Undergraduate Program

What is Sociology?

Sociologists study the ways that social structures and interactions shape human life. We seek to understand the full range of social institutions and practices, from couples and small groups, to social organizations such as businesses and government agencies, to communities, cities, and nations.

Our methods of research are diverse, ranging from the quantitative analysis of large surveys to qualitative approaches such as in-depth interviewing, participant observation, and historical investigation. Indeed, diversity in its subject matter and its methods of research is one of sociology's most distinguishing features. Because sociologists study social interaction in a broad array of contexts, we use whatever method is appropriate for the particular question being posed.

Sociological ideas and methods are used by policy makers, political analysts, and social critics. Many of our concepts have become a part of our common culture and everyday language. Concepts such as "the self-fulfilling prophecy," "conspicuous consumption," "WASP," "social mobility," "modernization," and "in-groups" and "out-groups" were all originally coined by sociologists.

Similarly, sociologists were studying important topics such as social inequality, race relations, gender discrimination, and sexual diversity long before these became issues of concern among policy makers and in popular culture. Many modern research techniques, such as polling and survey design, were also pioneered by sociologists.

NYU's Department of Sociology reflects the diversity of our discipline. The faculty includes experts in a wide range of subjects, including crime, law, and deviance; sex, gender, and the family; organizations, occupations, and work; immigration; justice; science, politics, social protest, and social policy; power and inequality in modern societies; welfare, culture, and education;and social theory. The faculty also uses a wide variety of qualitative and quantitative techniques in conducting research.

Whether the goal is to become an informed citizen, an expert in the social sciences, or a socially active trailblazer, we offer the tools and knowledge to help students make sense of the world around them. Those planning a professional career or graduate study in sociology or another social science will find a wide range of useful and interesting courses. Students preparing for careers in law, social service, health, public administration, and other professional areas can choose from many relevant substantive courses. Those interested in social research and policy making will benefit from courses that teach practical skills of data gathering and analysis. In all of these courses, we encourage students to study issues from a variety of perspectives.