The word sociology has Latin roots – socius translates to the English word companion; the suffix -ology refers to the study of something. Knowing that sociology is the study of one’s companions sparks keen interest in people who want to know why people do what they do. Start here with this quick dictionary – Sociology: Terms and Definitions – and make it your own as your knowledge of the science of social behaviors expands and your list of sociology’s terms and definitions grows.
Antipositivism – The belief that society is best studied in a loosely structured way that relies on observation and anecdote (qualitative) rather than the scientific study of positivism (quantitative).
Applied Sociology – Uses the pure findings of sociological research to gain better understanding of issues such as education, marriage, ethnic relations, criminology, and community.
Computational Sociology – The use of artificial intelligence and computer simulations to analyze complex statistical data to model or predict social interaction.
Comte, Auguste (1798-1857) – French science philosopher who unified the studies of economics, history, and psychology to define the field of sociology.
Gender Roles – Behavioral and societal differences said to be inseparable with how an individual relates to his or her social culture.
Human Ecology – Studies the relationships within a given population from a natural and behavioral perspective to assess situations such as criminality and mental illness.
Individual Agency – The ability of an individual to make independent choices, acting on free will; contrast with social structure.
Marx, Karl (1818-1883) – Considered by many to be the true father of sociology; contrast with August Comte.
Modernity – the period of time after the medieval that marks a move away from an agriculture-based feudal society to a more urban-based society driven economically by capitalism and industrialism and culturally by the philosophies of nation-state relations, secularization, and rationalism.
Nuclear Family – Considered a central element of a stable society, this social unit consists of a father, mother, and their offspring sharing the same living quarters.
Population, or Demography – Studies the quantifiable numbers defining a population, such as racial, gender, or age composition.
Positivism – Comte’s belief that scientific appreciation of the past leads to better understanding of the future in regard to theology and the metaphysical realm, thereby improving society in general.
Sieyes, Emmanuel-Joseph (1748-1836) – French essayist who first used the word sociology in a manuscript (that was never published).
Social Change and Disorganization – Studies the way disruptions in cultural or social relationships affect an individual or society.
Social Organization – Studies the various institutions and stratifications that make up a society.
Social Psychology – Studies how individual human nature is affected by life in a group.
Social Sciences – All fields of study that examine society, including but not limited to anthropology, archaeology, communication, criminology, education, linguistics, and political science.
Social Structure – Patterns of social arrangement that define a society and influence individual choice, such as schools, government, and local law; contrast with individual agency.
Sociological Theory and Method – Studies how the regulation of one’s environment affects the life of a group.
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SOCIOLOGY – Max Weber