Department of Sociology Research

Washington State Sociology Research Clusters

Crime and Deviance, Social Control, and Social Justice

The problem of balancing social control and social justice is central to society and to sociology. Our core faculty in the area of crime and deviance, social control, and social justice addresses key sociological questions: (1) What are a society’s norms and how do these come into being? (2) When and why do people deviate from society’s informal and formal norms of behavior? (3) What are the societal reactions and social control measures invoked in response to collective or individual deviations? and (4) Are the mechanisms of social control evenly applied across the social spectrum and are the intended and unintended consequences of social control efforts just and equitable? Read more about the Crime and Deviance, Social Control, and Social Justice research cluster.


Environment and Politics

All societies are simultaneously organized social systems and complex ecosystems. Questions regarding the causes and consequences of social and ecological stability, change, rift, and inequality are at the heart of public debates regarding the coupling of human and ecological systems. These questions are, fundamentally, about the extent to which our social, political, economic, and technoscientific arrangements promote social and environmental sustainability and justice. Our core and affiliated faculty working in this research cluster confront these and related research questions. They are also building upon a foundation established by early and prominent WSU sociologists and coalesce around the areas of environmental sociology, political sociology, and social movements. Our graduate students in this research cluster lead workshops and a biannual research conference through the interdisciplinary graduate student group, EARThS: Environment, Agriculture, Resources, Technology, and Society. Read more about the Environment and Politics research cluster.


Families and the Life Course

The sociological study of families and the life course is concerned with fundamental questions about the reproduction of societies. Our prominent and core faculty members in this area emphasizes two qualities essential in understanding complex family and life course processes.  First, they take a long-term rather than snapshot view, with attention to how lives play out over time.  Second, they take a comparative view, leveraging cross-national and historical differences to understand the political, economic, and other social factors producing patterns of behavior and change in people’s lives. Read more about the Families and the Life Course research cluster.


Research Methods

The challenging sociological questions pursued by our faculty necessitate scientific methods and analytical techniques that attend to the connections between individuals, the social structures in which they are embedded, and the physical/environmental structures in which they live. One of the strengths of the WSU Sociology Department is its expertise in diverse research methods, including experiments, qualitative approaches, network analysis, spatial analysis, and a variety of statistical techniques. Our core faculty working in this research cluster draw on these diverse methods in their innovative research programs. They also regularly offer graduate and undergraduate courses that provide our students unique opportunities to develop their own expertise in one or more research methodologies. Read more about the Research Methods research cluster.


Social Inequalities

Sociology is centrally concerned with the causes and consequences of social inequality. Our core faculty working in this area theorizes and analyzes social inequality across a variety of contexts that are of scholarly interest and practical import to contemporary public debates: educational attainment, wage inequality, workplace diversity, social mobility, poverty, environmental injustice and inequality, marriage, racial profiling, crime, and political mobilization.   Read more about the Social Inequalities research cluster.


Work, Organizations, and Labor Markets

Work- whether paid or unpaid – is a fundamental feature of a person’s life. Because work and employment are central to racial, gendered and class inequality, this field of study goes to the heart of public concerns, civic engagement and social justice.  Because of its relevance to the lives of Americans, the topic of work is at the forefront of what the discipline of sociology views as important. Our core faculty in the Work, Organizations, and Labor Markets area are nationally recognized scholars who address paid work and other types of work, namely volunteer work, and the organizational and labor market context where paid and volunteer work occur. Read more about the Work, Organizations, and Labor Markets research cluster.