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Applied Sociology

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What is Applied Sociology?

Sociological practice is a more general term for both applied and clinical sociology (Steele and Price, 2008). Steele and Price (2004) define sociological practice as “any use (often client-centered) of the sociological perspective and/or its tools in the understanding of, intervention in, and/or enhancement of human social life.”

Applied Sociology draws directly on Marx.  Most notably to his central concept of praxis.

Praxis = the value of theory lies in informing action.   Relevant and engaged social action.

Marx wanted a social science for social good.  To improve social conditions.  Not just for intellectuals to discuss ideas.

The real value of sociology – the roots of sociology – is to transform the world through informed change (praxis).  This is Applied Sociology.  Which many of us call practice.  Which is also a similar meaning for praxis.

Examples of Applied Sociology

Numerous examples of applied sociology exist.  To find some,  you could start by looking at the Journal of Applied Social Science.

You could look at the work of members of the Association of Applied and Clinical Sociology.

Applied Sociology (Look at the last 3 pieces in this issue)

Community-Based Research ( look at funded research)

How Applied Sociology Differs from Other Sociologies

Invariably, you will eventually ask “how does applied sociology differ from traditional sociology?  Or public sociology?

To answer these questions, I would focus on issues concerning the (1) goals of the research and the scientist and the source of the research question/project, (2) role of researcher, students, and community, (3) tools used (theory, methods, time, money), and (4) dissemination strategies-processes-outcomes of the work (see Exhibit 1.1, A Comparison of Traditional Academic Research and Community-Based Research, Chapter 1, Strand, Cutforth, Stoecker, Marullo, and Donohue, 2003).

Much of this discussion is ACADEMIC.   Just highlighting distinctions that often do not exist empirically.  Only in theory.   For example, if you look at what applied sociologists DO and what public sociologists DO there is much overlap.

Examples of Public Sociology

Public Sociology and Applied Sociology is SO similar in practice that the two leading groups representing them in the American Sociological Association merged:   Section on Sociological Practice and Public Sociology

However, there is not usually much overlap in how applied sociologists and traditional sociologists go about addressing a similar issue.

Examples of Traditional Sociology

Applied sociologists ask “What did you DO?”  How is it relevant?  With whom did you engage? How and when does it help? And they usually write for different audiences.


In the end, it is all about Praxis — whether that is your goal or not.



Strand, Kerry J., Nicholas Cutforth, Randy Stoecker, Sam Marullo and Patrick Donohue, 2003.  Community-Based Research and Higher Education: Principles and Practices. Josey-Bass.

Steele, Stephen F. and Jammie Price.  Applied Sociology: Terms, Topics, Tools and Tasks.  First and Second Edition, 2004 and 2008. Thomson Wadsworth.


Written by jammie

May 10, 2014 at 2:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized