The American Sociologist

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 63–84 | Cite as

Detecting Topical Divides and Topical “Bridges” Across National Sociologies

  • Konstantinos ZougrisEmail author


The purpose of this paper is to describe the topical structure across national sociologies and detect the topic clusters contributing to the intellectual divide of the discipline. I employed a hybrid methodological style consisting of latent semantic analysis, topic polarization index and simple correspondence analysis to extract and map the topical divides across American and British sociological journals. The textual data were drawn from 11,793 abstracts published in 4 American, and 4 British journals in a 40-year period. My analysis revealed divisive publication preferences across the American and British journals. Topics associated with theory, methods, race, health, social class, crime, income inequality, aging, suicide, social networks, social movements and social status, appeared to contribute the most to the intellectual divides across American and British sociologies. The polarizing publication preferences on the core topics of theory and methods support former findings claiming that there is a fundamental epistemological divide across the two national sociological traditions. American journals tend to publish papers with an emphasis of methodology, while British journals show preference on papers with a theoretical focus. Finally, my findings revealed that core sociological topics relevant to social institutions such as marriage and family, labor, education, and stratification such as gender, immigration and occupational mobility contribute to the intellectual fusion of American and British sociologies.


Sociology of knowledge National sociologies Latent semantic analysis Topic extraction Topic polarization Topic mapping 


  1. Abbott, A. (2000). Reflections on the future of sociology. Contemporary Sociology, 29, 296–300.Google Scholar
  2. Abbott, A. (2001). Chaos of disciplines. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  3. Abend, G. (2006). Styles of sociological thought: Sociologies, epistemologies, and the Mexican and U.S. quests for truth. Sociological Theory, 24(1), 1–41.Google Scholar
  4. Becher, T., & Trowler, P. (2001). Academic tribes and territories: Intellectual enquiry and the culture of disciplines. Philadelphia: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Becker, H. P. (1930). Distribution of space in the American journal of sociology, 1895-1927. American Journal of Sociology, 36(3), 461–466.Google Scholar
  6. Bedford, D., de Ville, B., & La Valley R. (2013). A tale of two SAS technologies – generating maps of topical coverage and linkages in SAS user conference papers. SAS Global Forum. Retrieved from Accessed 22 Dec 2014.
  7. Bendixen, M. (1996). A practical guide to the use of correspondence analysis in marketing research. Marketing Research On-Line, 1, 16–38.Google Scholar
  8. Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  9. Calhoun, C., Duster, T., & VanAntwerpen, J. (2010). The vision and divisions of American sociology. In P. Sujata (Ed.), ISA handbook of diverse sociological traditions (pp. 114–126). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  10. Cappell, C. L., & Guterbock, T. M. (1992). Visible colleges: The social and conceptual structure of sociology specialties. American Sociological Review, 57(2), 266–273.Google Scholar
  11. Cole, S. (1983). The hierarchy of the sciences. American Journal of Sociology, 89(1), 111–139.Google Scholar
  12. Daipha, P. (2001). The intellectual and social organization of ASA 1990–1997: Exploring the interface between the discipline of sociology and its practitioners. The American Sociologist, 32(3), 73–90.Google Scholar
  13. Deerwester, S., Dumais, S. T., Furnas, G., Landauer, T., & Harshman, R. (1990). Indexing by latent semantic analysis. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 41(6), 391–407.Google Scholar
  14. DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1991). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organization fields. In W. W. Powell & P. J. DiMaggio (Eds.), The new institutionalism in organizational analysis (pp. 63–82). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dumais, S. T. (2004). Latent semantic analysis. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 38(1), 188–230.Google Scholar
  16. Ennis, J. G. (1992). The social organization of sociological knowledge: Modeling the intersection of specialties. American Sociological Review, 57(2), 259–265.Google Scholar
  17. Evangelopoulos, N., Zhang, X., & Prybutok, V. R. (2012). Latent semantic analysis: Five methodological recommendations. European Journal of Information Systems, 21(1), 70–86.Google Scholar
  18. Evans, E. D., Gomez, C. J., & McFarland, D. A. (2016). Measuring paradigmaticness of disciplines using text. Sociological Science, 3, 757–778.Google Scholar
  19. Friedrichs, R. W. (1970). A sociology of sociology. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  20. Giddens, A. (1979). Agency, structure. In central problems in social theory (pp. 49–95). London: Palgrave McMillan.Google Scholar
  21. Harty, C., & Shove, E. (2004). Disciplines and their dynamics. Cosener’s House Workshop. Retrieved in October 15th 2017 from
  22. Havrlant, L., & Kreinovich, V. (2014). A simple probabilistic explanation of term frequency-inverse document frequency (tf-idf) heuristic (and variations motivated by this explanation). International Journal of General Systems, 46(1), 27–36.Google Scholar
  23. Heilbron, J. (2013). The social sciences as an emerging global field. Current Sociology, 62(5), 685–703.Google Scholar
  24. Hofmann, T. (1999). Probabilistic latent semantic indexing. In Proceedings of the 22nd annual international ACM SIGIR conference on Research and development in information retrieval, Berkeley, (pp.50–57). Retrieved from
  25. Ignatow, G., Evangelopoulos, N., & Zougris, K. (2016). Sentiment analysis of polarizing topics in social media: News site readers’ comments on the Trayvon Martin controversy. Communication and Information Technologies, 11, 259–284.Google Scholar
  26. Karides, M., Misra, J., Kennelly, I., & Moller, S. (2001). Representing the discipline: Social problems compared to ASR and AJS. Social Problems, 48(1), 111–128.Google Scholar
  27. Kuhn, T. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: Univ. Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  28. Lamont, M., & Molnar, V. (2002). The study of boundaries in the social sciences. Annual Review of Sociology, 28(1), 167–195.Google Scholar
  29. Lee, B. L. (1996). Correspondence analysis. LL Thurstone psychometric laboratory research memorandum. Retrieved from
  30. Lipset, S. M. (1994). The state of American Sociology. Sociological Forum, 9(2), 199–220.Google Scholar
  31. Mannheim, K., & Wirth, L. (2015). Ideology and utopia: An introduction to the sociology of knowledge. Mansfield Centre. In CT: Martino publishing.Google Scholar
  32. Manning, C. D., Raghavan, P., & Schütze, H. (2008). Introduction to information retrieval. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Meter, K. M. V., & Léger, M. D. S. (2014). American, French & German sociologies compared through link analysis of conference abstracts. Bulletin of Sociological Methodology/Bulletin de Méthodologie Sociologique, 122(1), 26–45.Google Scholar
  34. Moody, J. (2004). The structure of a social science collaboration network: Disciplinary cohesion from 1963 to 1999. American Sociological Review, 69(2), 213–238.Google Scholar
  35. Moody, J., & Light, R. (2006). A view from above: The evolving sociological landscape. The American Sociologist, 37(2), 67–86.Google Scholar
  36. Oromaner, M. J. (1970). Comparison of influentials in contemporary American and British sociology: A study in the internationalization of sociology. The British Journal of Sociology, 21(3), 324–332.Google Scholar
  37. Pilato, G., & Vassallo, G. (2015). TSVD as a statistical estimator in the latent semantic analysis paradigm. IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computing, 3, 185–192. Scholar
  38. Quarantelli, E. L., & Weller, J. M. (1974). The structural problem of a sociological specialty: Collective behavior's lack of a critical mass. The American Sociologist, 9(2), 59–68.Google Scholar
  39. Rainoff, T. J. (1929). Wave-like fluctuations of creative productivity in the development of west-european physics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Isis, 12(2), 287–319.Google Scholar
  40. Schofer, E., & Meyer, J. W. (2005). The worldwide expansion of higher education in the twentieth century. American Sociological Review, 70(6), 898–920.Google Scholar
  41. SCImago. (2013). SCImago Journal & Country Rank. Retrieved June 04, 2017 from
  42. Scott, J. (2010). Diversity, dominance, and plurality in British sociology. In P. Sujata (Ed.), ISA handbook of diverse sociological traditions (pp. 94–104). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  43. Shanas, E. (1945). The American journal of sociology through fifty years. American Journal of Sociology, 50(6), 522–533.Google Scholar
  44. Sidorova, A., Evangelopoulos, N., Valacich, J. S., & Ramakrishnan, T. G. (2008). Uncovering the intellectual core of the information systems discipline. MIS Quarterly, 32(3), 467–482.Google Scholar
  45. Tannenbaum, P. H., & Greenberg, B. (1968). Mass communication. Annual Review of Psychology, 19(1), 351–386.Google Scholar
  46. Tonta, Y., & Darvish, H. R. (2010). Diffusion of latent semantic analysis as a research tool: A social network analysis approach. Journal of Informetrics, 4(2), 166–174.Google Scholar
  47. Turner, B. S. (1990). The two faces of sociology: Global or national? Theory. Culture and Society, 7(2), 343–358.Google Scholar
  48. Van Meter, K. M., & de Saint Leger, M. (2014). American, French & German sociologies compared through link analysis of conference abstracts. Bulletin of Sociological Methodology, 122(1), 26–45.Google Scholar
  49. Ward, L. F. (1903) Social differentiation and social integration. American Journal of Sociology, 8(6), 721–745.Google Scholar
  50. Williams, M., Sloan, L., & Brookfield, C. (2017). A tale of two sociologies: Analyzing versus critique in UK sociology. Sociological Research Online, 22(4), 132–151.Google Scholar
  51. Winson-Geideman, K., & Evangelopoulos, N. (2013). Research in real estate, 1973-2010: A three-journal comparison. Journal of Real Estate Literature, 21(2), 255–267.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Hawaii-West O’ahuKapoleiUSA

Personalised recommendations