Simply defined, sociology is a discipline that is concerned with studying and analyzing the social relationships of humans and institutions. Topics of study within sociology are wide and may range from crime and religion all the way to social stability and radical change in human societies. All of these topics are unified in the discipline of sociology in a bid to understand how human beings and their behaviors are influenced by their surroundings and how human behaviors influence their surroundings.
Traditionally, sociology used to focus on studying issues like social class, religion, gender, and a few other issues. However, the modern approach to sociology has expanded to include other topics like health, economy, education, the internet, and more. There are three broad levels of study when it comes to sociology:
- The personal (romantic love, religious faith, and aging)
- The societal (crime and law, prejudice, poverty and wealth)
- The global (war and peace, economic development)
Sociology is an ancient discipline that dates all the way back to the times of the Greek philosopher known as Plato and the ancient Chinese teacher Confucius. Some claim that it predates even Plato. Survey methods and techniques can be traced all the way back to 1086 to the Domesday Book. Others claim that Arabs were the ones who introduced the discipline in the 14th century during the time of Ibn Khaldun, an Arab scholar from Tunisia. To some, he is the father of sociology.
Sociologists place an emphasis on the meticulous collection of data and facts and then analyzing the data through proper established techniques which in turn helps us to understand key social processes. The research methods that are used can be classified into two: qualitative and quantitative methods.
Qualitative methods do not rely on hard facts since they involve methods that may have a human bias. On the other hand, quantitative methods rely on hard quantifiable data in order to come up with conclusions and explanations. An example of a qualitative method is observation where the researcher observes what a group of people is doing. The researcher may or may not participate in the activities of the group being observed. Qualitative research methods may include taking a look at hard data that has already been collected such as that from a census or conducting one using proven techniques in order to collect accurate data.
All of these methods have one goal in mind; that of providing enlightenment and understanding of the social dynamics of human societies. This information is particularly important to people who have dedicated their lives to providing solutions to social issues. These people include the likes of politicians and policy makers, planners, social workers, administrators, and others. By diving deeper into issues that are normally taken for granted, sociology provides an even deeper understanding of human social life.