Flying Aeroplanes and Other Sociological Tales is an introductory textbook for students wishing to learn about sociology and social research methods. Each of the short tales, told by a sociologist, introduces topics and research methods using an engaging storyline. The opening story narrates how the sociologist uses participant observation to understand the work of a commercial pilot, and how he feels about autopilot systems replacing his job of flying aeroplanes. Other tales feature topics such as education, health, crime, and gender. There is also a chapter on ‘lockdown’ during the Covid-19 pandemic. One main feature of the book is the ‘back door’ approach to teaching research methods, with chapters dedicated to exploring statistics, sampling, visual methods, documents, embodied methods, autoethnographic research and ethics. Traditional textbooks in sociology focus on what novice sociologists should do, but few, if any, comprehensively deal with overcoming problems as they might emerge and explain what to do when things go wrong. The sociological tales written in this book provide examples of when field access is denied, research participants refuse to take part, and when recording equipment has broken down. Each tale raises issues and problems for the sociologist to overcome, such as research design flaws, sampling bias, lack of rapport with research participants, and the problems with breaking ethical codes of conduct. The book provides insight into the role of the sociologist, why sociology matters, and what happens when sociology fails us. Flying Aeroplanes and Other Sociological Tales introduces a unique approach to teaching sociology and social research methods.
Table of Contents
1. Introducing Sociological Tales
2. Flying Aeroplanes
3. The Doctor and the Patient Sociologist
4. The Sociologist and the Stolen Bicycle
5. Class, Capital, and the Cambridge University Interview
6. Shopping in the City: From Pink Trainers to the Sexualisation of Women
7. The Vaccination Dilemma: Using Global Statistics to understand the Risks of Tuberculosis
8. Loneliness in London and Sampling Bias in Sociology
9. Life in Lockdown: An Embodied Account of the Coronavirus Pandemic
10. Reflections of an Imperfect Sociologist
Brian McDonough is Course Leader of Sociology at Solent University and teaches a range of sociological topics, including social inequalities, social theory, and social research methods. His research interests include work, expertise and the use of information and communication technologies in the workplace. His ethnographic research on ‘flying aeroplanes’ has been a key feature of his work to date.
"A book we’ve been waiting for! Reading McDonough is like listening to a kind and understanding friend who is talking specifically just to you. You listen as he tells you engaging real-life stories along with explications of the sociological ideas they illustrate. You find something about yourself in each story, and you acquire, accordingly, an intimate understanding of every sociological idea McDonough introduces. In smooth movements between story and explanation we learn the fundamental concepts of sociology, the variety of research methods used in the field, the classic texts and the key thinkers. Flying Aeroplanes and Other Sociological Tales captivates the reader, making it difficult to put the book down once one has begun reading. And yet it delivers everything one wishes to see in an introductory textbook on sociology."
Professor Phil Francis Carspecken, Indiana University, US
"In this pioneering textbook, Brian McDonough introduces an exciting and compelling new approach to the study of the sociology of everyday life. Rather than presenting a dry synopsis of social theories, concepts and methods, the author invites the reader on a journey they might take with a good friend. Recounting important moments of his personal and professional life (failing an interview, making a difficult decision on whether to vaccinate his child, queuing in a supermarket during the COVID 19 epidemic, struggling with a research project) and explaining in a highly accessible and engaging way how these can be related to the key theoretical and methodological concerns of the discipline, he shows how to feel, think and work as a sociologist."
Professor Svetlana Stephenson, London Metropolitan University, UK
"A wonderfully accessible book. Focused on learning more than on teaching, McDonough presents an introductory text that is at once personal and general; it doesn't just tell us about the sociological imagination, it lives it. Students will welcome the approach McDonough takes. It invites them into authentic engagement with sociological ideas and ideals, allowing them to apply these to their everyday life, and to understand what it takes to become a social being."
Associate Professor Martin Forsey, The University of Western Australia, Australia