March/April • Volume 43 • Issue 3

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2014 Top 10 Resources in TRAILS

Jaime Hecht, ASA Academic and Professional Affairs

The TRAILS editorial team would like to thank all of our subscribers and authors for making 2014 a great year for TRAILS. 2015 will mark our fifth year, and as we pass this milestone we are thrilled to see the continued importance and relevance of TRAILS. TRAILS is one of the first of its kind to offer sociologists an opportunity to both publish examples of excellence in teaching, and offer subscribers an array of peer-reviewed resources to enhance learning in their own classrooms.

There are more than 3,000 resources in TRAILS and every year we compile the top 10 most downloaded by subscribers. With such a large number of resources in our database, we hope the list below of 2014’s most-downloaded resources offers you some ideas for how you might benefit from the high quality and diverse content available in TRAILS.

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We would like to offer our congratulations to the following 2014 authors.

  1. Understanding U.S. Wealth Distributions, Ideals Perceptions, and Reality, Sara F. Mason, University of North Georgia.
    Our most downloaded resource in 2014 is a class activity, which is ideal for an Intro to Sociology or Social Problems class. It is designed to introduce key concepts related to wealth and inequality. Students work in small groups to visually depict their preconceived notions about U.S. wealth distribution. Then students are asked to create a similar graph for what they think an ideal distribution of wealth should be. Finally, they are presented with a graph of the actual distribution of wealth in the United States. The considerable differences between their perception and reality leads to a discussion of the role of ideology in not only justifying inequality, but in obfuscating the reality of wealth inequality.
  2. Pricing Beauty-First Day of Class Activity, Stephanie Medley-Rath, Indiana University-Kokomo.
    This first-day-of-class activity is the second most downloaded for the second year in a row. The activity uses Ashley Mears’ Pricing Beauty as a basis and introduces the concept stratification, the social construction of beauty, and content analysis on the first day of class. Moreover, the class discussion prompted by the activity helps set the tone for future class discussions.
  3. The Four Sources of Evidence, Daniel Buffington, University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
    Last year’s most downloaded resource (and #6 in 2012) is number three on our 2014 list. This in-class activity is designed to introduce students to the four major sources of evidence used in most sociological research. (ethnography, surveys, experiments, and archival documents/texts)
  4. Stratification Active Learning Assignments, Annette Lareau, University of Pennsylvania.
    Our fourth most downloaded resource, is part of a lower division stratification seminar that offers students a series of exercises to be completed across the semester. This invited resource in the Presidential Pedagogies collection presents five activities. They represent an engaging set of active learning assignments that TRAILS users can adapt for their own courses. The activities are empirically based and lead students to a deeper understanding of the impact of inequality.
  5. Exercising Research Literacy: Examining Ecological Fallacy and Testing for Spuriousness, May Takeuchi, University of North Alabama.
    Our fifth most downloaded resource of 2014 is an assignment designed to help students develop research methods literacy and learn to recognize potential ecological/individualistic fallacies.
  6. Self-Graded SPSS Lab Exercises, Aya K. Ida, California State University-Sacramento.
    This assignment is our sixth most downloaded resource of 2014. Adopting self-grading as a learning tool, this set of four lab exercises helps students practice using SPSS techniques they learned in class and gain experience interpreting the univariate and bivariate results.
  7. Friendship Diversity and the Sociological Imagination, James Vela-McConnell, Augsburg College.
    Holding steady this year in the top 10, this popular PowerPoint presentation and class activity begins with students discussing the friendship diversity scores they calculate. Then observations on the overall pattern of such scores in the class are discussed. Students then draw comparisons between race, class, gender, and sexual orientation and connect these patterns to the opportunity structures they experience.
  8. Article Comparison Assignment, Same Question Different Methods, Alexandra Marin, Purdue University,
    At number 8 this year, this valuable assignment has students write a short paper comparing two journal articles in which the authors use different research methods to address the same research question. This assignment is used in an introductory research methods course to encourage students to think about how research methods relate to other aspects of the research process: using a particular paradigmatic lens, asking research questions, developing hypotheses, and interpreting findings.
  9. Writing Assignments: Steps to a Research Proposal, Jason Crockett, Kutztown University, and Jeremiah Coldsmith, University of Connecticut.
    The ninth most downloaded resource is co-authored by TRAILS area editor, Jason Crockett. This set of assignments allows students to practice the steps of creating a research proposal. Students will learn the process of formulating a research question, reviewing previous studies related to the topic, and creating a plan for data collection. It serves as a first step for students considering research-focused careers, but also gives non-research-focused students exposure to the process and a better understanding of the research process from proposal to analysis.
  10. Lookism in Media and How It Influences Our Perceptions, Nicole Rosen, University of Akron, and Nicole Shoenberger, Pennsylvania State University, The Behrend College.
    Our number 10 most downloaded resource is a class activity designed to help students conceptualize how the media perpetuates and reinforces stereotypes. Combined with in-class applications, this activity helps students conceptualize how the media can influence their own personal interactions and expectations.

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