What is sociology?
Against what many people tend to believe, sociology is not social work, social policy or common sense, or about making the world a better place. Yes, sociology ties in closely with these common views people have, however, just because they have ties to sociology, they do not define it.
Sociology is the academic study of how an individual or group live within their society. Fundamental questions are raised about the ways in which people shape the society we live in and how being a member of a society influence the ways in which we live our lives.
Sociology has two strands. Firstly there is the theoretical outlook on society. This outlook covers a range of theories with different views on why the societies are as they are, the ways in which they operate and how they can influence individuals and groups that live within them. This outlook can often cast doubts, in means of which argument is ‘right’ or ‘better’, but this is a key point in sociology. The different, often competing arguments about fundamental issues, opens the mind of sociologists, so then can identify the strengths and the weaknesses in each argument.
Empirical sociology is the second outlook. The difference with this outlook is that it is based on real research on what is actually happening or has happened within a society. It describes patterns and events, but tries to explain and make sense of them through the evidence that has been gathered through the finding of the research. For example, empirical sociology would look at changes in patterns of marriage, divorce and childbearing.
Sociology looks at the society we live in from new perspectives. It scratches beneath the surface, challenging the views we hold, whilst raising questions on the matters we take for granted in our society everyday.
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