Sociology is a branch of social sciences that uses systematic methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop and refine a body of knowledge about human social structure and activity, sometimes with the goal of applying such knowledge to the pursuit of social welfare. Its subject matter ranges from the micro level of face-to-face interaction to the macro level of societies at large.
Sociology is a broad discipline in terms of both methodology and subject matter. Its traditional focuses have included social relations, social stratification, social interaction, culture and deviance, and its approaches have included both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. As much of what humans do fits under the category of social structure or social activity, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to such far-flung subjects as the study of economic activity, health disparities, and even the role of social activity in the creation of scientific knowledge. The range of social scientific methods has also been broadly expanded. The "cultural turn" of the 1970s and 1980s brought more humanistic interpretive approaches to the study of culture in sociology. Conversely, the same decades saw the rise of new mathematically rigorous approaches, such as social network analysis.
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