Laurie M. Joyner



Applied Research in the Pursuit of Justice: Creating Change in the Community and the Academy

Joyner defines applied sociology and its role in the development of the discipline, discusses various ways that applied research can be used to work for social justice, and highlights the potential of applied research for revitalizing the discipline and the academy and ultimately contributing to social justice. The article delineates the boundaries between basic, applied, and clinical sociological work and the role of applied research in the development of the discipline. Joyner argues that the call for social science research to be “value-free” is untenable and that a legitimate role for the sociologist involves using one’s disciplinary perspective and research to inform program and policy development in an attempt to improve the quality of life for marginalized groups. Drawing from her own research experiences, she makes the case that the distinction between basic and applied research is frequently overdrawn and that attempts to support an objective and detached research identity within the context of community-based projects may undermine the success of interventions and weaken understanding of social life and processes. The challenges of integrating applied work into an academic career are acknowledged given prevailing academic norms related to faculty responsibilities. The promising role of service learning and applied sociological research in developing socially conscious students, engaging faculty in the community, and contributing to incremental change geared toward social justice are discussed. Last, strategies for altering the faculty recognition and reward structures to support and encourage applied work directed toward social change are highlighted.

social movements, applied research, justice, change, community and academy

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 30, No. 4 (2003): 5-20