Sociology Definition

Sociology refers to the scientific study of human social behaviour. As the study of humans in their social milieu, sociology is interested in all human group activities— social, religious, economic, and political. Sociologists focus on areas such as community, family, bureaucracy, social mobility, deviant behaviour, social change, social stratification, public opinion, and such specific problems as divorce, crime, substance addiction, and child abuse.

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Sociology attempts to investigate what determines human behaviour in the social context; it can be distinguished as a generic social science from the specific social sciences such as political science and economics, which restrict themselves to a particular facet of social interactions.

notes on sociology

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Sociology Online UK The Sociology resource for students

  • Socio Quote

    Public Enemy (1991)
    "You can't see who's in cahoots, 'cos now the KKK wear three-piece suits." 
    (Apocalypse 91. The Enemy Strikes Back)

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Sociology is a relatively new study among other social science disciplines including economics, political science, anthropology, psychology
The term was coined by Auguste Comte, who hoped to unify all studies of humankind--including history, psychology and economics. His own sociological scheme was typical of the 18th century; he believed all human life had passed through the same distinct historical stages and that, if one could grasp this progress, one could prescribe the remedies for social ills.

In the end, Sociology did not replace the other social sciences, but came to be another of them, with its own particular emphases in terms of subject matter and methods. Today, Sociology studies humankind's organizations and social institutions, largely by a comparative method. It has concentrated particularly on the organization of complex industrial societies.

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Major Branches
conflict theory
interactionism or Social Action theory and symbolic-interactionism
sociology of knowledge (or: social constructionism)

Specialised areas
Environmental sociology
Human ecology (sometimes included into sociology proper)
Industrial sociology
Medical sociology
Micro sociology
Political sociology
Rural sociology
Sociology of religion
Sociology of science and technology
Systems theory
Urban sociology

Key Sociological Topics:
justified irresponsibility
role and role homogeneity
social structure

Sociology and the internet

See our latest evidence briefings, on social mobility and innovation in the UK. 

    The internet is of interest for sociologists in three views at least: as a tool for research, for example by using online questionnaires instead of paper ones, as a discussion platform (see 'External links' section below), and as a research topic. Sociology of the internet in the last sense includes analysis of online communities (e.g. as found in newsgroups) and virtual communities, organisational change catalysed through new media like the internet as well as societal change at-large in the transformation from industrial to informational society (or to information society).

    Terms and Methods
    sociological perspective
    social fact
    Methods: quantitative method, qualitative method, ethnography