How to Write a Sociological Analysis

Sociologists explain how people work and live together in groups.
... rafal_olechowski/iStock/Getty Images

Sociological analysis papers are unique because you cannot make interpretations on your own. You must apply a sociological theory like Functionalism, Conflict Theory or Symbolic Interactionism to the subject and show how that theory explains the topic.

1 Choose a Theory

Unless your professor requires you to use a particular theory, choose one that speaks to you. As defined by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Functionalism describes how the pieces of society work together for the good of the whole, Conflict Theory states that society is a struggle between the oppressors and the oppressed, and Symbolic Interactionism shows that society is constructed from people’s behavior in groups and by people's interpretations. A strong sociological analysis applies a specific theory to show something new and different about social life. You might use Marx’s theory on capitalism from Conflict Theory, for example.

2 Focus on a Topic

Decide what social situation to analyze. Your professor may have a specific requirement, like a particular movie, or you may analyze part of your personal history or a social problem. The problem could be something from the news or a problem you experience yourself. For instance, you might discuss the minimum wage after your experiences with your last summer job and because you are curious about how Marx would explain it. However, avoid thinking about the problem in purely personal terms; apply the theory and stay within that framework.

3 Develop the Argument

Go through your course resources to find pieces of the theory that apply to your topic. You could take the basic framework of the theory or find a specific point to use. Examine the causes or effects of your subject and decide whether to apply the subject to society as a whole, using macrosociology, or to the immediate group, using microsociology. To describe the minimum wage using Marx, for example, you may use his maxim that those who control resources seek to maintain that control by limiting others’ access, such as when a store owner feels it necessary to maintain profits by minimizing payroll.

4 Use Empirical Evidence

Use evidence from your experience or your sources to prove your points. The University of Berkeley advises to only include the important details that prove your point. For example, you may apply Marx’s theory specifically to the incident last June when you did not get enough hours to pay your rent while your boss was able to buy a vacation cottage with a bonus she got for keeping costs low. You could write about how your boss’s power ensured her ability to use more resources while your lack of power prevented you from having similar access, and how that conflict made you want to get out of your position.

Residing in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Buddy Shay has been in higher education since 2003 with experience in the classroom and in academic support. He holds a Master of Arts in English. Shay is also a certified practitioner of the MBTI personality instrument and has previous experience working with secondary students.