1. (noun) The object, typically an individual or group observed in an experiment or social scene.

Example: The people in a classroom when studying the learning habits of university Seniors.

2. (noun) A specialized field of knowledge.

Example: Anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology.

3. (noun) What is being studied or discussed.

Example: Marxism in an introductory sociology class or the topic of a conversation among sociology students before a class begins.

Audio Pronunciation: (sub·ject)

Download Audio Pronunciation: subject.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: subjects
  • The term subject is often used interchangeably with individual or person in sociological writing, particularly theory.
  • Also called:
    • Sense 1
      • actor
      • individual
      • person
    • Sense 2
      • bailiwick
      • discipline
      • field
      • field of study
      • subject area
      • subject field
    • Sense 3
      • content
      • issue
      • matter
      • subject matter
      • theme
      • topic

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 



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

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

Spradley, James P., and David W. McCurdy. 2008. Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. 13th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.


How to Cite the Definition of Subject

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “subject.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 16, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

subject. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

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

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “subject.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 16, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“subject.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 16 Jun. 2019. <>.