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A Guide to Sociology Resources

Guides to sociology-related resources available through WUSTL Libraries.

About Sociology

What is Sociology? (Wikipedia definition)

Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behavior, patterns of social relationshipssocial interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life. It uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order and social change. Sociology can also be defined as the general science of society. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter can range from micro-level analyses of society (i.e., of individual interaction and agency) to macro-level analyses (i.e., of systems and the social structure).[5]

Traditional focuses of sociology include social stratificationsocial classsocial mobilityreligionsecularizationlawsexualitygender, and deviance. As all spheres of human activity are affected by the interplay between social structure and individual agency, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to other subjects and institutions, such as health and the institution of medicineeconomymilitarypunishment and systems of controlthe Interneteducationsocial capital; and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge.


What do Sociologist do?

Sociologists study human behavior, interaction, and organization. They observe the activity of social, religious, political, and economic groups, organizations, and institutions. They examine the effect of social influences, including organizations and institutions, on different individuals and groups. They also trace the origin and growth of these groups and interactions. For example, they may research the impact of a new law or policy on a specific demographic.

Sociologists often use both quantitative and qualitative methods when conducting research, and they frequently use statistical analysis programs during the research process.


Careers in Sociology

Many students choose sociology because they see it as a broad liberal arts base for professions such as law, education, medicine, social work, and counseling. Sociology provides a rich fund of knowledge that directly pertains to each of these fields.

The following list of possibilities is only illustrative--many other paths may be open to you. Employment sectors include:

  • social services--in rehabilitation, case management, group work with youth or the elderly, recreation, or administration
  • community work--in fund-raising for social service organizations, nonprofits, child-care or community development agencies, or environmental groups
  • corrections--in probation, parole, or other criminal justice work
  • business--in advertising, marketing and consumer research, insurance, real estate, personnel work, human resources, training, or sales
  • college settings--in admissions, alumni relations, or placement offices
  • health services--in family planning, substance abuse, rehabilitation counseling, health planning, hospital admissions, and insurance companies
  • publishing, journalism, and public relations--in writing, research, and editing
  • government services--in federal, state, and local government jobs in such areas as transportation, housing, agriculture, and labor
  • teaching--in elementary and secondary schools, in conjunction with appropriate teacher certification.


Occupational Outlook Handbook: (U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics)

Learn more about industry wide jobs in sociology.