The concept of identity has taken an increasingly prominent place in the social sciences of late. Analysis of the development of social identities themselves has become an important focus of scholarly research and scholars using social identities as the building blocks of social, political, and economic life, have attempted to account for a number of discrete outcomes by treating identities as independent variables. The dominant implication of the vast literature on identity is that social identities are among the most important social facts of the world in which we live.
After taking stock of what has been learned—and re-learned—from a generation of identity scholarship, we have identified two sets of problems with social identity scholarship, namely conceptual issues and coordination gaps. The conceptual problems include the issue of how to compare and differentiate types of identities as well as the issue of how to take advantage of theoretical advancements in operationalizing identity as a variable. A second important weakness in identity scholarship concerns what we term "coordination" problems. These include a lack of consistency and clarity in defining and measuring identities, a lack of cross-disciplinary and cross-sub-field coordination of identity research, and missed opportunities to take advantage of possible methodological options.
In this project we have brought together scholars from a variety of disciplines and subdisciplines in order to consider the conceptual and methodological issues associated with treating identity as a variable, and we have explicitly sought to solve some of the coordination problems that have thus far impeded progress in identity scholarship.Finally we have developed content analysis software that allows for computer-aided quantitative content analysis in non-English languages, including for example, Russian and Chinese. This software works on both Mac and PC platforms is available for free. (See Software)