Sociology is the scientific study of society. It is a social science which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity. It focuses on the influence of our relationships around us and how they affect our behaviours and attitudes. For many sociologists the goal is to conduct research which may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, while others ...view middle of the document...
The traditional focuses of sociology have included social stratification, social class, culture, social mobility, religion, secularisation, law, and deviance. As all spheres of human activity are affected by the interplay between social structure and individual agency, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to further subjects, such as health, medical, military and penal institutions, the Internet, and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge.
The range of social scientific methods has also expanded. Social researchers draw upon a variety of qualitative and quantitative techniques. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-twentieth century led to increasingly interpretative, hermeneutic, and philosophic approaches to the analysis of society. Conversely, recent decades have seen the rise of new analytically, mathematically and computationally rigorous techniques, such as agent-based modelling and social network analysis. Sociology should not be confused with various general social studies courses which bear little relation to sociological theory or social science research methodology.