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What is Sociology?

Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts.

Because all human behavior is social, the subject matter of sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob; from organized crime to religious cults; from the divisions of race, gender, and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture; and from the sociology of work to the sociology of sports.

Sociology provides distinctive perspectives on the world that generate new ideas and critique or modify old ideas. Sociological research uses a range of methods, including qualitative methods such as ethnography and archival work as well as quantitative methods such as statistical modeling of survey data, experiments, and network analysis. These techniques provide systematic evidence on virtually any aspect of social life, including contemporary social issues such as:

  • social and economic inequality
  • economic crises
  • mass incarceration
  • health disparities
  • corporate downsizing
  • welfare or education reform
  • sexuality and family formation
  • residential segregation
  • social movements
  • racial inequality
  • social media and culture
  • population aging
  • entrepreneurship
  • gender in the workplace
  • immigration and migration
  • political change

Because sociology addresses the most challenging issues of our time, it is a rapidly expanding field whose potential is increasingly tapped by those who craft policies and create programs.

If you think you might be interested in Sociology, start by taking a class. Or, read on to learn more about the major.