25 Sociology Examples

sociology examples and definition, explained below

Sociology is the scientific study of society and social interactions (American Sociological Association, 2019).

This social sciences discipline explores social relationships, structures, and institutions that, together, shape and drive human behavior.

It aims to uncover behavioral patterns among individuals and groups and thus, helps explain how society functions the way it does (Giddens, 2013).

We generally split sociology into two broad groups: macrosociology, which is the study of how social institutions shape society, and microsociology, which is the study of how individuals make meaning of their social lives.

Example of an Early Sociological Study

One of the earliest, yet poignant examples of sociology’s relevance is Émile Durkheim’s study of suicide (Durkheim, 1897). This pioneering sociologist observed patterns and concluded that societal factors (like religion, marital status, and employment), rather than just personal circumstances, greatly influence suicide rates. His findings underlined sociology’s potential to delve deeper, to go beyond the visible and individual, and understand the collective, societal factors affecting human behaviors and decisions.

Sociology Examples

1. The Study of Social Stratification

Social stratification is the division of society into hierarchical levels, primarily based on wealth, power, and privilege (Doob, 2013).

It is a fundamental aspect of sociology that illuminates the unequal distribution of resources among different social groups.

Social stratification studies often explore concepts such as social class, caste, and social status, and how these social structures impact individuals’ life chances and societal dynamics.

For example, sociologists may study whether a society more highly values ascribed status (a status given at birth, like gender) or achieved status (a status earned, like getting a university degree) more highly.

Therefore, understanding social stratification is crucial for tackling social inequality effectively (Kerbo, 2012).

Case Study

One renowned study in this area was conducted by the sociologist Max Weber (1922), who proposed a multidimensional approach to social stratification, encompassing three components: class, status, and power. According to Weber, these components interact in complex ways to determine a person’s position in the societal hierarchy, signifying the multifaceted nature of social stratification. 

2. The Study of Deviance

Deviance in sociology refers to the violation of societal norms and expectations, which can manifest in many forms, ranging from minor transgressions to severe criminal behavior (Bernburg, 2018).

This aspect of sociology attempts to understand why individuals deviate from accepted norms, examining the influence of societal factors like peer pressure, upbringing, and societal strain.

It also explains how societies label and react to deviant behavior (see: labeling theory), shedding light on the process of social control. Hence, studying deviance within sociology offers insights into the dynamics of norm enforcement and the social construction of deviance (Laub, 2014).

A wide range of studies have explored how countercultural groups reject social norms, through to ways neihborhood orderliness deters crime (known as broken windows theory).

Case Study

One of the most celebrated studies on deviance is Robert Merton’s strain theory (1938). Merton posited that deviance arises when a society encourages specific goals, but simultaneously restricts the means to achieve them, leading to strain and subsequent deviant behavior. 

3. The Study of Racial Segregation

Racial segregation refers to the physical or institutional separation of racial groups, and the study of it is central to the sociological examination of racial and ethnic relations (Massey, 2016).

It investigates the causes and consequences of racial segregation by examining the dynamics of housing, education, and employment, among other areas.

It may identify the role of institutional discrimination and systemic discrimination in reinforcing racial segregation, thereby fostering the racial divide in society (Anderson, 2010).

Case Study

A famous study in this area is done by sociologist Douglas Massey and his colleague (Massey & Denton, 1993), which depicted racial residential segregation as “American Apartheid”. Their study highlighted how policies and practices, such as redlining, racial steering, and exclusionary zoning, contribute to racial segregation in U.S. cities. 

4. The Study of Social Movements

The sociological study of social movements focuses on collective social action aimed at creating or resisting social change (Jasper, 2015).

Social movements can be a powerful force for social change, and through the study of these, sociologists examine the conditions under which they emerge, gain momentum, or cease.

They also analyze the tactics utilized by movements and society’s reactions to them, thereby providing a deeper understanding of how social change occurs (Edwards, 2014).

Case Study

The Civil Rights Movement in the U.S (1950s and 1960s) serves as an iconic example in the study of social movements. This movement, led by influential figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., illustrated the profound impact of collective action on bringing about extensive social and political change, culminating in civil rights legislation (Morris, 1986).

5. The Study of Social Inequality

Social inequality constitutes the unequal distribution of resources, opportunities, and privileges across diverse social groups (Dorling, 2015).

Sociologists interested in social inequality will study disparities in income, education, health, access to resources, and other social benefits. Their study would further entail investigating underlying causes, effects, and ways to alleviate these disparities.

Studying social inequality allows us to understand and tackle systemic disparities that can fuel social unrest and instability (Bradley & Corwyn, 2010).

Case Study

Thomas Piketty, in his renowned book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (2014), studied wealth inequalities across centuries and nations. His work highlighted the increasing disparity in wealth and how the rate of return on capital often surpasses the growth rate, risk leading to a more unequal society.

6. The Study of Culture

The study of culture in sociology involves examining shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an institution, organization, or group (Peterson & Kern, 1996).

This includes studying symbols, languages, norms, and social products that bind a group and form its collective identity.

A sociologist may study dominant cultures, subcultures, folk cultures, and countercultures, and how they interact and affect one another.

They may also explore how cultures construct imaginary ideal cultures – their self-vision they aspire toward, and compare that to real culture – the observed reality.

By exploring culture, sociologists understand how individual behaviors and societal patterns are shaped by cultural dynamics and transformations (Da Silva, 2010).

Case Study

The pioneering works of anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1973), particularly his deep-dive into the Balinese cockfight in “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight,” is an influential example. Geertz used the cockfight as a cultural text to understand Balinese society, demonstrating culture’s complexity and its profound influence on society.

7. The Study of Societal Norms

Societal norms are the implicit or explicit rules and expectations that govern behavior within a society (Fehr & Fischbacher, 2004).

The study of these norms, as well as cultural norms and group norms, enables sociologists to understand how individuals behave in social situations, how norms influence societal stability, and how they may change over time.

This exploration sheds light on the ways norms are instrumental in achieving social control, and the implications of norms on people who don’t fit the normative sterotype (Chung & Rimal, 2016).

Case Study

An influential study conducted by Solomon Asch (1951) on conformity provided insights into the power of societal norms. His experiment demonstrated how people conform to majority opinion, highlighting the substantial influence of societal norms on individual behaviors. 

8. The Study of Socialization

Socialization involves the lifelong process where individuals learn and internalize the norms, values, and behaviors appropriate to their social position (Grusec & Hastings, 2015).

Socialization happens in childhood, where we internalized the norms of our societies. But, there are other forms of socialization as well, such as anticipatory socialization, resocialization, and gender socialization, that are each separately examined by sociologists.

The study of socialization helps people understand how to behave in society and plays a significant role in identity formation.

Studying socialization provides insights into how the individual self is shaped and altered in a sociocultural context (Berns, 2013).

Case Study

George Herbert Mead’s renowned theory of socialization, based on symbolic interactionism, propounded the idea that the self is socially constructed through interaction with others (Mead, 1934). His work elucidated how social interactions shape individuals and their sense of self.

9. The Study of Family Structures

The study of family structures focuses on diverse forms of family units and relationships within them (Cherlin, 2013).

It explores variations in family formations across time, societies, and cultures, including nuclear families, extended families, single-parent families, and more.

This aspect of sociology provides insights into familial roles, dynamics, and their impact on individual and societal outcomes (Craig, 2013).

For example, according to functionalism, the family unit is an essential social institution that helps to maintain social stability and pass-on cultural values.

Case Study

Judith Stacey’s pioneering work “Brave New Families” (1990) examined the diversity and adaptability of family structures. She studied how transformations in family structures, such as the rise of single-parent families, cohabitation, etc., reflect societal trends and adapt to external pressures.

10. The Study of Social Institutions

Social institutions, such as education, religion, law, economy, and others, constitute a significant part of the sociological study (Alexander, 2016).

They act as principal structures of a society and govern behavior and expectations of individuals within a society.

Exploring these institutions aids in understanding how societies function, evolve, and maintain social order (Powell & DiMaggio, 1991).

Different sociological paradigms have different undersdtandings of social institutions. For example, functionalists believe they maintain order, while critical theorists believe they exist to maintain the power of the powerful, and marginalize people lower in the social hierarchy.

Case Study

A renowned study by Max Weber, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” (1905), explored the relationship between religion (a social institution) and economic behavior. He illustrated how Protestant ethics influenced the development of capitalism, offering a profound understanding of the interaction between social institutions and societal changes.

See More: Examples of Social Institutions

11. The Study of Collective Behavior

Collective behavior refers to the spontaneous actions that emerge when people respond to similar situations or stimuli (Turner & Killian, 1993).

This study involves examining behaviors in crowds, mobs, riots, and even more organized events like pilgrimages or protest movements.

It offers insights into transient social forms and the dynamics of crowd behavior (McPhail, 2013).

For example, we might study moral panic, a phenomenon where mainstream society is whipped into unrealistic fears about a subcultural group, which often leads to unwarranted discrimination.

Case Study

Gustave Le Bon’s work “The Crowd: A study of the Popular Mind” (1895) is a seminal text in this area. Le Bon analyzed crowd behavior during the French Revolution to elucidate shared sentiments and collective mindset patterns.

12. The Study of Population Dynamics

Population dynamics is a sociological field focusing on the size, composition, and change in population over time (Rowland, 2002).

It examines phenomena such as fertility, mortality, migration, and aging, providing insights into how these factors shape society. Studying population dynamics is essential for planning social and economic policies (McNicoll, 1992). 

Case Study

Thomas Robert Malthus’s “An Essay on the Principle of Population” (1798) is a well-known example. This work examined population growth and its implications, contending that unchecked population increase would outpace resources, resulting in social calamities.

13. The Study of Gender Roles

The sociological study of gender roles embarks upon an exploration of the expectations, behaviors, and activities deemed appropriate for men and women within a given society (Eagly, Wood, & Diekman, 2000).

This study examines how gender roles and gender norms evolve, how societies enforce them, and their domains across different cultural, historical, and social contexts.

The study of gender roles provides valuable insights into the dynamics of gender inequality and its implications for society (Risman, 2004).

Some sociologists influenced by postmodernism also hold that gender is socially constructed and that there is a vast array of gender identities. Such scholars examine how these identities emerge, are validated, and suppressed.

Case Study

The work of Sandra Lipsitz Bem is noteworthy in this regard, particularly her “Gender Schema Theory“. Bem (1981) argued that society creates schemas, or frameworks, that affect our understanding of what it is to be male or female, shaping our attitudes and behaviors significantly.

14. The Study of Religion

The sociology of religion examines religious beliefs, practices, and institutions in terms of their social function and impact (Davie, 2013).

It investigates how religion shapes individual identities, societal norms and values, and influences broader social and cultural patterns.

Notably, it also scrutinizes the reciprocal influence of social structures and changes on the evolution of religious beliefs and practices (Chaves, 2010).

Case Study

Emile Durkheim’s classic study, “The Elementary Forms of Religious Life” (1912), is a prime example. Durkheim analyzed Australian aboriginal tribes’ totemic religions to understand religion’s social origins and its role in internal solidarity and social cohesion.

15. The Study of Urbanization

Urbanization refers to the process whereby populations move from rural to urban areas, leading to the growth of cities.

Sociological studies on urbanization explore the reasons behind these demographic shifts, their effects on social relations, environmental impacts, and the challenges and opportunities they present (Satterthwaite, 2007).

Urbanization studies help inform urban planning and policies to ensure sustainable urban development (Brenner, 2014).

Case Study

The work of sociologist Louis Wirth, specifically, his essay “Urbanism as a Way of Life” (1938), stands as a classic in urban sociology. Wirth articulated axial characteristics of urban life – its impersonal, transitory, and segmented nature – affected by population size, density, and diversity.

16. The Study of Social Change

Social change refers to the transformation over time in society’s cultural, structural, or ecological characteristics (Macionis, 2016).

Sociologists examine factors driving social change, including technological advancements, cultural shifts, social movements, and environmental phenomena.

The study of social change helps in understanding the dynamics between stability and change within societies (Harper, 2011).

Case Study

Neil Smelser’s “Theory of Collective Behavior” (1962) addressed the social change aspect as he developed a value-added theory. Smelser’s theory explains how social changes (e.g., normlessness) could trigger collective behaviours leading to significant societal transformations.

17. The Study of Ethnicity

The sociological study of ethnicity delves into distinct cultural characteristics, such as language, religion, and ancestry, defining an ethnic group (Fearon, 2003).

This realm of sociology explores phenomena like prejudice, discrimination, and segregation that ethnic minorities often encounter.

Through the lens of ethnicity, sociologists can understand the rich cultural diversity and enduring social issues born out of ethnic differences (Halle, 2018).

Case Study

Richard Alba and Victor Nee’s work “Rethinking Assimilation Theory” (1997) is an influential contribution to this arena. It examined how ethnic boundaries change by examining the assimilation process of immigrants in the U.S., underscoring ethnicity’s dynamic nature.

18. The Study of Marriage Patterns

The study of marriage patterns entails analyzing trends and variations in marriage, considering factors such as age, social class, race, and cultural background (Cherlin, 2010).

This branch of sociology also examines how societal changes, like shifting gender roles and evolving norms around sexuality, influence marriage patterns.

By studying marriage patterns, sociologists understand family structures, group identity, and social cohesion (Casper & Bianchi, 2009).

Case Study

Stephanie Coontz’s “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage” (2005) explored how marriage has changed over time. Coontz traced marriage patterns from communal marriages to modern love-based unions, explaining how social, economic, and political changes influence these shifts.

19. The Study of Social Classes

Social classes refer to groups sharing similar wealth, educational background, occupation, and other economic resources.

For example, colloquially, we tend to think of social classes stratified into three general groups: working-class, middle-class, and upper-class (or ‘elites’). Marx, however, came up with the terms proletariat, bourgeoisie, and petit bourgeoisie to describe class groups.

The study of social classes sheds light on social inequality, individual life chances, and social mobility (Tumin, 1953).

By understanding social classes, we grasp the mechanisms of societal stratification and its profound implications for individuals and society (Levine, 2013).

Case Study

Pierre Bourdieu’s “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste” (1979) studied social classes’ influence on individual tastes and preferences. His concept of cultural capital demonstrated how cultural knowledge and skills contribute to maintaining class-based societal divisions.

20. The Study of Crime Rates

The sociological analysis of crime rates explores the incident frequency of criminal activities in different social segments or regions and the socio-economic factors influencing these rates (Pratt & Cullen, 2005).

By studying crime rates, sociologists can derive insights into social behaviors, societal issues, and the effectiveness of crime control policies (Siegel, 2011).

Case Study

Robert Sampson’s “Collective Efficacy Theory” (1997) links crime rates with neighborhood characteristics. Sampson and his colleagues found that neighborhood unity and informal social control significantly influence crime rates in an area, underlining how community attributes can shape crime dynamics.

21. The Study of Consumerism

Consumerism, defined as a societal pattern where consumption of goods and services is heavily emphasized, is a significant area of sociological study.

By examining societal values, advertising effects, consumption habits, and impacts on social identity, sociologists better understand consumer culture’s role in shaping societies (Baudrillard, 2016).

Case Study

Jean Baudrillard’s seminal book “The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures” (1970) examined the sociological implications of consumerism. Baudrillard critiqued excessive consumerism, highlighting its transformative impact on social structures, norms, and human identities.

22. The Study of Education Inequality

The study of education inequality constitutes the exploration of disparities in educational access, resources, and outcomes across different social groups (Reardon, 2013).

Sociologists seek to understand how social factors such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, and geographical location influence educational disparities.

Studying educational inequality aids in crafting policies for educational justice and social mobility (Renzulli, 2005).

Case Study

Prominent sociologist James Coleman’s report on “Equality of Educational Opportunity” (1966) generated substantial insights into education inequalities. Coleman revealed the significant role of family background and social context in student achievement, paving the way for important debates about educational inequality and reform.

23. The Study of Health Disparities

Health disparities refer to the differences in health outcomes and healthcare access among different population groups.

This area of sociological study highlights the role of social determinants (like economic status, education, neighborhood, and race) in health inequalities (Marmot, 2005).

Understanding health disparities can inform health policies aimed at promoting broad-spectrum societal wellbeing (Phelan & Link, 2003).

Case Study

Sir Michael Marmot’s study, the “Whitehall Studies” (1980), provided groundbreaking insights into social determinants of health. Marmot discovered the status-health gradient, linking lower socio-economic status with poorer health outcomes, thus locating health disparities at the center of social inequality.

24. The Study of Political Ideologies

Political ideologies refer to the set of beliefs about political values and the appropriate public policy that should be implemented (Freeden, 2003).

Studying political ideologies helps sociologists understand societal values, power relations, political behavior, and the deriving factors behind societal conflict or cohesion (Knight, 2006).

Case Study

The work of renowned sociologists Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan (1967), titled “Party Systems and Voter Alignments,” reflects this field’s study. They explored how historical divides in societies give rise to political ideologies, which, in turn, shape party systems and voter behavior.

25. The Study of Globalization

Globalization, defined as the integration and interaction among people, companies, and governments worldwide, is a crucial sociological field (Norris & Inglehart, 2019).

It explores how globalization impacts social institutions, cultural interactions, economic inequalities, and much else besides.

Understanding globalization enables sociologists to grasp how global processes impact local contexts and vice versa (Tomlinson, 2011).

Case Study

Roland Robertson’s influential work, “Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture” (1992), explores globalization processes. Robertson coined the term “glocalization,” which stresses the interaction of the global and the local, resulting in unique outcomes in different geographical areas.


The value of sociology cannot be overstated. It not only scrutinizes sociological circumstances but also guides policy-makers to address social problems. Realizing the importance of sociology will undoubtedly lead you, an inquisitive reader, to a more nuanced and profound understanding of the society around you (Putnam, 2015).


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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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