The five main types of applied sociology are as follows: (1) Clinical Sociology (2) Social Engineering (3) Social Work (4) Applied Social Research (5) Action Sociology.

(1) Clinical Sociology:

It refers to the use of sociological knowledge in providing assistance to individuals and organisations. This term, analogous to clinical psychology, was introduced in 1931 by Chicago sociologist Louis Wirth for the work of sociologists employed in clinical settings alongside social workers, psycholo­gists, and psychiatrists. Clinical sociology involves the use of sociological knowledge to aid diagnosis, treatment, teaching and research. A clinical sociologist may study the ways of improving employee morale.

(2) Social Engineering:

It attempts to use sociological knowledge to design social policies or institutions with a specific purpose. It refers to planned social change and social development. The planned improvement of society is practically impossible without the scientific knowledge provided by sociology.

Social engineering involves the intelligent application of sociological knowledge. It is based on the idea that governments can shape and manage key features of society, in much the same way as the economy is managed.


For example, the extent of women’s employment is clearly determined in part by government policy to promote to impede women’s paid work. For doing such works, applied sociologists use social indicators and social trend reports. Every family, school, club, business and local bodies recognises and pursues its goal. This is nothing more or less than social engineering.

(3) Social Work:

Though it is a distinct discipline, it is considered as applied aspect of sociology. Social work is the field in which the principles of the social sciences, especially sociology, are applied to actual social problems in the same way the principles of physi­ology are applied in medicine or the principles of economics are applied in business management. A social worker might, for example, use information obtained from family research to try to place children in foster homes or to establish centres of spouse abuse.

The term ‘social work’ is applied to the various organised methods for promoting human welfare through the prevention and relief of suffering. In the late nineteenth century, social work was largely voluntary (notably as a charitable activity).

Since the Second World War, social work practice has become increasingly professionalised. In India, many institutions of social work training and education were established, notable among them is the renowned Tata Institute of Social Work, Mumbai. Many state governments have also started such institu­tions on its pattern. These institutions have the aim to train people to step out into society and to assist in the solution of its immediate problems.

(4) Applied Social Research:


It is similar in many respects to the basic/pure research conducted in universities and colleges. At one end of the continuum of social research would be the disci­plines involved in research, not to solve a specific problem, but simply to increase our understanding of the social world. Such researches are known as pure/basic research. At the other end of the continuum would be the disciplines that use knowledge to solve actual problems, these researches are called applied social research.

Social workers devise their own research methods and techniques to help people solve personal and group problems, and the resulting applications contribute to our existing body of knowledge. Applied social research may take the form of descriptive research, survey research, analytical or evaluation research such as systematic attempts to estimate the potential effects of a proposed social programme or effects of planned change or a new approach to management in a business firms.

(5) Action Sociology:

Action sociology is also a form of applied sociology in which sociologist is asked to participate in the development process and tackle vital social problems actively. It is directly concerned with the solutions of the social problems. It requires the involvement of the sociologist in all stages of devel­opment or the solutions of the problem.

This means not only to find out the roots of the social problem and suggest it remedy but to associate ourselves in the diagnosis of the problem, planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation of the programme designed to solve the problem. In India, a fine example of this approach (action sociology) we find in the project of Sulabh International started by a sociologist Bindeshwar Pathak.


Action sociology/action research places emphasis on the sociol­ogist not only to work as a researcher but to assume the role of a change agent also. Such change agents are often used in local communities, local bodies or in companies as consultants. They work as part of the change process itself. This view was supported by Herbert Gans (Urban Poverty and Social Planning, 1967).

He wrote: “I believe that the sociologist ought to be more than a detached researcher and he should participate more directly in social action programmes. The sociologist can help to develop the means necessary to achieve the goals, i.e., by participating in the devel­opment of programmes of action. It is here that he can perhaps make his most useful contribution.”

Currently, there is a strong trend toward action sociology. Indeed, radical sociologists maintain that radical sociology is a sociology of engagement. Recently, French sociologist Alain Touraine (1960) developed a radical new theoretical framework known as actionalism. He claimed that the sociologist is an agent of change, not a neutral observer.

He has a stake in the conflicts of his or her society. As such he or she should play the role of a ‘sociological interven­tionist’ in which he/she should study social change movements by participating in them directly. This actionalist sociology, Touraine believed, will “replace a sociology of society with a sociology of actors”.