Sociology: Most Popular Articles
The ubiquitous selfie. Simply an act of vanity and narcissism? The Sociology Expert suggests some additional forces may be at play.
The functionalist perspective, also called functionalism, is one of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology. It has its origins in the works of Emile Durkheim, who was especially interested in how social order is possible or how society remains relatively stable.
The symbolic interaction perspective, also called symbolic interactionism, is a major framework of sociological theory. This perspective relies on the symbolic meaning that people develop and rely upon in the process of social interaction.
Conflict theory emphasizes the role of coercion and power in producing social order. This perspective is derived from the works of Karl Marx, who saw society as fragmented into groups that compete for social and economic resources.
In science, there are two ways of arriving at a conclusion: deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning. This article explores the differences between the two.
A full transcript of Emma Watson's smart, important, sociologically informed, and compelling speech at the UN about ending gender inequality.
Sociological theories of the past and present.
What's so bad about selfies? Find out, in this sociologically infused round-up of the critiques of the craze.
Feminist theory provides one of the major contemporary approaches to sociology with its critical interrogation of power, domination, and inequality.
Statistical procedures can be divided into two major categories: descriptive statistics and inferential statistics. This article discusses the differences between the two.
Learn more about sociologists by browsing through this list of some of the most famous thinkers in sociology history.
Norms are the specific cultural expectations for how to behave in a given situation. There are four basic types of norms that sociologists commonly refer to, each discussed here: folkways, mores, taboos, and laws.
Best Known For: A founding figure in the field of sociology "Father of sociology" Credited with making
Biography of Karl Marx, a major figure in the founding of sociology. Marx is best known for his socio-political theory of Marxism and his book 'The Communist Manifesto.'
Labeling theory is based on the idea that behaviors are deviant only when...
The interactionist perspective is one of the major theoretical perspectives...
A definition of the conflict perspective in sociology and some examples of how to use it.
Biography of George Herbert Mead, a sociologist who pioneered the development of the symbolic interaction perspective. He is also the founder of pragmatism and one of the founders of social psychology.
An overview of career choices for those with a B.A., M.A., or Ph.D. in sociology.
When conducting research, it is almost always impossible to study the entire population that you are interested in. As a result, researchers use samples as a way to gather data. This article provides an overview of the different types and ways of choosing a sample from a population.
Robert K. Merton developed the structural strain theory as an extension of the functionalist perspective on deviance. This theory traces the origins of deviance to the tensions that are caused by the gap between cultural goals and the means people have available to achieve those goals.
A crime is defined as any act that is contrary to legal code or laws. There are many different types of crimes, from crimes against persons to victimless crimes and violent crimes to white collar crimes.
Biography of Auguste Comte, a sociologist best known for coining the term 'sociology.' Comte is also known as the founder of positivism and for his emphasis on systematic observation and social order.
Biography of Max Weber, a founding figure in the field of sociology. Weber is known for his ideas on bureaucracy as well as his thesis of the
A purposive sample, also commonly called a judgmental sample, is one that is selected based on the knowledge of a population and the purpose of the study. The subjects are selected because of some characteristic.
Emile Durkheim's study of suicide was a groundbreaking sociological study because in it, he discovered a number of important sociological findings. First, he argued that suicide was caused by social factors instead of individual. Second, he emphasized the role of social structure in producing deviance. Third, he pointed out the importance of people's social attachments to society. Finally, he elaborated the view that deviance provides the basis for social cohesion.
Social structure is the organized pattern of social relationships and...
Learn about the history of sociology, how it came to be an academic discipline, and its evolution over the past century.
Learn about why C. Wright Mills's book The Sociological Imagination was so controversial when it was published in 1959, and why it is still widely taught today.
Race and ethnicity are important concepts in the field of sociology and are ones that are studied a great deal. Race plays a large role in everyday human interactions and sociologists want to study how, why, and what the outcomes are of these interactions.
Looking at gender sociologically reveals the social and cultural dimensions of something that is often defined as biologically fixed. Gender is not biologically fixed at all, but rather is culturally learned and is something that can and often does change over time.
Social research serves many purposes. Three of the most common and useful purposes, however, are exploration, description, and explanation. Many studies can and often do have more than one of these purposes, however each have different implications for other aspects of research design.
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is a book that was published in 1959, written by sociologist Erving Goffman. In it, he uses the imagery of theater in order to portray the importance of human and social action and interaction. He refers to this as the dramaturgical model of social life.
Social exchange theory interprets society as a series of interactions that are based on estimates of rewards and punishments.
There are many different theories on what causes a person to perform deviant behavior. Here you will find some of the major sociological explanations for deviant behavior.
In 'The McDonaldization of Society,' author George Ritzer takes the central elements of Max Weber’s work and expands and updates them, producing an analysis of the impact of structural change on human interaction and identity.
A theoretical perspective is a set of assumptions about reality that...
Labeling theory is one of the most important approaches to understanding deviant and criminal behavior. It stems from the work of W.I. Thomas who, in 1928, wrote,
A sociological discussion of the difference between prejudice and racism, with attention to the implications that follow both.
Sociologists see society as a stratified system that is based on a hierarchy of power, privilege, and prestige, which leads to unequal access to resources and rights.
Education is a social institution that sociologists are very interested in studying. This includes teaching formal knowledge such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as teaching other things such as morals, values, and ethics. Sociologists want to know how this form of socialization affects and is affected by other social structures, experiences, and outcomes.
Collective consumption is a concept that refers to the many goods and...
Secondary data analysis involves the use of data that was collected by someone else for some other purpose. In this case, the researcher poses questions that are addressed through the analysis of a data set that they were not involved in collecting.
The sociology of deviance and crime examines cultural norms, how they change over time, how they are enforced, and what happens to individuals and societies when norms are broken. Deviance and social norms vary among societies, communities, and times, and often sociologists are interested in why these differences exist and how these differences impact the individuals and groups in those areas.
Social learning theory is a theory that attempts to explain socialization and its effect of the development of the self. It emphasizes the societal context of socialization rather than the individual mind and postulates that an individual’s identity is not the product of the unconscious, but instead is the result of modeling oneself in response to the expectations of others.
Critical theory is a type of social theory oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole. It aims to dig beneath the surface of social life and uncover the assumptions that keep us from a full and true understanding of how the world works.
The Division of Labor in Society is a book written, originally in French, by Emile Durkheim in 1893. It was Durkheim’s first major published work and the one in which he introduced the concept of anomie, or the breakdown of the influence of social norms on individuals within a society.
Economics plays a huge role in human behavior. That is, people are often motivated by money and the possibility of making a profit, calculating the likely costs and benefits of any action before deciding what to do. This way of thinking is called rational choice theory.
Cultural capital is the ideas and knowledge that people draw upon as...
A quota sample a type of non-probability sample in which the researcher selects people according to some fixed quota. Learn more about quota samples and read an example.
Social control is a concept that refers to the ways in which people’s...
The nature/nurture debate is a longstanding controversy about the...
Radical feminists believe that gender inequality is a result of the collective efforts of men to dominate, control, and exploit women.
Positivism is a way of thinking developed by Auguste Comte and is based...
There are many different theories on what causes a person to perform deviant behavior. Here you will find some of the major biological explanations for deviance and crime.
Biography of Herbert Spencer, a British sociologist who was one of the first to think of social life in terms of social systems. He saw societies as organisms that progressed through a process of evolution similar to that experienced by living species. Spencer also played an important role in the development of the functionalist perspective.
There are many different theories on what causes a person to perform deviant behavior. Here you will find some of the major psychological explanations for deviant behavior.
A snowball sample is a non-probability sampling technique that is appropriate to use in research when the members of a population are difficult to locate. Read more about snowball sampling and see an example.
Power is a key sociological concept with several different meanings...
Mores are a set of norms that define the most fundamental ideas about...
Describes what sociology is, its origins, current approaches to the study of sociology, and a brief overview of the major topics of sociology.
A convenience sample is one in which the researcher uses any subjects that are available to participate in the research study. Read about the advantages and disadvantages of this type of sample and see an example.
A formal organization is a social system organized around specific goals...
A person’s movement over time from one class to another. Social mobility can be up or down.
A stratified sample is a probability sampling technique in which the researcher divides the entire target population into different subgroups, or strata, and then randomly selects the final subjects proportionally from the different strata.
In one form or another, religion is found in all known human societies. Even the earliest societies on record show clear traces of religious symbols and ceremonies. Sociologists study religion as both a belief system and a social institution, examining things such as how religious institutions are organized and what influence religion has on other social institutions.
Role conflict occurs when people are confronted with incompatible role...
Biography of C. Wright Mills, a sociologist best known for his controversial critiques of both contemporary society and sociological practice.
The Whiteness Project features white people in the US talking about race and racism. What they say may shock you.
In a systematic sample, the elements of the population are put into a list and then every k-th element in the list is chosen (systematically) for inclusion in the sample.
Biography of Erving Goffman, a sociologist known for his role in shaping the symbolic interaction perspective as well as developing the dramaturgical perspective.
Modernization theory emerged in the 1950s as an explanation of how...
Ascribed status is a position in a social system that is beyond an individual’s...
What are base and superstructure? Why did Marx write about them? A sociologist provides a brief and easy to understand overview of these concepts.
Qualitative research, also called field research, typically involves fieldwork in which the researcher observes and records behavior and events in their natural setting. The researcher physically goes to the people, setting, or site in order to observe the subject as it normally and naturally occurs or behaves.
Popular culture is the accumulated store of cultural products
Biography of Robert K. Merton, a sociologist best known for his theories of deviance. Merton also developed the concepts of
A total institution, a concept developed by Erving Goffman, is an isolated...
Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity is a book written by Erving Goffman in 1963 about the idea of stigma and what it is like to be a stigmatized person. It is a look into the world of persons who society does not consider “normal.”
Racism today takes many forms, some of which are overt, but most which are covert, and do not appear, at first glance, to be racist.
One important idea in a research project is the unit of analysis. The unit of analysis is the major entity that you are analyzing in your study. It is the ‘what’ or ‘who’ that is being studied. This article explores the common units of analysis used in social science research.
A pilot study is a research project that is conducted on a limited scale...
Wrongfully neglected today, Harriet Martineau was a prominent British writer and political activist, and one of the earliest Western sociologists and founders of the discipline.
Interviewing is a method of qualitative research in which the researcher asks open-ended questions orally and records the respondent’s answers. Interviewing is typically done face-to-face, but can also be done via telephone.
In Erving Goffman’s Dramaturgical Perspective on Social Interaction, frontstage...
Level of measurement refers to the way that a variable is measured. There are four main levels of measurement that variables can have: nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio.
Also known as acquired status, an achieved status is a position in a...
A scale is a type of composite measure that is composed of several items that have a logical or empirical structure among them. There are several different types of scales. In this article, we’ll look at four commonly used scales in social science research and how they are constructed.
The meaning of race, from the sociological standpoint, is ever-evolving, always contested, and politically charged.
The age structure of a population is the distribution of people among various...
A hypothesis is a prediction about the relationship between variables. Also defined: null hypothesis, alternative hypothesis.
What Emma Watson said about masculinity at the UN eloquently synthesized years of sociological research on gender and violence.
Biography of Charles Horton Cooley, a sociologist known for his idea of 'The Looking Glass Self' as well as for developing the concepts of primary and secondary relationships.
Biography of Talcott Parsons, a sociologist best known for laying the foundation for what would become the modern functionalist perspective. He is regarded by many as the twentieth century's most influential American sociologist.
A meritocracy is a social system in which people’s success in life depends...
Ethnomethodology is a theoretical approach in sociology based on the belief that you can discover the normal social order of a society by disrupting it. Ethnomethodologists deliberately disrupt social norms to see how people respond and how they try to restore social order.
Disengagement theory states that in every society, the elderly undergo a...
Biography of W.E.B. Du Bois, an American sociologist best known for his role in the civil rights movement. He was the first African American to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard University and served as the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1910.
The functionalist perspective can be traced back to Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons and has its roots in anthropology.
Game theory is a theory of social interaction, which attempts to explain the interaction people have with one another. As the name of the theory suggests, game theory sees human interaction as just that: a game.
Cultural lag is a term to describe what happens in a social system when...
Lambda and gamma are two measures of association that are commonly used in social science statistics and research. Lambda is used for nominal variables while gamma is used for ordinal variables.
Convergence theory has its roots in the functionalist perspective, which...
The structural strain theory was developed by Robert K. Merton as a part...
The study of work, industry, and economic institutions is a major part of sociology because the economy influences all other parts of society and therefore social reproduction in general.
A controlled experiment is a highly focused way of collecting data and is especially useful for determining patterns of cause and effect.
Ideographic and nomothetic methods represent two different approaches to...
Social oppression is a concept that describes a relationship of dominance...
If you are conducting a social science research project, chances are good that you will encounter indexes and scales. While these two types of measures do have some characteristics in common, they are two different concepts and have several distinguishing features.
A sanction is a reward or punishment that a norm associates with a behavior...
Exchange theory includes two approaches to social interaction and relationships.
Conflict theory is helpful tool for understanding and analyzing the Occupy Central protests happening in Hong Kong.
Marxist sociology blends Marxism and sociology, focusing on Karl Marx’s...
Sociology of sports, also referred to as sports sociology, is the study of the relationship between sports and society. This is a brief overview of some of the topics examined under the sociology of sports.
The simple random sample is the basic sampling method assumed in statistical methods and computations. Read about the different kinds of random samples and examples of each, including how to use a random number table.
Apple's iPhone might have been the first smartphone, but today, it has several equally impressive competitors. What makes it a best-seller? A 98 billion dollar brand.
Capitalism is an economic system that emerged in Europe during the...
'The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism' is a book written by sociologist and economist Max Weber in 1904-1905. It is a discussion of Weber’s various religious ideas and economics in which he argues that Puritan ethics and ideas influenced the development of capitalism. It is often considered a founding text in economic sociology and sociology in general.
Sociologists for Justice have compiled a compelling and engaging list of readings that inform the socio-historical context of the events in Ferguson, MO.
A sociologist explains what cultural appropriation really is, what it isn't, and why it's a big deal to so many.
Surveys are the most commonly used tool in sociological research, whether in the form of a questionnaire, interview, or telephone poll. Learn more about surveys here.
A scapegoat is person or group that is forced to take the blame for happenings that are not their fault.
Cluster sampling may be used when it is either impossible or impractical to compile an exhaustive list of the elements that make up the target population. Read about the different types of cluster samples how they are drawn.
Discover some of the major sociological works that helped define and shape the field of sociology.
A degradation ceremony is a rite of passage sometimes used to...
Sociologists examine problems by looking for the underlying structures and forces that cause them, and view all of these things as human made, and changeable.
This term has two meanings in sociology. In the first sense, an aggregate...
Graphs tell a story with visuals rather than in words or numbers and can help readers understand the substance of the findings rather than the technical details behind the numbers. Learn about the different types of graphs used in social science research.
Questionnaires are used a lot in social science research and knowing how to construct a good questionnaire can be an important and practical skill to have. Here you will find tips on good questionnaire formatting, item ordering, questionnaire instructions, question wording, and more.
Poverty is a condition in which people lack what they need to live...
Correlation analysis is useful for determining the direction and strength of a relationship between two variables.
Participant observation is one common way for sociologists to collect data and study society in which he or she actually becomes a part of the group they are studying.
How is social and economic order maintained? Antonio Gramsci argued that common sense is everything, and that those who control ideas hold power.
Alienation is a concept that refers to both a psychological condition found...
A case study is a research method that relies on a single case rather than a population or sample.
Deductive theory construction takes place during deductive reasoning in the hypothesis-testing phase of research. This article provides an overview on the steps involved in constructing a deductive theory.
Starting the process of conducting and writing a literature can be overwhelming. Here I will provide you with a few tips on how to get started that will hopefully make the process a little less daunting.
Interpretive sociology is a theoretical perspective based on the idea...
Hidden curriculum is a concept that describes the often unarticulated...
A master status is a social position that tends to be among the most...
Dependency theory is used to explain the failure of nonindustrialized countries...
Marriage is a socially supported union involving two or more individuals in...
Sociologists who study health and illness focus on the social effects of, and societal attitudes towards, illnesses, diseases, disabilities, and the aging process. This is not to be confused with medical sociology, which focuses on medical institutions such as hospitals, clinics, and physician offices as well as the interactions among physicians.
The sociology of family examines things such as marriage, divorce, child rearing, and domestic abuse. Specifically, sociologists study how these aspects of the family are defined in different cultures and times and how they affect individuals and institutions.
Cultural relativism is a concept that refers to the fact that what is...
'The Communist Manifesto' is a book written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848 and has since been recognized as one of the world’s most influential political manuscripts.
The dramaturgical perspective was developed primarily by Erving Goffman
White privilege confers a host of advantages on white people in U.S. society and in many countries around the world.
An ideology is a set of cultural beliefs, values, and attitudes that...
: Secularization is a process of social change through which the public influence of religion and religious