For this paper, you will interview someone who works in an occupation or field that interests you. Perhaps you are interested in exploring a field that you plan to go into, or a field/job/work situation of someone you know (a parent, friend, relative). The key will be to integrate into your analysis one or several class concepts. Thus, you will use concepts learned throughout the course and apply them to a real-life working situation. 6 full pages, word count at least 2000.
You may draw from any of the concepts we discuss in class. Some of the more popular choices include:
- Emotional labor
- Work in a sex-typed occupation (i.e., a female corrections officer or a male nurse)
- Work/Family balance, or work as a stay at home mother or father
- LGBTQ identities at work
- Tacit skills and coping with boring or routinized work
- Racial and/or ethnic experiences and/or inequalities in the workplace
- Service work – issues involved with interacting with customers
- Blue collar work – women in blue collar jobs; devaluation of blue collar work
- Labor & union organizing or workplace resistance
- Immigration experiences
I have attached to this handout a basic description of interviewing strategies. Please refer to that as you construct your interview questions. You may write up specific interview questions to follow or you may want to have an outline of topics to cover. Either way, be sure to include questions that will allow you to explore the topic(s) you have chosen for this project.
Below I have provided a basic, suggested outline for how you should structure your paper.
- You should begin your paper with an introduction of your topic. Here, you want to be sure to list:
- Next, you should spend a few paragraphs developing and explaining the core course concepts that you have chosen to explore through interviews with your occupational representative. While in the first paragraph (or two) you only briefly mention these, this next section will be where you more fully develop these ideas. This is done so that when you begin discussing the interview in the next section, the reader has a good sense of why your chosen occupational representative facilitates a better – or more detailed – understanding of course concepts.
- After you fully develop the relevant concepts, you will begin to discuss your interview. Begin with a description of the interviewee: Who is it? How long has s/he worked in the field? Be thorough! This should be two to three paragraphs.
- After providing a description, you’ll relate interview information to the course concepts. Be thorough as you link the interview to course concepts. This is the heart of your paper! This should be 3-4 paragraphs.
- Finally, end with a summary of your project. What did you conclude? Did your respondent’s interview answers coincide with what was found in the literature? Did they diverge? In what way? What new information did you learn about this particular occupation? Did the interview and analysis of course concepts provide insight into this field? These are the types of issues to address in this section. Two to three paragraphs.
- Be sure to provide a reference page documenting all of the sources you used.
- Also, be sure to include a copy of your interview questions and the notes you took while conducting the interview. You need only to include these with the copy you turn in in class.
- The occupation you have chosen as your topic
- The course concepts in which you have grounded your analysis
- The sociological relevance of choosing the occupation and concepts (and not just, “because I’m interested in this job.”)
Sociological relevance refers to why/how your project is interesting or relevant to social scientists. It is okay to include statements about why it is important to you, but you need to also provide a statement about your topic’s broader implications. This is an important part of this project: being able to connect your project to course concepts. This should be one to two paragraphs.
For example, if you have chosen to study how a male nurse handles emotional labor in a female sex-typed occupation, you would discuss how your paper provides insight into how men may understand and respond to working in a female-dominated occupation. The goal is to connect your specific topic to the broader importance – to connect the micro with the macro. Ask yourself: what is this a case of?
For example, keeping with the above theme, here you’ll want to discuss what is meant by “emotional labor” (here you could cite the Hochschild reading). What is it? How is it done? Who does it affect? Next, you’ll want to talk a little about gendered occupations, with a focus on men working in traditionally female occupational fields.
You will likely cite from course materials, and you should cite these when appropriate. While you are not required to draw from outside sources, doing so will likely improve your argument. Be sure to properly cite (see attachment on Canvas).
Using the above example, you’d want to list detail such as: What is the sex composition of the male nurse’s setting? Is he, indeed, one of the only few men? What drew him to want to work in this occupation?
For example, did the male nurse say anything about emotional labor? About the care ethic that many associate with nursing? What did he say about working in a female-dominated setting? It is essential that you provide answers to the questions you raised in the front half of your paper.
The interview with your occupational representative should be around 30-60 minutes. You are not required to audio record or transcribe your interview, but if you choose to do so it may be helpful later on as you attempt to integrate interview material with course concepts. However, you will need to take notes during the interview.
You should notify your respondent that this interview is being conducted as part of a research project for your sociology of work class at the U of O. Inform them that none of the information that they provide will be used for purposes that go beyond fulfilling the requirements for this class (in other words, no information will ever be made public by way of journal or newspaper article). Be sure to ask the respondent if he or she feels comfortable providing identifying information (such as name or organizational affiliation) or if s/he would rather have personal information concealed by means of pseudonyms.
You should begin your interview by asking about background information. How long hast the person been working in the occupation? What is their training? What are their workplace conditions like? For example, if you are interviewing a nurse, how big is the hospital? How many patients does s/he usually attend to on a normal shift?
You also want to be sure to ask questions that directly relate to the topic you have chosen to pursue. For example, if you are interviewing a male nurse, you’d want to ask how many nurses there are total in the hospital and how many of them are males.If you are exploring issues of work and family, be sure to ask about how many hours a week he or she spends at home versus at work. This is intuitive, but be sure to be thorough.
Because of the breadth of topics students have chosen for this class, there will be a great deal of diversity in terms of the content of interview questionnaires. I just want to urge you to be thorough when you are thinking about the types of questions to ask your respondent, especially as they relate to your topic.
It is always useful when conducting in-depth interviews to ask people to elaborate on answers, or to provide you with a specific incident that illustrates the concepts in which you are interested.
- For example, if you are constructing your analysis around emotional labor, you should ask your respondent to elaborate on a specific time when they felt as if they needed to conceal or fake emotions. What, exactly, happened during that incident? How did they feel? A prompt you might use to elicit this type of information might be something like:
- Can you provide me with an example of a particular incident when you felt like you had to conceal how much you were worried or upset about a patient’s well-being? How did this make you feel at that moment? Were you able to stop thinking about the patient when you went home that day?
The more detailed information you can elicit to illustrate particular topics, the better.
Both the GTFs and I are willing to help you construct questions for your interviews before you go out into the field. Please visit us in our office hours if you would like to chat more about your interview. I am also willing to look over rough drafts of interview questions if you are seeking a little more direction. Don’t hesitate to contact one of us.