The Substitute Problem

The article by Thomas at the beginning discusses studying culture and society by artifact versus behavior. As a history student I found this discussion of the substitution problem interesting and I couldn’t help but think about the differences between history and other social science fields. Both fields study culture but they have to do so through different means. I study ancient history and all we have are artifacts, there is no way to study behavior which Thomas explains is often seen as superior to artifacts which are simply products of the culture and the behaviors which comprise it. Since I am accustomed to using artifacts as a basis for analysis I found it interesting to read about the criticisms of this method for studying culture. I have to say my first reaction was to get a bit offended and defensive. I had to remind myself that it is a different field with different opportunities available. The fact is that for history, especially ancient history, artifacts are all that is available but they are held in extremely high regard and their analyses are of the utmost importance. I definitely agree with Thomas that artifacts have more value than simply being poor substitutes. I found it interesting what Thomas discussed about how no method is actually that immediate or accurate. She says that even through asking an individual a direct question, the response is still simply a text or artifact that is subject to inference and interpretation and that all available methods are still only approximations of the processes we want to uncover.  

I also found the two readings about reviewing to be very useful. Throughout my university career I have read and been exposed to many articles of different types but I have never really thought a great deal about the process that goes in to getting them published and the evaluations they have to go through. I appreciated the examples provided by Lee illustrating each of his points as it was useful to see how a reviewer might actually analyze a paper and how they vocalize their findings. I found it interesting and kind of nice that he kept mentioning how important it is to be nice and supportive. This also comes across in Meyers article about developmental or activist reviewing and coaching rather than criticizing. These articles helped me begin to form a framework for understanding and approaching the peer review practice that we will be applying in the next assignment. My concern is that I do not have the experience or research methods knowledge to provide a valid and insightful review. I’m hoping the discussion in class will provide some more insight.


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