Wednesday, March 14, 2018

--- Resources ---

Okay, I won't even attempt to list all my favorite books, courses, and Internet  resources concerning the social sciences, it's such a huge subject. I'll just recommend  a few that would go a long way toward getting you started in a study of the social sciences.

I like to think of sociology as the psychology of groups - how do people behave when they get together. There are different layers - when we're talking about how individuals behave with other individuals, we're in the realm of social psychology and sociobiology. Sociology proper looks at the less "animal" results - communities, institutions and cultures. I prefer to look at an organized group of individuals as an individual in its own right.

Harvey Molotch, of New York University,  presents an excellent introduction to sociology in the course The Sociological Imagination. It's available on Academic Earth ( accessed 3/1/18).

There are also a couple of programs that you might find useful if you decide to get into your own exploration of sociology.

SocLab is designed to help you build models of social power structure. This site has more information about the projects (

SocNetV is a social network visualizer and analyzer. More can be learned about it here (

Cragun, Ryan T., Deborah Cragun and Piotr Konieczny (2012) provide a fine example of a Wikibook in Introduction to Sociology (, accessed 2/1/18). It provides a good outline for the science of sociology including the methods used by sociologists to study social groups.


Anthropology studies human more or less, like any other animal. (If you study other animals like you do humans, it would be more likely to be called "ethology", or comparative sociology and psychology.) You could study their shapes and sizes (anthropometry), how different local humans do things differently (cultural anthropology), how humans affect their environment (environmental anthropology), or how land features, oceans, or climates affect how humans do things (geographic anthropology). There are a lot of different flavors of anthropology.

Just to get an idea of what humans are doing on the planet, you might want to visit the World Statistics Meter at You might be very surprised at how addicting numbers can be.

Another useful statistics site is the United Nations Statistics Division (

Routledge publishes an Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology edited by Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer that can help you navigate anthropological concepts and much of sociology in general.

Political science

Governmental structure, diplomacy, policy - this area covers a lot of territory all by itself, and most of the opencourseware that I know about takes up specific issues.

Most governmental bodies will have a public website that outlines how it works, how it's structured, and the main players that make it up. That would be your primary sources. For me, that would be the Denver Regional Counsel of Governments (affectionately referred to as DrCog), the Colorado state government site, and the Colorado Encyclopedia. It looks like many states maintain an encyclopedia website and they tend to be great resources. is s good site for national topics. For international topics, of course, there's the United Nations site

You should have a copy of your nation's constitution. I volunteer as a conversation partner for international students who use English as a second language and it has struck me that, since they are having to learn about the United States as people who come in from other places, they know more about the Constitution of the United States than I do.

Freedom Galleries are a thing in the U.S. (although I don't see as many as I did, say, ten years ago). Public places often display pivotal documents of U. S. government, especially those dealing with personal rights, in highly visual places. You should have a collection of your own governments guiding documents.

The Citizen's Almanac (document M-76. revised last 09/2011) is published by the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. I keep a copy around.

The Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory, Politics, and Methods, edited by Frank Fischer, Gerald J. Miller, and Mara S. Sidney (2007, published by CRC press - if there's a CRC handbook out on a subject you're studying, you need to have it. Some could kill a person if dropped on their head so they tend to be weighty and pricey but you can often get a copy at University used book stores.) is a necessary (and fascinating) addition to any political student's library.


How do humans behave with wealth or resources? That would be the purview of economics.

The Teaching Company has a course of economics, presented by Timothy Taylor (2005).

I have a program that allows me to simulate economic systems. It's called Minski and I got it from SourceForge ( and another cool program from there is Jstock ( Those are fun to play with if you're into economics.

Martindale also has a large economics section at that is an cyber-adventure into economics all by itself.

Schaum's Outlines (published by McGraw-Hill) has several books on economics. I like Schaum's Outlines for their coverage, brevity, worked and unworked examples, and price. For example, Schaum's Outline of Microeconomics (4th ed. by Dominick Salvatore, 2006), and Schaum's Introduction to Mathematical Economics (3rd ed. by Edward T. Dowling, 2012) are in my library.

And never forget CK-12's offerings of textbooks and other educational materials. Their Project Based Economics (2011, by the Buck Institution for Education) textbook is just fun. I'll post the CK-12 website, because you'll want to look through all their other materials.

What are the formal rules we use to interact with each other, and how do we make sure individuals abide by them - and do we? Laws are social.

The Teaching Company has a law course, Law School for Everyone, presented by a number of experts in the field - Molly Bishop Shadel, Joseph L. Hoffmann, Peter J. Smith, and Edward K. Cheng. At 48 lectures, it takes some time to get through it, but it covers a wide array of topics: litigation, criminal law, civil procedure, and torts. It's one of their larger collections, but law is a large field.

A couple of websites are good references for legal matters. The LawSERVER at, provides access to the laws, articles about them, and reference materials. JurisPedia, at, is more of an encyclopedia of jurisprudence, but it is in many (many) different languages.

Barron's Law Dictionary (6th ed. 2010 published by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. ) by Steven H. Gifis, is somewhat of a classic reference. It can be useful in deciphering legalese.

If you just want to know how laws work in your country, the national website probably has the answers. In the United States, the Outline of the U. S. Legal System (2004) published by the Bureau of International Information Programs, United States Department of State, executive editor George Clack (, is a good overview.

How we enforce our laws is a matter of public administration.

A good reference is The Dictionary of Public Policy and Administration, by Jay M. Shafritz (2004, published by Westview Press).

I also own a copy of the Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences, a three volume set edited by Jay Siegel, Geoffrey Knupfer, and Paul Saukko (2013) published by Elsevier Ltd. And there is an online version at if you want to get deep into the world of CSI (I have a the equivalent of a  minor in Criminal Justice, so I have a few of the texts. Again, college used bookstores can be your friend.)

The Teaching Company has some good courses on military strategy such as Masters of War: History's greatest strategic thinkers (2012), presented by Andrew R. Wilson, and Great Battles of the Ancient World (2005), presented by Garrett G. Fagan.

Routledge published the Human Services Dictionary in 2003. Written by Howard Rosenthal, this book presents a quick reference to social problems and social services.

The Teaching Company has some excellent series on education, my favorites being How to Become a Superstar Student, presented by Michael Geisen; The Art of Teaching: Best Practises from a Master Educator, presented by Patrick N. Allitt, and How We Learn, presented by Monisha Pasupathi.

I haven't seen their, How the World Learns: Comparative Educational Systems, presented by Alexander W. Wiseman. It looks fascinating.

You might want to look through MIT's opencourseware courses on teaching. They have a cool one on teaching science and engineering presented by Janet Rankin (, accessed 3/8/18). Many of their educational courses address specific fields (biology, chemistry, etc.) but offer many general insights.

And if you're a teacher looking for tools-of-the-trade, check out CK12 (, Study Guides and Strategies (, and Science Buddies ( all accessed 3/8/18.

If you're interested in commerce, check out the Sloan School of Management courses on the MIT opencourseware site.

Communication and transportation is included in the Dewey Decimal system under the social sciences and they are certainly important in how we interact socially, but, although I'll touch on them this year (a lot, since I'm a constant customer of the Denver transportation system), I'll wait until I'm looking at civil engineering for any deep consideration.

In the meantime, if you want to get into communication and transportation, I would recommend the Teaching Company's lectures, Everyday Engineering: Understanding the marvels of daily life, presented by Stephen Ressler. MIT also offers a broad range of courses on civil engineering on their opencourseware site.

Again, the Teaching Company has an excellent series of lectures on worldwide cultures, Customs of the World: Using cultural intelligence to adapt wherever you are, presented by David Livermore. Not only does he tell you how to get along in other parts of the world, but he also explains how to analyze other cultures.

The Cultures website ( is a fascinating reference, as is the World Culture Encyclopedia (

So, there's plenty of good reference material out there. Don't ignore you're library - they may have any or all of it.

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