Michigan State University

Collection Development Policy Statement: Sociology

Date Drafted: May 1991 Revised: 2003, March 2005 SN, December 2010 HM, January 2015 HM

Purpose or Scope of Collection

A. Curricular/Research/Programmatic Needs

Sociology is the scientific study of societies and human social behavior.  Much of sociological writing and research is interdisciplinary.  In particular, the disciplines of psychology, demography, science (including environmental studies), and medicine will be readily intertwined in sociological research.

The purpose of this collection is to support the identified curricular and research needs of the Department of Sociology at Michigan State University and secondarily to broadly support interdisciplinary endeavors in teaching and research that draw upon sociological thought—this specifically includes family studies instruction and research in the MSU Department of Human Development & Family Studies.  The sociology collection supports the curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  The graduate program in sociology emphasizes the doctoral degree and does not admit applicants for only the MA degree. 

The Department of Sociology is part of the College of Social Science and the interdisciplinary nature of sociology is indicated by departmental ties with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, and Education as well as faculty connections with research institutes and centers in area studies, international development, ethnic and regional studies, environmental science, and food safety and environmental toxicology. The MSU Sociology program has a particularly large concentration of faculty engaged with research around environmental issues, including much interdisciplinary collaboration.  Family studies programs in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies are also served by sociological resources in the area of family and gender. Affiliated centers include the African Atlantic Research Team, Center for the Study of Standards in Society, and the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments.

The Department of Sociology has a departmental theme of Global Transformations, which acknowledges a diverse global society: “Sociology has research, teaching and service that focus on the challenges of global understanding of social, political and cultural differences and how a global context accounts for social processes, change, and inequality both locally and abroad.”  Within this theme, there are five focus areas of study for teaching and research:

  1. Community and urban studies. Focus is on deindustrialized legacy urban environments, rural Michigan and Great Lakes states communities, and international globalization and development issues (particularly in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East). Links between community and urban development and environment, agriculture and food systems are also an area of emphasis.
  2. Environment. The study of human-environment interactions is a strong area of scholarship for sociology at MSU. This includes issues such as climate change, agriculture and food systems, animal studies (human-animal interactions), and water resources. Also of interest is the social psychology of environmental related public opinion. The study of how science and technology mediate the relationship between humans and the environment is another area of emphasis within this focus.
  3. Family. Focus within this core social institution is on well-being and development over the life course: gender, health, minority families, impacts of social change, social inequality, LGBT families, marriage/cohabitation/divorce, migration, religion, and work-family conflict.
  4. Health and Medicine. Study of the social organization of health care and social context context of health, illness, and health care. This includes health related attitudes and behaviors, social epidemiology, and the demography of aging. Also focuses on political, economic, and environmental health threats and social forces impacting the health care system. Sociology of the body, doctor-patient communication, and food safety are a few other specific areas.
  5. Migration. Includes migration, transnationalism, and diaspora; the transference of ideologies, identities, social, economic, etc. traits and practices. Some particular areas of focus include the African Diaspora, demography, environment, gender, health, migrant entrepreneurship, integration, race and refugees.

In addition to theoretical approaches, research in sociology is marked by a strong empirical tradition based on quantitative studies.  This is evident in the Department of Sociology in the Principles of the Undergraduate Sociology Program at MSU which states that students must be engaged in “doing sociology” by using and interpreting quantitative data as well as critical analysis of sociological theory.  At the graduate level, students complete a Second Year Research Paper which must be data based. Research methodologies employed by the Department are both qualitative and quantitative and may be at the individual, local, regional, national, and global levels. Sociological research methods produce a variety of data types as indicated by diverse approaches including visual analysis, historical analysis, content analysis, ethnography (e.g., qualitative field research, interviews, and observations), demography, census analysis, survey research. Sociologists may use secondary data from official government statistics, administrative data, large social surveys, and documentary research. 

Data are primarily published through summaries of research in the journal literature. Generally only large-scale survey data are published through government agencies and/or the ICPSR data archive. Many sociological research data deal with human subjects and may not be publishable due to confidentiality and privacy concerns. Some restricted access data-sets are available through data archives via an application process, or else sharing of data through building trusted research relationships and collaborations with institutions or individual researchers may yield data access. Calls for data sharing and replication-based sociology have appeared in the scholarly literature, particularly as many sociologists do rely on secondary data from survey research.

Michigan State University