I do find the differences pretty amazing. I would venture that the differences are due to the social influences of each of the authors' own organizational pressures. Who is their audience? What level of sophistication can they employ? Some are descriptive and others tell the reader what sociology can do. Why the difference? Perhaps that is one activity a teacher could try in a class. Collect these and other definitions of sociology and attempt to construct a definition/explanation that accurately reflects how the teacher is going to teach the course.
My definition would look something like this (subject to changes in my mood and current reading).
Sociology is a field of study possessing tools and perspectives that allows for a user to examine all social interactions, from dyads and triads all the way to societies and planet-wide social groupings. These tools allow for description, understanding, analysis, and prediction of social behavior. A person taking a course in sociology will never be able to view the world in the same way as prior to the course. While there will be some overlaps in topics with the other social sciences, the sociological imagination enables a view of the world around us that the student/teacher to engage in the topics in a depth and complexity not offered by other fields.
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science (a term with which it is sometimes synonymous) which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity. For many sociologists the goal is to conduct research which may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, while others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro level of individual agency and interaction to the macrolevel of systems and the social structure.The traditional focuses of sociology have included social stratification, social class, culture, social mobility, religion, secularisation, law, and deviance. As all spheres of human activity are affected by the interplay between social structure and individual agency, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to further subjects, such as health, medical, military and penal institutions, the Internet, and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge.
The range of social scientific methods has also expanded. Social researchers draw upon a variety of qualitative and quantitativetechniques. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-twentieth century led to increasingly interpretative, hermeneutic, and philosophicapproaches to the analysis of society. Conversely, recent decades have seen the rise of new analytically, mathematically andcomputationally rigorous techniques, such as agent-based modelling and social network analysis. Sociology should not be confused with various general social studies courses which bear little relation to sociological theory or social science research methodology.
The American Sociological Association
- the study of society
- a social science involving the study of the social lives of people, groups, and societies
- the study of our behavior as social beings, covering everything from the analysis of short contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of global social processes
- the scientific study of social aggregations, the entities through which humans move throughout their lives'
- an overarching unification of all studies of humankind, including history, psychology, and economics
Dartmouth Sociology Department
What is Sociology?
Sociology enables us to understand the structure and dynamics of society, and their intricate connections to patterns of human behavior and individual life changes. It examines the ways in which the forms of social structure -- groups, organizations, communities, social categories (such as class, sex, age, or race), and various social institutions (such as kinship, economic, political, or religious) affect human attitudes, actions, and opportunities.
The discipline also explores how both individuals and collectivities construct, maintain, and alter social organization in various ways. Sociology asks about the sources and consequences of change in social arrangements and institutions, and about the satisfactions and difficulties of planning, accomplishing, and adapting to such change. Areas studied in examining social dynamics include: culture, values, socialization, cooperation, conflict, power, exchange, inequality, deviance, social control, violence, order and social change.
Simply put, sociology is the study of society. This study uses a lot of different methods in order to investigate the way society works and why humans do the things they do as a society. Sociology is a very broad term that covers a wide range of areas. Trying to some it up in just a few paragraphs would not be possible, but I will try to hit some of the main points.
In addition to being the study of society, sociology looks at the social lives of individual people, groups or people and entire societies. It takes a look at and studies our social behaviors, whether they be short interactions between people that don't know each other or social processes that span the entire planet. It studies social aggregations from a scientific point of view to look at the groups and social circles that people move through during the course of their lives. Mankind, psychology, history and economics are all studied and combined to get overarching results that compare to one another.
Simply put, sociology is the study of human behavior, particularly in groups. Contemporary sociology deals more with conflict orientation. The functionalism movement of sociology is now considered to be obsolete. Samples are taken from large populations and broken into subsets. The way a sample is selected is known as sampling. Samples are usually chosen at random unless there are specifics in that population for which then a strategy for selecting samples will be implemented. Other sampling methods can also be used when random sampling is not possible.
Topics in sociology are many. The range and scope of these topics can include things like culture, law, the economy, environment, education, gender and more. It's all about studying behavior in different settings, comparing people of one particular group to those of another group. For example, sociology can affect the environment in various ways. Researchers study the relation between social factors and their effects on the environment. I guess one study could investigate why people of a particular social group litter and why those in another do not. Education is also another big part of sociology. This is the study of how educational institutions play a role in social constructs. School systems usually mold people at a young age for better or for worse. Good schools usually lead to better societies while bad schools can lead to more crime in a social circle.
There are so many ways that sociology can be viewed and studied. This is why there are entire degree programs at colleges in various parts of sociology. Man has been on the planet for a very long time, and we are still trying to figure out what makes them tick. It seems that another million years will pass without anyone really knowing the full explanation of why people act and behave the way the do in certain social circumstances, especially with the way technology has changed things so recently.
A Youtube Definition taken from a Sociology DVD
The Teaching High School Sociology web site