Introduction to Sociology

Learn how sociology plays a part in our day to day lives

sociology

Humans are social creatures and live every moment under the influence of our society. How we think, how we act, what we say, what we wear – everything – is determined by our interactions with others. We live our lives as a part of a group, and we assimilate ourselves based on the norms of the group. These groups can be anything from as big as American society to as small as a family.

The American Sociological Association defines sociology as “an overarching unification of all studies of humankind, including history, psychology, and economics.” Studying sociology gives you the opportunity to study how almost anything affects society or groups. Because everything we do is determined by and affects a group, anything can be studied through the sociological lens.

Major Fields of Study

As indicated above, the sociological perspective can be used to investigate literally any and all groups, societies, or individuals. There are, however, a few major fields of study that have been traditional focuses of the discipline and can be used as broader classifications. Some of these include:

  • Social stratification and mobility
  • Religion
  • Deviance
  • Culture
  • Politics
  • Economics

Why is Sociology Important Today?

As a whole, the aim of sociology is to understand society in order to better social welfare. For a concrete example of how sociological knowledge has been important for American society, we can look at the study of social deviance and how it has influenced advancements in our prisons and social programs.

Social deviance is studied by identifying a “counter-culture,” and studying why they are different from the norm and how deviating from the norm affects them and the society at large. This information is vitally important if the society is interested in correcting the behavior that is considered deviant.

For example, understanding why and how violent street gangs form is essential to preventing them from growing or even starting. Sociology has taught us that kids in unstable family situations or in dangerous neighborhoods turn to gangs in order to be a part of a “family” that can protect them. This has lead to the formation of institutions like The Boys and Girls Club and the construction of athletic spaces in at-risk areas where kids can find solid foundations and relationships without having to turn to gangs.

In prisons, programs are often offered to teach inmates a skill or allow them to get an education. This comes from the knowledge that many inmates are in prison because a lack of skills or education leads them to commit crimes in order to make a living. If we give a drug dealer a high school education and a marketable skill to take into the work force, he will be less likely to offend again. Instead of simply punishing an offender, we can use sociology to take constructive steps to prevent crime in the future. Understanding the “how” and “why” of any part of society can offer similar benefits. Using the information from sociological studies can help us make informed decisions about our actions as a society.

Sociology is also used in almost every political debate or campaign in the country. In the recent health care debates, both sides used information from studies and polls to bolster their claims. If you read any news article, or watched any program on TV discussing the 2008 presidential debate, you saw sociology at work. There was poll after poll about public opinion, studies about health care costs and how those costs affect families and hospitals. Researchers and pollsters used sociology to get this information, and our lawmakers and reporters used it to support their point of view.

Additionally, sociological studies can be used to begin conversation about policy. In 2010, a study was released by the journal Pediatrics that indicated children of lesbian parents were better adjusted socially than their heterosexual parented peers. In a time when the rights of homosexuals are debated, studies such as these are very important to refute claims that children with homosexual parents somehow suffer psychologically. If more studies such as these are conducted, the results can have a huge impact on the public’s perception of homosexuals, which will ultimately lead to changes in laws and policy concerning them.

Careers in Sociology

Sociologists interested in a career in conducting research become professional social scientists. In order to get funds to pay for their research and living expenses, they can earn grants from the government, universities, special interest groups, or philanthropies.

Aside from conducting research on their own, studying sociology can also prepare you for careers in:

  • Human resources
  • Social work
  • Family therapy
  • Public relations
  • Marketing
  • Market research
  • Law
  • Education

A case study: The Process of a Professional Sociologist

As discussed earlier in on this webpage, studies of deviance have shed light on some of the best ways to handle inmates so they do not reoffend. But how do sociologists go about getting this information? Here’s a quick overview of how you, as a sociologist, might conduct a study and get your findings published.

Start with a theory

All scientific research starts with a theory. In this case, it might be “Inmates who leave prison with a marketable skill will be less likely to reoffend.”

Outline research techniques

How are you going to gather your information? For this research, case studies may be most appropriate. Case studies are in-depth interviews and observations that take place over long periods of time. Using this technique, you will get the most detailed picture of an individual’s life over time.

Get funding

There are several ways to get funding for your research. You may receive grants from the government, a university, or a special interest group. For all grants, you will need to present a grant proposal, which, among other information, will need to include your theory and research techniques.

Conduct research

You need to find individuals in prison who are willing to be interviewed over time for your research. You will put your subjects into two groups: one control group that will not receive work training, and one group who will. This will allow you to observe how those with training do outside prison in comparison to those who do not receive training. You can then interview them in prison and once they have left.

Some questions you may want to ask are:

  • Why did you join a gang, start selling drugs etc..
  • Would you be willing to find legal employment if given the tools to do so?
  • Why did you go back to selling drugs, joining the gang after your release?
  • Analyze information

Once you have your information from interviews, you can use it to support or debunk your hypothesis. For example, if the subjects with work training had reoffended at a lower rate than those who didn’t have work training, you have supported your theory. Additionally, the interviews you conducted may give more insight into why they did or did not reoffend.

Publish your findings

There are a number of ways to publish your findings; one way is in a sociological journal. Once you have analyzed your data and written an in-depth article you can submit your research to a journal. If they use it, your research will be read by the sociologists who subscribe to the journal and anyone interested in the topic who looks through a library or online. Your findings could also be picked up by news organizations or given to politicians to influence reform.

If you are interested in becoming a sociologist or social scientist, request information from schools offering degree programs in psychology or sociology.

Sociology Schools & Colleges
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  • Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University is a premier, private, accredited, nondenominational Christian university located in Phoenix, Arizona
  • Its student-faculty ratio is 16:1 and 33.9% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • As a Christian university, the school encourages students to find their purpose in Christ, with an emphasis on applying Christian values and ethics to the workplace.
  • 65% of students have cars on campus, and alcohol is not permitted for students of legal age.
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  • Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University is a premier, private, accredited, nondenominational Christian university located in Phoenix, Arizona
  • Its student-faculty ratio is 16:1 and 33.9% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • As a Christian university, the school encourages students to find their purpose in Christ, with an emphasis on applying Christian values and ethics to the workplace.
  • 65% of students have cars on campus, and alcohol is not permitted for students of legal age.
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  • Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
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  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
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  • Ranked #8 in the 2013 Best Online Undergrad Programs by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 70% graduation rate– significantly higher than the national average of 59%. 
  • Ranked #2 by U.S. News & World Report for Best Online Bachelor's Programs for Veterans. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), one of six regional accrediting associations that accredit public and private colleges and universities in the United States.  
  • Has a network of 26 campuses.
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  • Ranked #8 in the 2013 Best Online Undergrad Programs by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 70% graduation rate– significantly higher than the national average of 59%. 
  • Ranked #2 by U.S. News & World Report for Best Online Bachelor's Programs for Veterans. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), one of six regional accrediting associations that accredit public and private colleges and universities in the United States.  
  • Has a network of 26 campuses.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
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  • Now school comes to you, making earning your college degree a real possibility.
  • Experience a new way of learning through the innovative online experience at Ashford University.
  • Earn the Associate's, Bachelor's, or Master's degree you've always wanted.
  • Knowledge is everywhere, for everyone.
  • Now school comes to you, making earning your college degree a real possibility.
  • Experience a new way of learning through the innovative online experience at Ashford University.
  • Earn the Associate's, Bachelor's, or Master's degree you've always wanted.
  • Knowledge is everywhere, for everyone.
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  • Ranked #11 in the 2014 Best Graduate Schools in Social Work by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Offers more specialization opportunities than any other social work program, with 10 concentrations and sub-concentrations and 8 dual-degree programs.
  • The first elite researching university to offer a Master of Social Work degree online.
  • Has 1,600 field internship opportunities that give students real-world experience.
  • Through its 47 endowed scholarships, it has awared $200,000 to Ph.D students over the course of four years.
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  • Ranked #11 in the 2014 Best Graduate Schools in Social Work by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Offers more specialization opportunities than any other social work program, with 10 concentrations and sub-concentrations and 8 dual-degree programs.
  • The first elite researching university to offer a Master of Social Work degree online.
  • Has 1,600 field internship opportunities that give students real-world experience.
  • Through its 47 endowed scholarships, it has awared $200,000 to Ph.D students over the course of four years.
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  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
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  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
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  • Online Programs
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  • Transferable Credits
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  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
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  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
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  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • In a 2013 survey, 83% of students said they would recommend the university to others.
  • Most degree-seeking online and campus-based students are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
  • Average class sizes is 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Founded in 1937 in Davenport, Iowa as the American Institute of Commerce (AIC).
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  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • In a 2013 survey, 83% of students said they would recommend the university to others.
  • Most degree-seeking online and campus-based students are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
  • Average class sizes is 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Founded in 1937 in Davenport, Iowa as the American Institute of Commerce (AIC).
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LeTourneau University is an interdenominational Christ-centered university offering more than 80 programs that prepare students for success in areas including the arts and sciences, aviation, business, education and engineering. Graduate degree offerings include business, education, engineering and psychology.

LeTourneau University is an interdenominational Christ-centered university offering more than 80 programs that prepare students for success in areas including the arts and sciences, aviation, business, education and engineering. Graduate degree offerings include business, education, engineering and psychology.

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  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
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  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
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  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
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  • Ranked among the Best Online Graduate Business Programs and Education Programs in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Financial aid is available for students who quality, with more than $1,000,000 through 10 scholarships.
  • Offers 24/7 student services, including financial aid help, course registration, and career counseling.
  • Students may opt in for a two week, risk-free trial period.
  • Active-duty military, veterans, and Veteran’s Administration employees can save 15% on tuition.
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  • Ranked among the Best Online Graduate Business Programs and Education Programs in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Financial aid is available for students who quality, with more than $1,000,000 through 10 scholarships.
  • Offers 24/7 student services, including financial aid help, course registration, and career counseling.
  • Students may opt in for a two week, risk-free trial period.
  • Active-duty military, veterans, and Veteran’s Administration employees can save 15% on tuition.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits