Sociology as Science

The definition of sociology uses the phrase “scientific study.” Many people do not consider the social or soft sciences—such as sociology and psychology—to be “true” or hard sciences—such as chemistry and physics. Whereas inherent differences exist between the soft and hard sciences, the same fundamental principles of scientific inquiry apply. The word science comes from the Latin scire meaning “to know,” and for centuries “science” referred to virtually any academic discipline, including theology, languages, and literature. Only in the last hundred years or so has science come to mean a field of study that relies on specific research values and methods. (Remember that Emile Durkheim in the late 19th century was the first sociologist to use the scientific method.) Thus, whether or not a particular discipline like sociology is a science depends more on the methods used than on the particular subject area studied.