Sociology Research Areas

Graduate student

The department has a long-standing tradition of engaging and valuing theoretically driven empirical research. This approach to sociology uses sophisticated theoretical reasoning and rigorous methodological tools, many of which are developed by Cornell faculty, to answer fundamental questions about the social world, how it is organized and how it is changing.

In addition to the research areas below, the department also hosts several unique research hubs and institutes on campus. These include:

Center for the Study of Inequality

Center for the Study of Economy and Society

Social Dynamics Lab

Community and Urban Sociology

Community and urban sociology are foundational topics in sociology. The shift from rural to urban society is one of the largest and most profound shifts in the history of society.

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Computational Social Science

With the rapid increase in the availability and use of computers, and their capacity to process information rapidly, the value of knowledge associated with computational resources has increased substantially. T

Read more about Computational Social Science


Sociology overlaps with other social sciences (like anthropology) considerably. Students who take the culture of area will be expected to understand the relationships between social and other approaches (e.g., anthropological) to understanding culture.

Read more about Culture

Economy and Society

Economic sociology analyzes economic phenomena such as markets, corporations, property rights, and work using the tools of sociology.

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A student who specializes in the area of gender must demonstrate special knowledge of how biological sex and gender shape individuals’ identities, how they shape experiences in everyday social life, individuals’ experiences with major social institutions, and also, therefore, important life outcomes such as family, career, and health.

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Inequality and Social Stratification

Sociologists of inequality study the distribution of income, wealth, education, health and longevity, autonomy, status, prestige, political power, or other desired social goods, often (though not exclusively) across groups defined by social classes and occupations, race, gender, immigrant status, age, or sexual orientation.

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Sociologists approach their objects of study in a number of ways.

Read more about Methodology

Organizations, Work and Occupations

Like families, organizations are important social institutions. This area is designed to increase students’ knowledge and mastery of a range of organizations, including business firms, non-profit organizations, and government bodies.

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Policy Analysis

Sociology is increasingly linked to issues of social policy. This includes public policy, health policy and related domains.

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Political Sociology and Social Movements

This is a long-standing focus of the field of sociology at Cornell. The realm of political action is an important domain for understanding social structure at the national and local levels.

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Race, Ethnicity and Immigration

Students who specialize in this area focus on the role of the individual statuses of race/ethnicity and the experience of immigration (e.g., rates of in- vs out-migration)

Read more about Race, Ethnicity and Immigration

Science, Technology and Medicine

Like the sociology of health and illness, students to take this area are usually interested in concepts associated with health and medicine.

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Social Demography

Demographers in the field of sociology carry out research on varied aspects of population composition, distribution, and change.

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Social Networks

Social network analysis is a way of conceptualizing, describing, and modeling society as sets of people or groups linked to one another by specific relationships, whether these relationships are as tangible as exchange networks or as intangible as perceptions of each other.

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Social Psychology

Social psychologists study how behaviors and beliefs are shaped by the social context in which people are embedded.

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Sociology of Education

The sociology of education is an important topic for understanding individuals’ outcomes with respect to things like occupation and labor market status

Read more about Sociology of Education

Sociology of Family

Family research in the field of sociology addresses patterns of change and variation in family behaviors and household relationships by social class, race/ethnicity, and gender.

Read more about Sociology of Family

Sociology of Health and Illness

There is increasing recognition (including within the field of medicine) that health and illness are a function of social factors (e.g., inequality).

Read more about Sociology of Health and Illness