Sociology is the study of individuals and groups in their environments and how societies have evolved over time. Sociologist Jim Henslin explains the study of sociology as examining the social contexts in which people live. Sociologists look at how jobs, income, gender, age, race and ethnicity affect people’s behavior. Because of the broad nature of the study, choosing a sociological research topic can take you in many different directions. It’s helpful understand the basic divisions of the discipline to help make your choice.
Culture and Socialization
The study of culture and socialization involves comparing different cultures and how individuals are socialized to behave within that culture. For example, socialization is how people learn the norms and values of their society, which is dictated by the culture. Some possible research topics in this area could be: Does gender socialization of children differ between urban and rural families in the United States? This topic is broad but could be narrowed down to investigate the origins of some gendered behaviors, such as career choices or performance in school. The study of culture can be extended to social class, religion, ethnicity and politics. The sociological study of culture can also incorporate pop culture, its influences and how it affects groups and individuals. This is often a popular topic among students as it can include musical genres, subcultures, television and film. Many students choose such topics because they find they can relate to them easily.
Marriage and Family
Family sociologists study the dynamics of dating, marriage and other romantic relationships. The study of marriage and family also includes parenting styles, stepfamilies and divorce. Popular research topics in this area are marriage and communication, cohabitation (couples who live together but are not legally married) and online dating. A possible research paper topic in this area could be: How has the emergence of online dating changed the dynamic of relationships? Another possible idea could be: How do parent-child relationships differ between families with married parents versus families with cohabitating parents?
Gender and Sexuality
The sociological study of gender and sexuality usually incorporates gender identity, sexual identity and how gender roles affect individual and group behavior. Sociologists generally argue that gender is a learned, socially constructed behavior, while sexuality is biological in nature. That is, learning gender is when a female is taught which behaviors are socially acceptable for girls. Her sexual identity, however, may differ as it is considered an internal force that cannot be easily changed by behavior. Some possible topics from this area of study could be: How do gender roles dictate career choices in women today compared to the 1960s? This area of study is also extended to discussions of the experiences of homosexual, bisexual, transgender and transsexual individuals.
Race and Ethnicity
The sociological study of race and ethnicity involves discussions of diversity, global patterns of intergroup relations, minority groups and dominant groups, racial and ethnic identity and prejudice and discrimination. This area can also encompass immigration, migration and the individual and group experiences of the immigrant family. This is a broad area of study and there are a multitude of research topics that come from this division of the discipline. More popular topic choices among students are: Do interracial couples experience more adversity in rural areas than in urban areas? Or: Do racial and ethnic prejudices extend to generations who have lived through successful domestic social movements?
The study of aging is most often associated with elder care and the experiences of the elderly in social and group settings. This area also includes ageism and the portrayal of the aging individual in popular culture. Much of the discussion of the elderly includes health care as well as sexual behaviors in senior communities. Some possible research topic ideas could be: How are images of aging men portrayed in popular culture di:fferent from images of aging women? Another possible topic choice could be the examination of the relationship between baby-boomer children, their aging parents and their children.
- "Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach"; James M. Henslin, 2010
- "Sociology Now"; Michael Kimmel et al., 2008
- Photo Credit monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images
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