Description and Characteristics of Sociology

Today's article is about the characteristics of sociology. What exactly is a sociologist's job? What's the purpose of this field? Continue reading to find out!
Description and Characteristics of Sociology

Last update: 03 July, 2021

One of the characteristics of sociology is that it helps people better understand and improve the world around them. It seeks to advance towards more egalitarian societies in terms of gender, religion, migration, and work, among other aspects.

This discipline studies what happens (or has happened) in various societies, their groups, and their social life.

A sociologist must have a critical attitude towards society. What methodologies does it resort to? Where and what can a sociologist work on? Continue reading to find out.

“I’m not what I think I am, and I’m not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.”

-Charles Horton Cooley-

The description and characteristics of sociology

Sociology is a social science that studies society and deals with the scientific analysis of human societies or regional populations.

Thus, it analyzes human relationships, how people interact in different environments or in response to various problems or challenges (it has many things in common with social psychology), and how social structures and communities arise, etc.

Authors such as Karl Marx, Auguste Comte, Beatrice Webb, Max Weber, and Talcott Parsons, among others, are pioneers in this field.

Society studies the collective phenomena produced by the social activity of human beings within their historical-cultural context. In other words, it always takes into account the social, cultural, and political context of the society or population it’s analyzing.

People at a party.

Fields of study

Sociology studies society and human social behavior. But to what extent?

According to Giddens et al. (1991), the study of sociology can range from the “microscopic” level (micro-sociology), which studies interactions and organizations, to the macroscopic level. The latter encompasses different systems and social structures.

Sociology covers topics that range from social class and religion to gender, social deviances, health, economics, penal institutions, the Internet, education, and scientific knowledge. In other words, everything that pertains to social behavior and the spheres that directly affect society and people’s lives, either individually or collectively.

Methodology and characteristics of sociology

Sociology uses a series of methodologies to investigate its object of study. In this case, it uses interdisciplinary research methodologies from different disciplines and fields. All for the purpose of analyzing and interpreting the causes and meanings behind the emergence of certain trends in social behavior.

Specifically, sociology uses three types of methods to analyze a society:

  • Qualitative methods. According to Babbie (2014), “Qualitative properties are the scientific method of observation to collect non-numerical data”.
  • Quantitative methods. These encompass the systematic empirical investigation of observable phenomena through statistical or mathematical techniques.
  • The comparative method studies the correlation between one or more studied phenomena.
A geometric illustration.

Applications

This depends on the specific field of sociology. Thus, some sociologists do research in order to be able to apply their results to social policies and welfare. However, others seek to understand social processes.

Career opportunities

Sociologists can work in both the public and private sectors. They’re also key figures in the third sector (non-governmental organizations, associations, foundations, etc.).

Some of the activities a sociologist can do are:

  • Teach.
  • Train in organizations and companies.
  • Conduct polls.
  • Do market research.
  • Marketing and communication.
  • Dynamization and social and cultural mediation.
  • Research.
  • Manage public projects.
  • Human resources.

As you can see, sociology is a fairly and versatile field, as it covers many areas. Moreover, it focuses on the study of human society and involves studying, analyzing, and understanding how a society behaves.

In addition, sociology also aims to improve social reality through the understanding of its phenomena. Hence, its study and research include areas (and elements) as diverse as education, work, healthcare, gender roles, stereotypes, fashion, racism, solidarity, etc.

In short, sociology makes it possible to understand the motivations and behaviors of various social groups and to get an informed perspective of the world around them.

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  • Babbie, Earl R. (2014). The basics of social research (Sixth edition edición).
  • Barrón López De Roda, A., & Sánchez Moreno, E. (2001). Estructura social, apoyo social y salud mental. Psicothema13(Número 1), 17-23. Recuperado a partir de https://reunido.uniovi.es/index.php/PST/article/view/7841
  • Española, Real Academia (22 de junio de 2016). Diccionario de la lengua Española. Vigesimotercera edición. Versión normal. Grupo Planeta Spain.
  • Giddens, A., Duneier, M., Appelbaum, R. P., & Carr, D. S. (1991). Introduction to sociology. New York: Norton.
  • Hogg, M. (2010). Psicología social. Vaughan Graham M. Panamericana. Editorial: Panamericana.