Guest post by Salvatore Babones, University of Sydney
The answer is that the SAGE major works are not really collections of journal articles. They are master classes taught by top scholars in their respective fields.
These days academic literatures are enormous — so enormous that beginners can not hope to master them on their own.
Review articles can help, but even review articles rarely go back to the beginnings of their literatures. They usually assume that their readers are already experts, that they already know the basics.
For students and scholars at major research universities, this isn’t too much of a problem. When they need help getting started in a new literature, they can usually turn to their colleagues for guidance.
For students and scholars at teaching-focused universities, universities in non-English speaking countries, and universities without comprehensive expertise in all sub-fields, getting started in a new literature can be much more challenging.
For them, SAGE major works can be stairways to the next levels of their careers.
It can be near-impossible for an outsider to identify the foundational works of a literature, the articles that consolidated the field into its current form, and the few papers among the hundreds published each year that truly represent the future of the profession.
The editors of SAGE major works do all this and more: in article-length orienting introductions they lay out the contours of their fields and contextualize the articles included in each set.
Seen as straightforward book purchases, SAGE major work collections can seem quite expensive. Seen as career development self-study seminars, they are fantastic value for money.
If just one scholar at a university uses a SAGE Benchmarks collection to retrain into a new literature, the collection has more than paid for itself. If two or more scholars use it, the benefits to the university far outweigh the cost.
As a SAGE Benchmarks editor, I have worked hard to make my collections useful and meaningful for self-study scholars. I hope these works find many readers. Many or few, I would love to hear from them.
Salvatore Babones is the editor of the SAGE Benchmarks in Social Research Methods sets, Applied Statistical Modeling (March 2013) and Regression Fundamentals (September 2013). He can be reached at his website, salvatorebabones.com.