I. What Is Sociology?
The American Sociological Association (2006) describes
“sociology as the study of social life, social change, and the
social causes and consequences of human behavior. The
ASA contends that “sociologists investigate the structure of
groups, organizations, and societies, and how people
interact within these contexts.” Sociology is the scientific
study of society and human behavior. This means, when
sociologists apply their trade, they use a rigorous
The influence of society is the central question asked by
sociologists when they attempt to explain human behavior.
People are social beings more than they are individuals. Our
thinking and motivation are largely shaped by our life
experiences as we interact with one another. According to
Barkan (1997:4), "society profoundly shapes their behavior
and attitudes." We exist within social structure, which refers
to patterns of social interaction and social relationships.
Social structure, in turn, has great influence on who we are
as individuals. It influences our behavior, our attitudes, and
our life chances. Social structure is complex and often
A. Topics of Study
Subject areas in Sociology are as varied as society itself.
• Sociologists can study very small social relationships
involving only a few people (such as the family). They can
also explore relationships in much larger social collectivities
such as organizations and institutions.
• Sociology may be concerned with issues revolving around social class, poverty, gender, race and ethnicity, or religion
as well as social mobility and education. Other topics may
include culture, socialization, conflict, power, and deviance.
• Very large social relationships such as those between nation
states are also the domain of sociology as are the
characteristics of the economy and political system. In fact,
the whole topic of globalization is relevant to sociologists.
B. The Relationship between People and
Within the vast field of sociology, the common denominator
is people. Sociology explores the “forces that influence
people and help shape their lives … Society shapes what we
do, how we do it, and how we understand what others do“
(Univ. of Limerick 2007). Options in life are determined in
the past and are molded by currently existing