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What rankings are you using?


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I don't really want to turn this into a debate about rankings, as I know they're not too useful. I just see a lot of people referring to 'top 40' programs and 'top 10' programs as if it's common knowledge. I know there are certain schools that are obviously top 10 (Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley), but I'm just wondering what ranking system you guys are going by?

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  • 3 weeks later...

We went through this in detail a few years back. Check out this post: I think it'll answer all your questions and more. I think it's worth reading in full, even if it never reaches one conclusion.

There are two main rankings: USNWR (only updated every four years, 2013 will be the next time) and the almost twenty year old NRC from 1995. No one uses the more recent NRC because 1. It's impossible to get one set of rankings and was designed to be both out-of-date and pretty useless. 2. Books aren't counted in the social science rankings and while that might work for economics and psychology, it doesn't work in sociology. There are quibbles, but to me a top five program would be roughly {Harvard, Chicago, Michigan, Wisconsin, Berkeley, Princeton} and top ten would be those plus {UCLA, Indiana, Stanford, UNC, Northwestern, Columbia, Penn, maybe NYU, maybe Washington, maybe Texas, maybe maybe Cornell, maybe maybe Duke). Notice that the top five category has six schools in it (and you might find people who argue that UCLA, UNC, or Stanford is "really top five") and there are up to 19 schools in the top 10. Those are just roughly the full sets that people draw top five, top ten schools from.

It really depends though. Like I was applying for sociology of religion, and in the "top five", I think only one or two have people who really do sociology if religion, you now? A noticeable proportion of the promising "rising generation" of sociologists of religion either did qualitative stuff with Wuthnow at Princeton or quantitative stuff at UNC. There is (very unfortunately) no one definitive set of rankings. I found it more useful to think of there being clusters of peers rather than an ordinal hierarchy.

Check out that old post though. The "final list" at the bottom is wrong, don't think I'm pointing you towards that, but there's a lot of good information on there. The wisdom of crowds is more useful than the wisdom of some dude bored at his field site.

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That post, for the record, also includes 2009 USNWR, 2005 USNWR, and the 1995 NRC rankings. They're all reputation based and all pretty similar despite being 14 years apart.

Reputation might seem stupid and non-objective but remember that the people who hire us are taking into account reputation and not objective characteristics.

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