Research paper topics: History of sociology

Sociology is the study of human social behavior, and since its development as a formal field of study, it has gone through significant changes in outlook. From early sociologists like Herbert Spencer, who promoted the idea of social Darwinism, and Karl Marx, who viewed sociology through the economy, to the modern founders of sociology Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, to current theorists like George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer, who started applying symbolic interactionism, and proponents of Marxist inspired conflict theory, there are many aspects of the history of sociology to cover.

Can you identify these notable sociology experts? (Credit:

Can you identify these notable sociology experts? (Credit:

If you are looking for term paper topics that will help you explore the history of sociology, consider pursuing the topic using tools at Questia to get started.

Start from the topic of sociology

Questia has a topic section on the history of sociology, in which it points out that sociology developed as a field in the 19th century, “when the concept of society was finally separated from that of the state.” The term was coined in 1838. In the timeline of the evolution of sociology, the Questia article lists these sociologists as notable points:

  • Herbert Spencer published Principles of Sociology between 1876 and 1896, applying the biological discoveries of Charles Darwin to human interactions.
  • Karl Marx’s treatises on the economy applied the ideas of an economic system creating a system for human interaction.
  • Modern sociology founder Emile Durkheim began applying empirical evidence and statistics to sociology.
  • Max Weber wrote on social systems and their relationship with belief systems.

The article also notes that the three dominant theoretical approaches to sociology in 20th century thought are:

  • Conflict theory, which discusses conflict as an impulse toward social change.
  • Structural-functional theory, which presents the idea that large social systems move toward stasis, or steady states.
  • Symbolic interactionism, which deals with subjective perceptions and how those impact communication.

If you’re at a loss on where to start with your sociology paper, you can try out Questia’s Topic idea generator, which has a sociology and anthropology filter.

Modern news on symbolic interactionism

If you are primarily interested in the more modern theories of sociology, you can begin to search based on the approach that primarily interests you, either in Questia or in a news search engine. For example, you can pursue how modern sociologists are applying symbolic interactionism to health and education.

In The Edvocate, an education advocacy website, Matthew Lynch explored “Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ Campaign and the Benefits of Play-Therapy,” posted November 14, 2016. Lynch discussed the way that children learn to communicate and interact through play. “Symbolic interaction occurs through play by conveying messages children are unable or unwilling to say,” he explained. “Less harmful behaviors like ‘acting out’ or refusing to take part in activities are met with small-scale steps to help a child feel in control.”

While the article deals primarily with the experience of children, Lynch noted that symbolic language has applications with adults as well, and that role-play scenarios have practical application beyond childhood education. Donna McCrary, David L. Brown and Jennifer Dyer-Sennette also work with play and symbolic interactionism in their “Using Ecological Assessment to Reduce Aggressive Behaviors in Young Children with Behavior Problems,” published in Education, spring 2016.

Symbolic interactionism has also been used to explore:

For more about the history of sociology, visit Questia.

What school of sociological interpretation most appeals to you? What do you know about its history? Tell us in the comments.

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