Home > S Words > sociology


Definition of Sociology

(noun) The systematic study of society and social interactions to understand individuals, groups, and institutions through data collection and analysis.

Types of Sociology

Etymology of Sociology

Sociology Pronunciation

Usage Notes

  • Plural: sociologies
  • The point of view used in sociology is called the sociological perspective and is described by Peter Berger (1929–2017) in Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective (1963) as “seeing the general in the particular.”
  • A (noun) sociologist studies society from the (adjective) sociologic or (adjective) sociologistic or (adjective) sociological perspective to understand social interactions (adverb) sociologically.

Related Quotations

  • Anthropology seeks to understand human existence over geographic space and evolutionary time, whereas sociology seeks to understand contemporary social organization, relations, and change” (Kendall 2006:7).
  • “Each of us is a social being. We are born into a social environment; we fully develop into human beings in a social environment; and we live our lives in a social environment. What we think, how we feel, and what we say and do all are shaped by our interactions with other people. The scientific study of these social interactions and of social organization is called sociology” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:3).
  • Ethnocentrism is one of sociology’s distinctive concepts. Comprehension of this concept is a major step in the acquisition of a sociological outlook. Students of introductory sociology are often left, at the end of the course, with a feeling that the term “ethnocentrism” denotes a flaw in human nature. Some of them may also be persuaded that their exposure to academic sociology has helped to immunize them against this natural but supposedly lamentable tendency to react ethnocentrically to people in other societies” (Catton 1960:201).
  • Sociology, then, is a powerful scientific tool both for acquiring knowledge about ourselves and for intervening in social affairs to realize various goals” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:3).
  • “Sociology, through its emphasis on observation and measurement, allows us to bring rigorous and systematic scientific thinking and information to bear on difficult questions associated with social policies and choices, including those related to poverty, health, immigration, crime, and education. Many people interested in these issues do not realize that more than concern is need to solve problems. Action must be informed by knowledge” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:3).
  • “The discourse of sociology and the concepts, theories, and findings of the other social sciences continually ‘circulate in and out’ of what it is that they are about. In so doing they reflexively restructure their subject matter, which itself has learned to think sociologically. Modernity is itself deeply and intrinsically sociological” (Giddens 1991:43).
  • “We study sociology to understand how human behavior is shaped by group life and, in turn, how group life is affected by individuals. Our culture tends to emphasize individualism, and sociology pushes us to consider more complex connection between our personal lives and the larger world” (Kendall 2006:37).
  • “We thus arrive at the point where we can formulate precisely the field of sociology. It includes only one specific group of phenomena. A social fact is recognized by the power of external coercion which it exercises, or is capable of exercising, over individuals; and the presence of this power is in turn recognizable by the existence of some specific sanction, or by the resistance that it offers to any individual action that would violate it” (Durkheim [1895] 2004:49).
  • “Without distorting the meaning of this expression, we can, in fact, call all beliefs and all modes of behaviour instituted by the collectivity ‘institutions‘; sociology can then be defined as the science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning” (Durkheim [1895] 2004:46).

Related Videos

Additional Information

Related Terms


Catton, William R. 1960. “The Functions and Dysfunctions of Ethnocentrism: A Theory.” Social Problems 8(3):201–11. doi:10.2307/798910.

Durkheim, Émile. [1895] 2004. “The Rules of Sociological Method.” Pp. 43–63 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.

Giddens, Anthony. 1991. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2008. Sociology: The Core. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Kendall, Diana. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Works Consulted

Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.

Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Bradby, Hannah. 2009. Medical Sociology: An Introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Brinkerhoff, David, Lynn White, Suzanne Ortega, and Rose Weitz. 2011. Essentials of Sociology. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. 2006. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Brym, Robert J., and John Lie. 2007. Sociology: Your Compass for a New World. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Collins English Dictionary: Complete and Unabridged. 6th ed. 2003. Glasgow, Scotland: Collins.

Delaney, Tim, and Tim Madigan. 2015. The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011a. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011b. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.

Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.

Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Jary, David, and Julia Jary. 2000. Collins Dictionary of Sociology. 3rd ed. Glasgow, Scotland: HarperCollins.

Kendall, Diana. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kornblum, William. 2008. Sociology in a Changing World. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Macionis, John, and Kenneth Plummer. 2012. Sociology: A Global Introduction. 4th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Marsh, Ian, and Mike Keating, eds. 2006. Sociology: Making Sense of Society. 3rd ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Princeton University. 2010. WordNet. (https://wordnet.princeton.edu/).

Ravelli, Bruce, and Michelle Webber. 2016. Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pearson.

Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Shepard, Jon M. 2010. Sociology. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.

Stewart, Paul, and Johan Zaaiman, eds. 2015. Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction. Cape Town: Juta.

Stolley, Kathy S. 2005. The Basics of Sociology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Taylor & Francis. (N.d.) Routledge Handbooks Online. (https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/).

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Tischler, Henry L. 2011. Introduction to Sociology. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Wiley. (N.d.) Wiley Online Library. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/).

Cite the Definition of Sociology

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “sociology.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved August 21, 2019 (https://sociologydictionary.org/sociology/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

sociology. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/sociology/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “sociology.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed August 21, 2019. https://sociologydictionary.org/sociology/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“sociology.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 21 Aug. 2019. <https://sociologydictionary.org/sociology/>.