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Joshua Woods, Ph.D.

Professor - Sociology


Josh studies the relationships between individuals and groups, between people’s behavior and the social context in which they act, between individual perceptions and social forces. As a committed generalist, he applies this theoretical approach to a range of topics without paying homage to any one academic specialization, subfield or social problem.

His research consists of a series of curious questions, and a formulation of answers that accounts for both individual and social processes.

  • What explains the diverse global reactions to the events of September 11, 2001?
  • Why are some people worried about terrorism, while others are not?

  • How do concerns about terrorism influence people’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors?
  •  Are terrorist groups effective impression managers?
  • Who is winning the U.S. immigration debate and why?
  • How do racist immigration groups gain social legitimacy?
  • Why aren’t college students worried about the surprisingly high level of violence on campus?
  • Is news media coverage of missing children influenced by the race and gender of the child?
  •  Why do people overestimate the coal industry’s economic impact on West Virginia?
  • Do Americans live in a feudal society?

Josh’s most recent work examines emerging sports communities, such as disc golf, flat track roller derby and esports. Conceptualizing these communities as social movements, he looks at how institutions, organizations and social norms shape the popularity of alternative sports. Josh is editor at Parked, an academic blog about disc golf. He’s working on a book called Disc Golf Land: Rise of an Unknown Sport.

He is the author of four academic books, two dozen journal articles and numerous publications in popular media, such as USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, The New Republic, The Conversation, Moscow Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Ultiworld Disc Golf.

If you are a PhD student with an interest in any of the topics mentioned above, particularly ones related to sports, recreation and leisure, Josh is eager and available to work with you.

Selected Publications

Joshua Woods (2019). Using Social Media to Estimate the Size and Demographic Characteristics of Hard-to-Reach Sport Communities: The Case of Disc Golf. International Journal of Sport Communication, 12(1): 36-54.

Joshua Woods, and C. Damien Arthur (2017). Debating Immigration in the Age of Terrorism, Polarization, and Trump. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Joshua Woods (2012). Freaking Out: A Decade of Living with Terrorism. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Vladimir Shlapentokh, and Joshua Woods (2011). Feudal America: Elements of the Middle Ages in Contemporary Society. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press.

Courses Taught

SOCA 304: Complex Organizations

SOCA 311: Social Research Methods

SOCA 320: Social Psychology

SOCA 488: Media and Society

*Bio photo: Jesse Wright