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Sociology

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Sociology?

The subject matter of sociology is sweeping in scope and in relevance. Covering socieities around the world, it ranges from the intimate family to the antagonistic mob; from religion to crime; from the divisive factors of prejudice and discrimination to the unifying metropolitan regions. Sociology is interesting because it touches all aspects of human society. The discipline has a special duty to benefit human beings.

How Can You Find Work With a Sociology Degree?

Sociology provides students with a broad array of critical thinking, research and communication skills that employers look for in candidates. Examples of employment opportunities for sociology majors include: counselors, social workers, organizational managers, training specialists, and researchers.

To learn more about careers sociology majors often undertake, visit the Washington College Office of Career Development’s Sociology page or the American Sociology Association’s page on Jobs and Careers in Sociology.

What Types of Graduate Programs Appeal to Sociology Majors?

Undergraduate sociology provides a springboard to other graduate fields such as education, psychology, counseling, law, city planning, anthropology as well as sociology.

What Are Modes of Data Collection in Sociological Research?

Methods of research in the field of sociology can be understood according to several distinctions.

Survey research: Respondents are asked to answer a structured and standardized set of questions. Surveys can be done using paper and pencil (in person or by mail), computers (with or without the web), or administered by the researcher in person or over the phone. At times survey modes are combined (e.g., phone and computer).

Experiments: Data is collected using a highly structured setting (often a laboratory setting) in which variables are systematically changed to observe differences in outcomes do to differences in these independent variables. Some researchers conduct macro experimental sociology—the newest version of which employs the use of the internet as a “laboratory” space.

  • Evaluation Research: This type of research is an example of research that often cuts across several modes. Although it is not a single mode of data collection, it is highlighted here because it is a true “growth industry” in sociology. The focus here is to determine whether and to what extent a social intervention (e.g., sex education in schools) has produced the intended results. Typically multiple modes are involved to understand the complexities of evaluating programs or other social interventions.

Unobtrusive Measures: Researchers collect data in ways that do not affect the actions of those one seeks to understand (it is well documented that people alter behavior when they know—or think—they are being observed… the “Hawthorne Effect”). Examples of this mode of research include archival (document) research—including historical/comparative analysis, and content analysis of existing documents (e.g., representations of race in children’s books).

Increasingly, researchers are using mixed methodologies, combining more than one mode of data collection.

What Are Types of Analyses?

Sociological Analyses are customarily divided into two broad categories: Qualitative and Quantitative

Qualitative methods focus on non-numerical analyses designed to understand and interpret underlying meanings and patterns of social relationships.

Conversely, quantitative methods emphasizes the use and statistical manipulation of observations coded in numeric form in order to describe, explain, and predict attitudes, social relationships, and behaviors in the social world.