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Sociologists study groups of people.They engage in research to learn about the dynamics of groups of different sizes, composition and origin. They gather data on interactions among the group's members and those outside the group. They work in a variety of industries, including marketing and academia, which shapes the specific questions they want to ask.
Sociologists may ask questions about the behavior of individual group members. For example, they may ask what causes the young people in this particular group to act differently than the older members?” They may also want to know how the larger group’s behavior affects individuals’ behavior. They also research how individuals’ behavior affects the larger groups’ attitudes and behavior. They consider the behavior of individuals in groups towards each other, too. Another area of questioning sociologists regularly consider is how the wider society affects a group and vice versa.
Sociologists tend to specialize in one particular group of people or area of inquiry. For example, they may want to know about the differences in behavior among professional groups in the city versus in the country. They may specialize in medical sociology or business sociology. They may research political, religious or ethnic groups as well.
Sociologists also want to know where groups come from. They may ask about the origins of the particular group. They ask how did outside influences affect its beginnings. They also trace the life cycles of groups, analyzing how they came into being and how they dissolved over time. They may ask how group members chose their leaders and how people within the group organized themselves into smaller groups.
The ultimate goal of sociologists is to find why groups of people act the way they do. They want to discover laws that explain social behavior among human beings. It may take years of studies among different groups of people to establish these general laws. Wherever groups of people are, sociologists want to know how they got there, how they work, how they end, how they interact with other groups, how groups affect each other and what lessons about human social behavior can be learned from these groups.
Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.