Sociology, when painted with a broad brush, is the study of human behavior, of what motivates us to make decisions. This social science is grounded in enormous amounts of research. There are numerous sub-disciplines within the industry; however, the resources listed here are general and apply to the sociology field as a whole. Check out each of these links to gain an understanding of a sociologist’s work.
Becoming a member of a professional association is a good career move in any industry. These organizations exist to bring together working individuals (and in many cases, students) to generate larger conversations about the industry. Sociology is an enormous field with numerous subspecialties; there are larger associations that cater to the industry as a whole, and smaller ones comprised of practitioners who specialize in a particular patient population. Read on to learn of a few.
- American Sociological Association (ASA): As the top professional organization for U.S. sociologists, the ASA offers its members a number of benefits. Over 13,000 sociologists advance their careers by participating in 52 special-interest sections, attending the annual national conference, serving on one of its award selection or public policy committees, or perusing the latest research in the field.
- International Sociological Association (ISA): This international organization draws together practicing sociologists from all over the globe. The ISA provides networking opportunities and continuing education, as well as facilitating original research when possible. Members may also access a jobs board or read up on the latest research through the ISA’s many publications.
- Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP): The SSSP was organized with young sociological scholars in mind, and serves to primarily support original research efforts. Members network at an annual meeting and may receive awards or scholarships granted by the SSSP. Over 20 smaller common-interest groups exist, each of which has its own newsletter and activities.
- The International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA): Recognizing that the study of social sciences benefits greatly from visual aids like photography, film, journalism or art, IVSA’s membership is comprised of practitioners in visual arts and sociologists. Bringing these groups of professionals together can lead to important documentary research, new interpretations of data, and an understanding of the social impact that media has.
Open courseware is a relatively new option for potential students of any industry. These courses, sometimes referred to as massive open online courses (MOOCs), are self-driven online classes that generally mimic traditional curricula at elite universities. Since sociology is such a broad science, a large amount of open courseware exists. Students may participate in undergraduate-level overview courses and graduate-level courses that hone in on a specialty population, and anything in between.
- Foundations of Modern Social Theory: Prestigious Yale University hosts this undergraduate course, led by Professor Ivan Szelenyi. Theory in sociology abounds; this class familiarizes students with the major schools of thinking. Lecture topics include Marx’s Theory of Class and Exploitation, Freud on Sexuality and Civilization, and Montesquieu on Division of Power, among many others.
- Understanding Societies: Jessica Collett at the University of Notre Dame designed this undergraduate course. Class participants explore human behavior in the context of a wider social web, taking theory and its practical application into account. Classes focus on such topics as research methods, culture, deviance, impressions and more.
- Urban Sociology in Theory and Practice: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hosts this graduate-level course taught by Professor Diane Davis. This course is a literature review of published research on urban sociology. Lectures may cover urban ethnography, globalization, social networks, new technology, or political economy.
- The Uses of Social Science: This free course offered by The Open University is an undergraduate course that examines the practical applications of social science. Typical day-in-the-life scenarios to which sociology can be applied may be earning a living, acquiring and keeping employment, finding one’s home within a community (both figuratively and literally), or advocating for change. Students in this class learn to apply sociological theory to each behavior.
- International Sociology: The University of California at Irvine offers this free online course, authored by David Frank. In acknowledgement of the increasingly global society in which we all live, this course weighs the impact of globalization on individual societies. Lectures cover global trade and economy, the influence of ethnicity, and global human rights, among others.
Open Access Journals
Open-access journals are industry publications that are available at no extra subscription cost. Sometimes these are a perk of membership within a professional association and sometimes not; either way, they are presented in order to support and generate discussion around scholarly research in a given field. These journals are often peer-reviewed, which means they have been held to a strict standard of research, design, implementation and analysis. Below you’ll find a sampling of journals, open access or otherwise, available to sociology professionals.
- Journal of Social Work Education: This peer-reviewed journal is published by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which accredits undergraduate and graduate degree programs in sociology. This journal, free to CSWE member organizations, publishes four times per year. Recent articles have explored education in the field, distance education, and the need for trauma training in typical curricula.
- Sociopedia.isa: Sociopedia is an online journal published by the International Sociology Association. Founded in 2010, this peer-reviewed journal provides readers with up-to-date reviews of literature in the field. Past articles have covered agrarian reform, cultural globalization, alternative food networks, and political sociology, to name just a few.
- Critical Sociology: This online journal has been published in one form or another since 1969. Currently an open-access publication, its contents explore the radical edges of social science. Recent articles discuss the methodologies to determine racism, the migrant rights movement, and the role of women in current-day China, for example.
- Social Problems: This publication, available online to all SSSP members, brings new and important research in sociology to light. Recent journal submissions have included discussions about financial need during a recession, the growing atheist movement in the U.S., urban violence, and the role of gangs in Hispanic culture.
- The Socjournal: A New Media Journal of Sociology and Society: By acknowledging that the typical route to publishing new research can be tedious, this publication aims to take advantage of media to bring information to its readership quickly. Regular columnists, blogs, reports and reviews provide coverage of current news in sociology. Recent discussions included Stephen Hawking’s thoughts on God, Darwin and the Aesthetics of Survival, and the NRA’s position in gun debate.
Sometimes books are aimed at helping professionals in an industry to be the best they can be; often an interesting book can also serve as a window into a particular profession. Read on for just a sampling of the books applicable to sociology professionals.
- Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything: Authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner penned this unconventional, extremely popular book. Taking a different approach than that of traditional social sciences, this book ties economics together with the sociological underpinnings that make human beings tick.
- Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Author Jared Diamond believes that there is much to be learned from history and the societies that came before us. As he explores historical collapsed societies, Diamond weaves unnerving parallels to patterns prevalent in society today.
- The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women: Feminist author Naomi Wolf wrote this award-winning book about societal limitations that are placed upon women. Claiming that our culture is overly fixated on physical beauty, Wolf writes of her own struggle to meet these unrealistic ideals while attempting to be taken seriously by colleagues.
- Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason: French philosopher Michel Foucault, beginning in the Middle Ages, explores a fundamental sociological question: What does it mean to be insane? This book examines changing definitions over time, as well as how different societies ostracized those deemed to be crazy.
- When Religion Becomes Evil: Five Warning Signs: A top seller in the religious books market when it was published in 2002, this book breaks down the vulnerable areas of any established religion. While corruption is always a danger in organized faiths, some characteristics in particular may point to evil deeds like the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11th.
- The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge: Co-authors Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann penned this classic sociology text in 1966. In it, the concept of knowledge is broadened to include ideology, art, science, propaganda and false consciousness. When knowledge is deconstructed into disparate parts, it may be easier to see how society colors our perceptions of life.
- A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present: Approaching our nation’s history with a sociological bent, author Howard Zinn peers at it through the lens of its minorities. The stories of immigrants, the working poor, Native Americans, black citizens, factory workers, women and the poor are woven into a narrative that illustrates U.S. history from a new angle.
Online Industry Magazines
Industry magazines differ from academic journals in that they publish more popular information, such as current events and breaking news; research in its purest form is left to journals. Working professionals in any industry stand to gain insider knowledge about the profession, and in a field as broadly defined as sociology, there are multiple trade publications from which to choose.
- contexts: This magazine is available to members of the general public who have an interest in sociology. Published 4 times per year by the American Sociological Association, each issue contains articles about new research, podcasts, literature reviews and more.
- Ideas and Discoveries: While this magazine covers new developments in all of the sciences, it leans most heavily on social science. Published bi-monthly in print and up-to-date online, Ideas and Discoveries offers feature articles, quizzes, polls and space for readers to engage. Recent article subjects included the energy required to hatch from an egg, weird animals, the Freemasons organization, wild boars, and much more.
- Cybersociology: While only in publication from 1997 to 1999, the articles in this publication may be of interest to aspiring sociologists. Intended to be a multidisciplinary examination of the Internet and online society, the content is forward-thinking given that it was written in the early days of the Internet. Article titles include”Cybersex and Cyberromance”,”Virtual Communities” and”Grassroots Political Activism”.
Blogs offer readers a truly unique glimpse into the lives of working professionals in a particular industry. Check out a number of sites below for some differing viewpoints on sociology.
- Everyday Sociology: A group of sociologists from all over the U.S. contribute articles to this blog, which is updated regularly. Geared primarily for students and educators, this blog applies a sociologist’s spin to current events and news items.
- Consider the Evidence: Blogger Lane Kenworthy writes about social democracy in America, income inequality, overcrowded prisons, and the tax code, among other topics of interest to U.S. sociologists and casual readers. The author is a professor of sociology and political science at the University of Arizona.
- Creative Sociology: Todd Schoepflin, sociology professor at Niagara University, has blogged since 2008 about sociology in everyday pop culture. Articles have discussed sociology in the context of creative media, such as music, art, poetry or lyrics; the sociological influence of major figures in our society is also discussed.
- Racism Review: This blog examines incidences of racism in our culture and explores scholarship and activism that work to bring about racial justice. Produced and maintained by two sociology professors, this content is intended to be an unbiased, accurate information source for journalists or academics studying racism in America.
Who to Follow on Twitter
Following the Twitter feeds of other professionals in one’s industry can be a quick way to get 140-character snippets of news and trending topics. Most professional associations and entities within a profession have an official Twitter account, as do practitioners in that particular field. Also, many Twitter handles link out to other reading material germane to a particular specialty. This resource can be a useful way to get a quick read on what others in your industry are talking about.
- Scoiologists Say: News, research and current events in sociology, provided by industry professionals. Sometimes covers controversial topics, but always is accurate and backed by theory.
- Sociology at Work An Australian non-profit organization maintains this account, which tweets about applied sociological principles.
- Gabriel Rossman: A frequent Tweeter, Rossman shares industry news that is primarily focused around economic sociology. Regularly engages in dialog with other sociology professionals on Twitter.
- Gwen Sharp: An assistant professor of sociology at Nevada State College tweets regularly about sociological issues of note, humor, and current events.
- Marc Smith: Director of the Social Media Research Foundation Marc Smith tweets about popular culture, industry news and original research.