Sociology, from the Latin word socius ("companion") and the Greek -ology ("study of"), is the study of society. It is a social science concerned with studying the social activities of humans and their groups, organizations, and institutions, and the ways people interact with one another inside of these institutions.
As one of the broadest of the sciences, sociology studies factors that can interfere with the way humans interact with one another. Some of the major factors sociology studies are race, gender, religion, ethnicity, education, and social class. Like other sciences, sociology is based on learning, studying, and applying information that can be quantified through empirical research and the critical analysis of data.
The information and data obtained through sociological research can be used for a number of applications. Some examples:
- The study of the connections between crime and poverty by sociologists may be used by law enforcement in order to reduce the levels of crime in a jurisdiction. This information will then be available for other cities' officials to use to fight crime.
- The study of Caucasians moving away from urban areas into suburban areas is known as "white flight". When people move out of the inner city, they take their taxes outside of the city as well. This results in reduced funding for inner city schools, which means a poorer quality of education. Sociology examines why this white flight happens and can propose ideas to bring money back into the inner cities through various means.
- Some people believe vaccinations to be beneficial and there are some who believe them to be dangerous. Sociology examines the way a person's social settings affect the person's views towards vaccinations. This information can then be used by health departments and schools, for instance, to encourage people to get vaccines for themselves and their families.
- Our emotions are shaped in part by our culture and society. Sociology may research how our emotions affect our interactions with others, especially those in different cultures from our own.
- Some sociologists may study the structures of today's families and how the structures of today differ from those of previous times. The information obtained from this can then be used to see if the changes have resulted in higher levels of domestic abuse, divorce rates, or poverty.