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Sociology: Overview & Importance

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  • 0:01 Society
  • 0:48 Overview of Sociology
  • 2:06 Uses of Sociology
  • 3:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson you will explore the discipline of the social sciences called sociology and discover the goals, methods, and uses of this area of study. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Society

I don't know you, but I am willing to bet that you live in a society. I bet this because nearly every human on Earth lives in society. Those who don't live in a society would have to live completely alone in a cave on an uninhabited island, and generally wouldn't have access to computers or Internet to watch videos like this. So, I'm willing to bet that you live in a society. Society is very important to us because it creates the structure of our lives. The rules, expectations, norms, beliefs, and practices of our society greatly impact how we live. Being so important, it should be no surprise that there is an entire discipline dedicated to the study of society. This is called sociology.

Overview of Sociology

Sociology is the study of social behavior, including individuals, groups, and structures, like society. We are social creatures, and our societies are very important parts of our lives, so sociologists have a lot to study. Some of the focuses on sociology include social systems, social expectations, social class, social mobility, law, religion, medicine, education, sexuality, and deviance, or the breaking of social norms. In fact, sociologists believe that all areas of human life are defined by the interaction of social structures and individual choice.

In order to conduct their research, sociologists use a variety of methods. Sociology is a social science, like anthropology or psychology, and thus relies on both scientific and more personal approaches to research. Research that is derived from mathematical or statistical formulas is called quantitative research. Research that is derived from non-mathematical sources is called qualitative research, and can include things like interviews and surveys with actual people. Sociologists use both of these in an attempt to understand the complexities of human social behavior.

Uses of Sociology

It is very common for sociological research to be directly focused on a social problem, with the goal of changing social policy. Sociologists may become involved in projects ranging from homelessness to the re-entry of prisoners into society. Leaving prison can actually be very difficult, and sociologists conduct research by interviewing former prisoners, looking at statistics of major trends, and measuring the reaction of normal society to newly released convicts. Then, they use this information to create alternative solutions, from welfare programs that help make that transition easier to legal changes to alter the system.

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