Sociology of Religion Research Paper Topics

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Whether you are teaching a sociology class or a course focused on religion, the sociology of religion will likely fascinate your students. This lesson offers some research paper topics that you can assign so that your students learn as much as possible.

Researching the Sociology of Religion

If you are touching on the sociology of religion in a class you are teaching, you have a wonderful opportunity to help your students see how sociological principles can be applied to a unique realm of human life. The sociology of religion is basically the study of how religious institutions are structured and what factors comprise the practices and belief systems of religion.

The sociology of religion is a vast and complex field, though, and you might not have the time to cover all of the subtopics you want to. This is why it can be helpful to have students do some outside research. When each of your students becomes an expert on one strand of the sociology of religion, they can share their findings with each other and feel confident of their understandings.

The topics in this lesson will provoke interesting research work on the philosophy of religion.

Research Paper Topics

Each category is followed by a series of questions that might guide your students' research.

History of the Sociology of Religion

Conduct a research project about the history of the sociology of religion. Your paper will investigate how the sociology of religion came to be a legitimate field of study and how it has changed from its inception through to the present. Some questions include:

  • Who were the earliest theorists of the sociology of religion? What were some of their most prominent ideas?
  • How has the sociology of religion changed over time?
  • Which religions, belief systems, and practices have received more and less sociological study and why?
  • Who are some of the current sociologists of religion? Which classical theorists do they work with most intensively?

Focus on One Theorist

Choose one sociologist, either from history or from today, who works with the sociology of religion. Possibilities include Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, or William Sims Bainbridge, among others. Research the life and beliefs of this theorist, including his contributions to the overall study of the sociology of religion. You might investigate the following questions:

  • What was this person's own religious background, education, and training?
  • How did the person become interested in the sociology of religion?
  • What preceding thinkers did this person critique, work with, or build upon?
  • What major contributions did this theorist make to the overall sociology of religion?
  • How was or is this theorist's work perceived by contemporaries?

Theoretical Frameworks

Research the three major theoretical frameworks of phenomenology, functionalism, or rationalism as they each relate to the sociology of religion. Think about who the major contributors are to each philosophical approach and consider their various implications for the sociology of religion. Some of the questions you are looking to answer are:

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