What is Sociology?

Sociology examines the underlying patterns in human behavior and our relationships with one another. Pretty much anything involving more than one person is fair game for sociologists. The subject matter of sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob; from organized crime to religious traditions; from the divisions of race, gender and social class to the shared beliefs of the common culture. The methods of sociological investigation are also varied: sociologists immerse themselves in the daily life of groups, interview group participants, examine recorded interaction, interpret historical documents, analyze census data, and conduct large surveys. The methods and concepts of sociology yield powerful insights into the social processes shaping lives, problems and possibilities in contemporary society. The capacity to identify and understand these processes -- a capacity which C.W. Mills called the "sociological imagination" -- is valuable preparation for personal and professional participation in a changing and complex world. The results of sociological investigations help develop new theories and inform social policy, programs, and laws.