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Cedar Valley College > Future Students > Degrees and Certificate Programs > Academic Disciplines > Sociology

What is Sociology?


Register NowSociology is the systematic study of human social interaction, social groups and society. Social interaction involves two or more people in the process of influencing each others behavior. Such processes include cooperation, competition, conflict and exchange. Social groups are based on interaction and may take a variety of forms from voluntary to involuntary, small and large, simple and complex, informal and formal organization. Social groups, individually and collectively operate within the broader context of human social relations we call society. Sociologists seek to understand how, why and in what ways humans interact, form groups and bring about stability and change in the society in which we all live.

Sociologists use a variety of research strategies including surveys, observation, and experiments. Sociologists also employ different theoretical approaches that emphasize scientific methods for observation and analysis as well as methods that involve experience and description. In many ways, sociology forces us to step outside our own social circumstances and lives and take an "outsider's perspective" in examining the assumptions and inconsistencies of our own daily worlds. This is part of what has been called the "sociological imagination" and, because this approach often challenges traditions and deeply held beliefs, those unfamiliar with sociology often find it unsettling.

Sociology is closely related to its sister disciplines, especially cultural anthropology and world history. While anthropology traditionally has concentrated on non-western, pre-industrial societies, sociology has focused more on western, industrialized nations. This distinction has changed, however, as the peoples of the world have become increasingly interconnected economically, politically and culturally. Sociologists have become involved in cross-cultural comparisons and analysis and cultural anthropologists have turned their interests toward urban, post-industrial nation-states. The processes creating the modern global world have been at work for at least the last five centuries and anthropology and sociology cannot be fully understood without a firm understanding of the history of world civilization.

Sociologists may apply their skills in action-oriented work, consulting work, or teaching and basic research. In addition, the skills and tools in sociology are valuable when applied in a variety of occupations.
Student Section of the American Sociological Association.

Sociology courses at Cedar Valley College are designed to accomplish three goals:
  • Provide students with sound academic preparation by meeting the basic standards of transfer level courses necessary for further college and university requirements.
  • Stimulate interest in the field of Sociology and encourage students to consider Sociology as either a major or a minor.
  • Create awareness of social conditions, appreciation for diverse cultures and develop both intellectual and investigative skills applicable for recognizing and solving social problems in the communities in which we live, local, regional, national and global.