What is Sociology?
● Sociology is a branch of the social sciences that uses systematic
methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop
and refine a body of knowledge about human social structure and
activity, sometimes with the goal of applying such knowledge to
the pursuit of government policies designed to benefit the general
social welfare. Its subject matter ranges from the micro level to
the macro level. Microsociology involves the study of people in
face-to-face interactions. Macrosociology involves the study of
widespread social processes.
Started in 19th
● Response to the challenges of modernity
Auguste Comte and Other Founders
Emile Durkheim Auguste Comte Karl Marx
The Development of the Discipline
● International effort
– developed in the UK, France, Germany, and the US
● International Sociological Association founded
● American Sociological Association founded in
Quantitative vs. Qualitative
● Quantitative sociology is generally a numerical approach
to understanding human behavior. Surveys with large
numbers of participants are aggregated into data sets
and analyzed using statistics, allowing researchers to
discern patterns in human behavior.
● Qualitative sociology generally opts for depth over
breadth. The qualitative approach uses in-depth
interviews, focus groups, or analysis of content sources
(books, magazines, journals, TV shows, etc.) as the data
Sociology and Other Social
● The social sciences comprise the application of scientific methods to the
study of the human aspects of the world.
– Psychology studies the human mind and micro-level (or individual) behavior
– sociology examines human society
– political science studies the governing of groups and countries
– communication studies the flow of discourse via various media
– economics concerns itself with the production and allocation of wealth in society
– social work is the application of social scientific knowledge in society.
The Development of Social Science
● Science developed from philosophy
● Natural philosophy included some data
collection, but was more reliant on intuition and
● Sociologists study a broad range of topics.
– Some sociologists research macro-structures that
organize society, such as race or ethnicity, social
class, gender, and institutions such as the family.
– Other sociologists study social processes that
represent the breakdown of macro-structures,
including deviance, crime, and divorce.
– Some sociologists study micro-processes such as
interpersonal interactions and the socialization of
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