What is Applied Sociology?

Applied Sociology is a branch of general sociology which at its basis is the scientific study of society as a whole. Sociology looks at society from every angle making observations on how we interact within society, how cultures affect each other and the individual, global issues and more. Sociology is part of the social sciences that aims at answering questions as to why and how we group together to form societies as well as the individual's roles within society.

Sociology as an observational study has been around since approximately 400 BCE during the time of the Greeks. In fact the word sociology comes from the Latin word socius – meaning “companion” and the Greek word –logos – meaning knowledge. It’s no coincidence that during this time, the height of Greek society, is when philosophers began recognizing the need for understanding how people work together as a whole so that we can try to work as a society more efficiently.

Applied sociology is one of the more than a dozen fields within sociology. Applied sociology is what has been deemed the “practical side” of sociology. That’s because applied sociology takes sociological theories and research and applies this knowledge to sociological methods which are carried out in order to find solutions to problems within society. This use of sociological theories and methods is called sociological practice.

At one time sociology wasn’t as present in our own culture. In the 20th century sociology saw changes as people began to question the value of the science. Sociology has roots in theory which was regarded as less exact than other sciences and therefore possibly less useful. So, sociologist began using methods of research and applications that were more quantitative to validate their findings. Using these scientific methods is called positivism.

Using qualitative and quantitative research methods led to a resurgence in the science as sociologists began developing new methods for studying society and actual ways to apply the science. As people began to realize its usefulness on local and national levels they found there was an even greater importance for applied sociology.

Due to economic factors as well as increasing forms of communication globalization is now a topic of interest. Applied sociology is now being used to analyze society and its interactions on a global level, which includes online communities. It addresses solutions to questions about political power on a global level, how economics and trade affect societies around the world, how globalization is changing structures of societies and more.

Today applied sociologists play an important role in our country and even the world’s development. As societies begin, grow and merge sociologists are reading into every aspect and analyzing where there are problems and applying tested methods to ease those problems. Applied sociologists work in every level of government; local, state and national. These scientists work every day to create a more functional society that serves all the people equally. They also work for community organizations, public administration and even businesses to solve problems of social organizations within smaller environments. Another role of sociologists today is to work with financial companies such as those who issue credit cards and internet companies such as social media websites to understand user behavior and make for a better experience.

This same analysis and application of corrective methods can be applied by people in many aspects of their lives. By taking a deeper look at a problem, understanding how elements are interrelated to create the problem and knowing different ways in which we can approach the situation we have a better chance at alleviating the problem.