. Non-specialist editors can always contribute by copy editing articles and checking citations.
Piotrus: I am not sure if our core articles are good enough to recommend as a good starting place. Sociology is a Good Article, but so many secondary core topics are C class... sigh. Non-experts can help in various places, from copyediting to writing content. What is a non-expert, anyway? A student with minor in sociology can contribute good quality content, too, as a number of Sociology Educational Assignments have shown.
Is it difficult to find images suitable for sociology articles? What sorts of figures and photographs would be appropriate for articles about concepts and issues in sociology?
Piotrus: Moderately. Commons has a nice collection of photographs of social settings; what we need the most are probably diagrams, maps and such.
Does WikiProject Sociology collaborate with any other projects? Are there areas of overlap between sociology and other disciples that could be used as the basis for a collaboration among social science disciplines?
Piotrus: I'd add Wikipedia:WikiProject Psychology and Wikipedia:WikiProject LGBT, considering their activity. But there are many other social science projects that would be applicable; the problem is that most of them are barely active enough to maintain themselves; we don't have the numbers to think about any serious collaboration.
DASonnenfeld: At the project-level, there does seem to be some ad hoc collaboration between social science and related WikiProjects. With Meclee, I'm a co-founder of WikiProject Globalization, a couple of summers ago. There is some intersection and cooperation between WikiProject Sociology members and other WikiProjects such as WP:Environment and WP:Academic Journals, as well.
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?
Meclee: The Project's most urgent need is for more active participants who can update and expand our coverage of sociological topics and research findings. We are also in need of participants willing to improve articles through checking citations and converting citations to a standard citation template. We would very much appreciate editors who could help with modernizing and updating the Portal:Sociology. Meclee (talk) 09:19, 7 January 2014 (UTC)
Piotrus: What Meclee said, through I think that the Portal:Sociology (as all other portals) is a low priority. Who reads them? Google never picks them up. But we could desperately use a few more active members. Five active sociology writers would probably double our activity numbers...
DASonnenfeld: Much room for contributions at all levels! Contribution of public domain/ commons images and videos can enhance many articles.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Piotrus: I am curious if any readers of this article are familiar with the ASA Wikipedia Initiative? In the two years that site has been active, I wonder what impact did it have? Are there any readers of this interview who have joined our WikiProject after learning about it from ASA, for example?
DASonnenfeld: A 'call out' to the Wikipedia Campus Ambassadors Program, and to instructors who have provided opportunities and training to students to make meaning contributions to improving the quality of articles on Wikipedia. Great effort and thanks for your contributions!
Next week's article should be a special treat. Until then, check out the archive for our previous Reports.