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. Since human behavior is shaped by social factors, 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. In fact, few fields have such broad scope and relevance for research, theory, and application of knowledge. (Hillsman, 2006)
According to Wikipedia, Methods of sociological inquiry vary. The basic goal of sociological research is to understand the social world in its many forms. Quantitative methods and qualitative methods are two main types of sociological research. Sociologists often use quantitative methods, such as social statistics or network analysis to investigate the structure of a social process or describe patterns in social relationships. Sociologists also often use qualitative methods such as focused interviews, group discussions and ethnographic methods to investigate social processes. Sociologists also use applied research methods such as evaluation research and assessment. (Social Research, 2009)
Wikipedia also discusses how sociologists use the internet with sociology. The Internet can be used as a tool for research (for example, conducting online questionnaires), a discussion platform, and as a research topic. Sociology of the Internet in the broad sense includes analysis of online communities (i.e. newsgroups, social networking sites) and virtual worlds. Organizational change is catalyzed through new media like the Internet, thereby influencing social change at-large. This creates the framework for a transformation from an industrial to an informational society. Online communities can be studied statistically through network analysis and at the same time interpreted qualitatively through virtual ethnography. Social change can be studied through statistical demographics, or through the interpretation of changing messages and symbols in online media studies. (Sociology on the Internet, 2009)
Sociology is broken down into two categories. The first is Macro-Sociology (aka Structuralism). The individual is born into an ongoing social system, which exists independently of and determines his or her behavior. The individual acts accordingly to the “script” laid down by society. The values, institutions, and culture of society shape actions and roles. These are acquired in the process of socialization. This is a very deterministic approach whereby the point of departure is whole societies and the way they determine human behavior. (Viner, 2005)
The second group is Micro-Sociology (aka the Social Action Approach). A human being is capable of conscious thought and self-awareness. Human action is not simply a reaction to external stimuli, but the result of the meanings, theories, motives, and interpretations brought into a social situation by the individual. Social reality is a “constantly emergent” property, not something fixed and inevitable. This is a voluntary approach stressing the individual’s voluntary actions. For example, ‘freewill’ is stressed. (Viner, 2005)
As for my thoughts on sociology, I believe sociology has its place. I don’t think I could ever call it a proven science. There is a great deal of theory and statistics involved in sociology. I took a statistics class at Devry University a few months ago. There was definitely a lot of data involved in statistics.
However, the data was based on samples of populations and populations that had data that was always changing due to individuals/objects that were being added and subtracted from data being calculated. You could never get a definite answer in statistics due to the data that constantly changed.
I see the same thing with sociology. There isn’t one theory that we as humans can call the fact that explains everything. So, therefore the theory is used to explain our concept of sociology. I’m always uneasy when the only explanations I have to explain something are a lot of theories.
Below are some of the major general sociological theories (and their variants) include:
• Conflict theory: focuses on the ability of some groups to dominate others, or resistance to such domination.
• Ethnomethodology: examines how people make sense out of social life in the process of living it as if each was a researcher engaged in inquiry.
• Feminist theory: focuses on how male dominance of society has shaped social life.
• Functionalism: A major theoretical perspective which focuses on how elements of society need to work together to have a fully functioning whole.
• Interpretative sociology: This theoretical perspective, based in the work of Max Weber, proposes that social, economic and historical research can never be fully empirical or descriptive as one must always approach it with a conceptual apparatus.
• Social constructionism: is a sociological theory of knowledge that considers how social phenomena develop in particular social contexts.
• Social phenomenology: The social phenomenology of Alfred Schütz influenced the development of social constructionism and ethnomethodology.
• Social positivism: Social Positivists believe that social processes should be studied in terms of cause and effect using ‘the’ scientific method.
• Structural functionalism: also known as a social systems paradigm addresses what functions various elements of the social system perform in regard to the entire system.
• Symbolic interactionism: examines how shared meanings and social patterns are developed in the course of social interactions.
o Dramaturgical perspective – a specialized symbolic interactionism paradigm developed by Erving Goffman, seeing life as a performance
• Rational choice theory: models social behavior as the interaction of utility maximizing individuals. (Social theory, 2009)
As I was saying, there are way too many theories that sociologists use to try to explain the social science of sociology. Humans have lived on this planet for a little over 7000 years and all we have are theories to explain sociology. There aren’t enough absolutes! I’m not saying that progress isn’t being made; I just think we should have more facts than theories.
Hillsman, Sally (February 18, 2006). What is sociology?. Retrieved January 14, 2009, from Asanet.org Web site: http://www.asanet.org/cs/root/topnav/sociologists/what_is_sociology
Sociology of the Internet. (2009, January 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:46, January 14, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sociology_of_the_Internet&oldid=262222577
Social research. (2009, January 3). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:47, January 14, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Social_research&oldid=261612037
Viner, David (2005). Brief introduction to the sociological perspectives on society. Retrieved January 14, 2009, from hewett.norfolk.sch.uk Web site: http://www.hewett.norfolk.sch.uk/CURRIC/soc/T&M/intro.htm
Viner, David (2005). Map of sociological theory. Retrieved January 14, 2009, from hewett.norfolk.sch.uk Web site: http://www.hewett.norfolk.sch.uk/CURRIC/soc/Theory.htm
Social theory. (2009, January 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:30, January 14, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Social_theory&oldid=263455519