What Is Sociology?
“Herein lies the fundamental theme of sociology: that everyday social life — our thoughts, actions, feelings, decisions, interactions, and so on--is the product of a complex interplay between societal forces and personal characteristics. In order to explain why people are the way they are, we must understand the social, historical, cultural, and organizational environments they inhabit. Neither individuals nor society can be understood without understanding both.” — David Newman, Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life (1995)
Sociology is commonly defined as the systematic study of human interaction. Sociologists examine the ways that individuals interact with each other in different settings, situations, and cultures, and how patterns of interactions have changed over the generations. Sociologists are also interested in the ways in which individuals and groups are influenced by society and the five social institutions of family, economy, government, education and religion.
The topics which sociologists study are quite varied. Topics include crime and deviance, violence, stratification, social movements, work and occupations, gender, race, ethnicity, age, and family. The list of subjects that sociologists study is almost endless.
Sociology is a social science, so scientific research methods are used to study social life. Sociologists may conduct simple observations, detailed case studies, surveys, content analysis, interviews, or sophisticated statistical analysis. The methods used by sociologists are almost as varied as the topics themselves.
“The fascination of sociology lies in the fact that its perspective makes us see in a new light the very world in which we have lived all our lives.” — Peter Berger, Invitation to Sociology: A humanistic Perspective (1963)
Who Studies Sociology?
Sociology is a popular major for students interested in social services, public administration, law, public health, or urban and regional planning. Some students pursue graduate study and eventually enter careers in teaching and in research.
Questions, Comments, Suggestions?
If you would like to learn more about the sociology program at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact:
Dr. Lauren Eastwood, Chair
Office: Redcay Hall 134
Phone: (518) 564-3309