Blurred image of Hong Kong Central Business DistrictSociology is a social science aimed at understanding the behavior of people in social groups.

What is Sociology?

Sociologists study human interactions, factors that affect group dynamics, group behavior, emotions, and a host of other topics related to human social behavior. The field is related to social psychology, which is the study of the behavior of the individual within a group, but distinct because of its focus on the group rather than the individual.

Sociology has been studied by centuries, though many of these studies were informal or fell under the disciplines of philosophy, religion, science, or psychology. Karl Marx engaged in sociological analysis in his political philosophy, and Herbert Spencer combined ideas from biology and psychology to study social relationships. However, Emile Durkheim is usually credited as the popularizer of modern sociology.

What Do Sociologists Study?

Because the range of human social expression is so broad and the potential impact of culture is so varied, sociologists study a huge range of human social behavior. Common topics include racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, analysis of group dynamics, the study of power and hierarchy, the analysis of how cultural norms impact group behavior and the history of social groups.

Because sociology is a social science, sociologists rarely use laboratory methods. Instead, they may take life histories, conduct statistical analyses of behavior, chart trends in group dynamics, and conduct surveys.

Women’s studies, African-American studies, and other academic disciplines dedicated to the study of specific social groups are subfields of sociology.

Sociologist Training

Most colleges and universities offer undergraduate degrees in sociology that give students a framework for understanding social behavior. Sociologists can seek master’s and doctoral degrees in the field, but some sociologists receive training in fields such as psychology, anthropology, economics, or political science and then pursue sociological research.


  1. Department of Sociology. (n.d.). University of California at Riverside. Retrieved from
  2. What is sociology? (n.d.). The Socjournal RSS. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-26-2015

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