These trolls look nicer than Internet trolls. / Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Cali4beach

Results are in: Sociologists should study…

We asked, you answered: what should sociology’s next hot research topic be? 5,162 votes on 95 ideas later, we have results for you.

A little background on this survey: We used All Our Ideas, “a data collection tool that has the scale, speed, and quantification of a survey while still allowing for new information to “bubble up” from respondents as happens in interviews, participant observation, and focus groups.” The Contexts team came up with a preliminary list of ideas ranging from serious topics such as gentrification to lighthearted topics like ice cream flavors. Poll-takers were invited to add their own ideas to the mix. Here’s how the voting and scoring work: All Our Ideas randomly matches up two ideas at a time, and the voter picks one. Scores are calculated based on the probability that an idea will “win” over a randomly matched idea. Note that some ideas were voted on less frequently than others, usually because they were added late in the game (e.g., riots).

Drum roll, please… here’s what you should write your dissertation, next journal article, or grant application about, according to readers. (Disclaimer: Contexts is not responsible for the consequences if you pick “university bureaucracy as organized crime”…)

Idea Wins Losses Score
Internet Trolling Behavior 116 24 82.4
Riots 6 1 77.8
Suicide among Youth 17 5 75.0
University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime 17 5 75.0
Oversharing on Social Media 129 48 72.6
The Digital Marketing Strategies of Terrorist Groups 20 7 72.4
Physical Attractiveness as a Status Characteristic 98 37 72.3
What People Google 100 41 70.6
Yik Yak and Social Anonymity 108 48 69.0
Never-married People 54 26 67.1


Time to focus on Internet trolls, sociologists! Some sociologists, like Sarah Sobieraj, are already on the case, along with some psychologists who report that trolls really are sadists who enjoy others’ discomfort. Sounds to me like the time is ripe to bring the tools of our trade to bear — add some social structure, symbolic interactionism, social identity, or network analysis.

Riots were a late addition to the poll, but given current events in Baltimore, it’s an obvious frontrunner. Here and here are a few examples of recent sociological research on protest. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that historically, the presence of Black protesters draws more police than White protesters.

And, from our sociology topics Hall of Shame, here are the least popular research ideas:

Idea Wins Losses Score
Violence 6 14 31.8
Kale 44 99 31.0
Webcam Girls 3 8 30.8
Freudian Slips 37 95 28.4
The Bachelor/Bachelorette 48 124 28.2
Generational Determinants of Preferred Ice Cream Flavor 45 121 27.4
Ufology 27 78 26.2
Band Camp 33 96 26.0
Demographic profile of SJMR users 6 21 24.1
Small Yippy Dogs 19 109 15.4

Pretty sure sociologists shouldn’t stop researching violence, so maybe don’t take that advice from the Internet community. And sorry, small yippy dogs. You’re cute, but we’re just not that into you.

Small dogs in kimonos, because why not? / Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of What What
Small dogs in kimonos, because why not? / Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of What What

Get researching!

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