Research Practicum

Hands-on research experience for our graduate students

UIC Sociology's Research Practicum is a two-semester methodology course that alternates each year between a primarily quantitative method and a primarily qualitative method (although often these courses include mixed methods approaches). The practicum is taught by a faculty member who proposes a research topic for the year and the students learn about the topic and the methods covered, collect primary data, and then practice coding and analysis.

Explaining Racial Inequality in Chicago (2018)

Led by Professor Maria Krysan, in collaboration with Professors Tyrone Forman and Amanda Lewis, this research practicum involved a multi-methods project using focus groups, a large-scale online survey of 1,200 people, and more than 100 in-depth interviews to explore the question: How do Chicagoans explain the racial inequality that defines our city? We built on the UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy’s portrait of Chicago’s vast racial inequality in education, economics, justice, and health, and were motivated by the idea that an important ingredient for identifying solutions to this inequality is a clear understanding of how the public explains these racial disparities. Our study also makes an innovative contribution to decades of scholarship on racial attitudes that has insufficiently adapted to contemporary racial dynamics and neglected the beliefs of racial/ethnic minorities.

Students in the research practicum gained experience using multiple quantitative and qualitative methods, including focus groups, survey research, and in-depth interviews. The faculty and student collaboration designed and conducted focus groups to hone the research questions, completed telephone pretest interviews to inform the design of the online survey questionnaire, and conducted in-depth interviews to explore in more detail the nuances and sources of people’s attitudes toward racial inequality in the Chicago area. During Fall 2018, students and faculty will begin analyzing the data from both the interviews and the online surveys.

Funding for this project was provided by the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, and UIC’s Department of Sociology and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Policing in Chicago Research Group (2017)

Led by associate professor Andy Clarno, this research practicum involved a social justice ethnography and the formation of University of Illinois at Chicago’s Policing in Chicago Research Group. The research workshop brings faculty and students at UIC into conversation with community organizations in Chicago. The group is studying the ways that advanced data analysis and coordination between local and federal law enforcement agencies have transformed policing in Chicago.

The group has released the following reports:

Students in the research practicum gained experience using multiple qualitative research methods, including archival research, analysis of available internet data, writing FOIA requests, developing qualitative interview protocols, and conducting in-depth interviews with police, lawyers, community organizers, and people directly impacted by policing in Chicago.

In addition to the publicly accessible reports, several students in the UIC Policing in Chicago Research Group are writing scholarly articles based on their research. They have also presented their findings at academic conferences, community meetings, and teach-ins across the city.

Investigating Conceptualizations of Physician “Cultural Competence” and its Consequences for Patient Satisfaction (2016)

Led by assistant professor Laura Hirshfield, this study was an investigation of the relationship between physicians’ cultural competence (broadly defined) and patient satisfaction. Through the study of cultural competence and patient satisfaction, graduate students in sociology, political science, and public health were introduced to research in medical education, as well as to the field of medicine. By bridging sociology and medical education, this study is a great example of applied, interdisciplinary, policy-driven research in practice. The data for this study are also unique because patient and physician data are linked and because the study is one of the first to directly examine physicians’ cultural & structural competence. Further, this type of data has the potential to be particularly useful for informing local policy at both a curricular (e.g., medical school) and practical (e.g., hospital) level.

The first semester of the practicum gave graduate students hands-on experience with survey methods and interview techniques. The students developed and administered cognitive interviews, online surveys for physicians, in-person surveys for patients, and a qualitative interview protocol for physicians.

The second semester provided students with the opportunity to analyze the interview and survey data, and to begin writing scholarly articles based on their findings. The project has led to several student presentations at regional and national conferences, and Dr. Hirshfield has presented locally and nationally about the topic and has one article currently under review (validating the cultural competence tool).

The Millennial Project: Growing up in the 21st Century (2013)

Led by College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor Barbara J. Risman, this research practicum involved intensive life history interviews with a gender diverse sample of Millennials. The research workshop taught sociology and other social science graduate students how to design, conduct and analyze qualitative interviews. The project was done in coordination with Professor Kristen Myers and her students at Northern Illinois University.

The research project has produced two undergraduate Honors theses and two Master’s papers. Several students have given papers at professional meetings and two have published with these data:

  • Lain Mathers, 2017. “Bathrooms, Boundaries and Emotional Burdens.” In Symbolic Interaction, Vol 40 (3): 295-316.
  • Risman, Barbara, Kristen Myers and Ray Sin (UIC alumni), “Limitations to the Neoliberal Turn in Gender Theory,” in Gender Reckoning co-edited by James Messerchmitdt, Patricia Martin, Michael Messner, and Raewyn Conell.

In addition, Professor Risman has published a new book, Where The Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles with the Gender Structure (Oxford University Press, 2018). The publication of this book has led to dozens of radio interviews across America and Europe, and has been featured in numerous newspaper articles and blogs. Risman kicked off a book tour this spring in Europe, including stops at Oxford University, Durham University, University of Valencia, and University of Amsterdam. She begins a book tour in America in September.

A Survey of Child Care Center Directors on Chicago's North and West Sides (2012)

Led by professor Rachel Gordon, in collaboration with professor Maria Krysan and Dr. Anna Colaner, the 2012 Chicago Area Study studied how early childhood programs were coping with the “great recession” and how this economic crisis may be widening disparities in access to early childhood programs. The study also examined four central themes: (1) disparities in access to and utilization of child care, (2) providers’ knowledge, experience, and attitudes toward state and local programs and policies, (3) providers’ knowledge of and relationships with other child care providers and other service providers in the community, and (4) how providers perceived professional definitions of child care quality and alternative cultural definitions of child care quality.

The 2012 Chicago Area Study surveyed 229 center directors in 33 ZIP Codes on the West and North sides of Chicago. The researchers prepared a set of research briefs to disseminate basic study findings:

Students in this research practicum gained experience using a mixed-methods approach, combining surveys of all directors in 33 ZIP Codes as well as in-depth interviews with a stratified random subset.

Research Practicum Courses Summary

Research Practicum Research Methods Faculty Investigator
Explaining Racial Inequality in Chicago (2018) Focus groups; surveys; in-depth interviews Maria Krysan
Policing in Chicago Research Group (2017) In-depth interviews; qualitative analysis; archival research Andy Clarno
Chicago Area Study: Physician Cultural Competence and Patient Satisfaction (2016) Surveys; in-depth interviews Laura Hirshfield
Chicago Neighborhoods-Schools Connection Study (2015) In-depth interviews Amanda Lewis
Chicago Area Study: Political Knowledge and Political Efficacy as Drivers of Civic Engagement in National and Local Politics (2014) Surveys; in-depth interviews Alexandra Filindra and Noah Kaplan (UIC Political Science)
The Millennial Project: Growing up in the 21st Century (2013) In-depth interviews Barbara Risman
Chicago Area Study: A Survey of Child Care Center Directors on Chicago's North and West Sides (2012) Mixed methods: combining surveys and in-depth interviews with a stratified random subset Rachel Gordon