Research specialization and collaboration patterns in sociology

Erin Leahey, Ryan C. Reikowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Researchers interested in the structure of scientific fields have documented increases in specialization and collaboration. How, if at all, are these two trends related? Is specialization so severe that scholars cannot collaborate unless they share specific research interests? Or, have specializing tendencies promoted research that joins specialty areas and broaches new topics? We answer these important questions for a single discipline, sociology, using both qualitative interviews and latent profile analysis. We empirically identify three collaborative styles that depend on both the areas and extent of specialization in coauthors' research programs. The prominence of the reinforcing generalist profile suggests that specialization in science mainly serves to encourage scholars to work with others in their specialty area. However, the existence of two other styles - a more complementary one and one that is characterized by migration into new intellectual terrain - suggests that subfields within sociology are permeable enough to permit boundary-spanning, original research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-440
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Coauthorship
  • Collaboration
  • Research teams
  • Social science specialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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