More theory to make social sciences more interesting

Richard Swedberg urges us to theorize more to make social sciences more interesting. His recent article in BJS summarizes Swedberg’s 2014 book in a short and accessible manner. While we’re more used to seeing the article first followed by a longer book, I’m happy to see this article as Swedberg’s message deserves to be heard. Contrary to what I chose as the title of this post, Swedberg actually doesn’t call for more theory as such, but for more of the right kind of theory. Good theory isn’t abstract and empirically irrelevant (i.e. much of what passes as ‘theory’ today). Interestingly Swedberg focuses on observation and creativity, and not formal modelling as it is done in economics (which he regards as mechanistic).

Swedberg, Richard. 2016. ‘Before Theory Comes Theorizing or How to Make Social Science More Interesting’. The British Journal of Sociology, February. doi:10.1111/1468-4446.12184.

Swedberg, Richard. 2014. The Art of Social Theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

A Really Practical Guide to Using Panel Data

Here’s a really practical guide to using panel data: Longhi, Simonetta, and Alita Nandi. 2015. A Practical Guide to Using Panel Data. Seven Oaks: Sage. Based on course notes of a course taught for many years, this book deserves the word practical in the title. It contains the code and explanations to run your own panel analysis in no time. You’ll have to use Stata, and it only covers the British, German, and American panels.

I would probably recommend using this book in conjunction with one of the Green Books by Sage, e.g. Allison, Paul D. 2009. Fixed Effects Regression Models. Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences (QASS) 160. SAGE Publications.

What’s great about Longhi & Nandi’s book is that it doesn’t pretend all data are textbook data: it starts with getting the downloaded data into shape and data cleaning. Even though the book is comprehensive, I would have liked it to go into more depth from time to time.