For Charles Kurzman, sociologist at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this was a fact known only too well. With published papers on major social issues including The Arab Spring Uncoiled, For Export Only: Diffusion Professionals and Population Policy and Islamic Studies in U.S. Universities, his latest research project is to understand the extent to which American social science has internationalized in the last 50 years.
“Being able to look back at trends in the social sciences means that policy makers can understand what the important topics are and how to shape policy going forward,“ said Kurzman. “As you can imagine, the amount of data that has been published in social sciences over the last half century years is quite considerable. Our team has collected millions of journal articles, dissertations, and books from American academia, each of which have different subjects, headings etc. The aim of this project is to identify the geographical subjects for each piece of scholarship in order to make sense of this data and identify whether or not American social science is paying more attention to international subjects than it has in the past.”
To do this, the team developed an algorithm that looks at the different pieces of information to try and determine where trends and patterns exist. It was with this analysis that the ProQuest Digital Dissertations team was able to help.
“As I mentioned, the research includes thousands of dissertations, as well as other data sources. As your readers may know, ProQuest is the Library of Congress’ official repository for all dissertations published in the United States. So I approached them and told them about my project. They were incredibly helpful and agreed to provide the metadata for the dissertations in their vault.”
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