Applied Sociology Career in Research & Evaluation

I recently interviewed Dr Yoland Wadsworth an applied sociologist from Melbourne, Australia. In the video below, Yoland talks about her 42 year career in Community Research & Evaluation.

Dr Yoland Wadsworth is one of Australia’s prominent applied sociologists. She has led a distinguished career, working on 3,500 community service and health projects both at the local and state levels.

In this video, Yoland discusses how her research has shaped children’s services, mental health delivery and helped the not-for-profit sector. Yoland also provides practical examples of how she has used sociological theories and methods as part of her everyday work.

A Brief Background on Dr Yoland Wadsworth

Yoland Wadsworth, Do It Yourself Research
Yoland Wadsworth, Do It Yourself Research

Dr Yoland Wadsworth pursued an applied research career straight after completing her undergraduate degree at Monash University in Melbourne, in the 1970s. In the video, Yoland discusses her career trajectory, which includes a mixture of passion and fortuitous sojourns into bold new areas of research and activism. This is typical of applied sociologists who often end up working in unexpected places while pursuing meaningful and challenging work.

Following her professional curiosity on public health and social justice, Yoland first sought to work in the prestigious Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and later on the federal Australian Government Inquiry into Poverty. These jobs did not pan out as planned but through word of mouth recommendation, this led instead to Yoland beginning work as the Research Sociologist on a state government inquiry into Early Childhood Services. Thus began over four decades of work in research and evaluation for government and local community services.

Yoland worked outside academia for a few years before returning to complete her PhD at Monash University in 1985. Her thesis was titled Sociologists in Work – In Academic and Social Policy-Oriented Research Settings. Yoland’s sample included both academic and applied sociologists. The applied sample worked in health, education, and social welfare. Yoland’s thesis addressed the divide between “pure” and applied sociological practices, and the differences between theory and practice in the field. She examined the conditions for using sociology methodologies in a way that was technically sound while also serving social good.

Since then, Yoland has spent around three quarters of her career in applied settings. The rest of her career has included teaching applied research methods at university.

Yoland has also published Australia’s two best selling texts on applied research and evaluation (see below). These books have sold over 58,000 copies. Do It Yourself Social Research is in its third edition, as is Everyday Evaluation on the Run. The latter also includes a handy wallchart that describes the evaluation process (see right). You can read a summary of Dr Wadsworth’s latest book, Building in Research and Evaluation: Human Inquiry for Living Systems or learn more on the book’s website.

The Action Evalution Research Process - click to enlarge. Via Allen & Unwin
The Action Evalution Research Process – click to enlarge. Via Allen & Unwin

In a later Sociology at Work video, Dr Wadsworth shares career advice for sociology students who wish to follow a similar line of work in research and evaluation.

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