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The Principles of Sociology

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By Jackie Brooks, PhD
Faculty Member, Sociology at American Public University

Do you love ‘people-watching?’ Are you a natural social observer, picking up on patterns in behavior and critiquing issues in society around you?  Sociology gives you the tools to understand, explain and analyze those observations.

Sociology is a self-reflective discipline (separate from psychology) that identifies and analyzes the on-going process of social construction; actively producing and creating our reality and social world. Like other social sciences (e.g. anthropology, political science, and psychology), it is rooted in a set of principles that mold our sociological perspective, and ultimately our research. Sociologists guide their work according to the following set of principles:

  1. Social interaction is the basis for the construction of societies.
  2. How we interact with one another reflects what we believe and what we value as group members.
  3. Societies are organized into distinct social units (e.g. family, government, education, and religion) that tell us what the rules are.
  4. Our patterns of behavior reveal unequal social relationships.
  5. Social change is a necessary and essential part of our survival.
  6. We must attempt to explain our social behavior.
  7. We must strive to provide evidence that supports our claims about social behavior.
  8. We can use our scientific work to improve the human social condition.

Each principle overlaps with an aspect of another principle. For example, our unequal social relationships are linked to what we believe about one another as individuals and members of social groups. We can, and often do, generate false beliefs about one another that can lead to prejudice and discrimination. It is imperative that we attempt to explain this social behavior, and gather proof of its existence and harmful effects. Our research can be utilized to raise awareness about social inequality and minimize its presence in our lives.  Whether your interest rests in gaining a basic understanding of how societies operate, or you desire to investigate a particular social issue, sociology is the right discipline to guide your inquiry.

 

About the Author:

Jackie Brooks is a professor at American Public University System.  She earned a PhD in Sociology from The Ohio State University. She began instructing Sociology courses as a master’s student and fell in love with teaching. Her favorite part of teaching is helping students take a broad idea and turn it into a workable, sound, research project. She teaches courses in Social Theory, Social Inequality, Social Problems, and Research Methods. Her research focuses on organizations, work, and social inequality (race, gender, and class).

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