Sociology Dissertation Topics

Contemporary Social Issues

The current issues in regards to matters such as gender, sex, age, race, social-exclusion and inequality within society may be of interest to you. Here are some good dissertation topics that you could consider:

Example contemporary social issues dissertation topic 1:

The welfare state and its effects on reducing incidence of poverty in modern Britain

Established in its modern guise immediately after WWII (though having its origins in the Liberal reforms of 1909 – 1911) the welfare state is a multifaceted beast. This dissertation looks at policies of inclusion and community cohesion to address the ways in which children have been lifted out of poverty in the last 60 years and additionally asks what still needs to be done. Through so doing, the latter half of the dissertation looks particularly at the initiatives brought in by the Blair and Brown administrations and how these are faring in an era of budgetary restraint.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Castles, F.G. and Mitchell, D. (1992) ‘Identifying welfare state regimes: The links between politics, instruments and outcomes’, Governance, Vol.5, pp. 1-26.
  • Leese, P. (2006) Britain since 1945: Aspects of identity. Basingstoke: Palgrave.


Example contemporary social issues dissertation topic 2:

Elderly Britain: An analysis of the effects of an aging population on the welfare state

Within the next 20 years the retired population of Britain will be the largest sectoral grouping within the country. This will have a profound effect on aspects of government policy particularly with regard to social care and health provision. This dissertation looks not only at the effects of a declining working population (for taxation purposes) as well as the budgetary implications of ever-increasing demands being placed on the NHS.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Benington, J. and Taylor, M. (1993) ‘Changes and challenges facing the UK welfare state in the Europe of the 1990s’, Policy & Politics, Vol. 21(2), pp. 121-134.
  • Jæger, M. M. and Kvist, J. (2003) ‘Pressures on state welfare in post-industrial societies: Is more or less better?’ Social Policy & Administration, Vol. 37, pp. 555-572.
  • Walker, A. (1990) ‘The economic burden of ageing and the prospect of intergenerational conflict’, Ageing and Society, Vol.10, pp. 377-396.


Example contemporary social issues dissertation topic 3:

Newcastle: An analysis of post-industrial society and resulting social-exclusion

The decline of the ship building industry and the wider regional effects of the decline in coalmining have resulted in the north-east becoming a long term unemployment hotspot within the UK. Despite numerous government initiatives there has been little diminishment of the economic gulf between rich and poor within the region. In areas such as Byker and the East End, issues of social exclusion remain effectively unchecked. This dissertation analyses the results of the various initiatives introduced into the area from 1970 onwards and proffers a number of recommendations as to how enhance provision of social services within the area during the comment time.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bynner, J. (2001) ‘Childhood risks and protective factors in social exclusion’, Children & Society, Vol.15, pp. 285-301.
  • Cass, N., Shove, E. and Urry, J. (2005) ‘Social exclusion, mobility and access’, The Sociological Review, Vol.53, pp. 539-555.


Example contemporary social issues dissertation topic 4:

 ‘For adult users only’ – A critique of pornography from a feminist empowerment viewpoint

Within the broader feminist movement there is a body of opinion that sees pornography not as a tool of oppression and a means by which degrade women, but as a tool of female empowerment and education. Charting the history of the feminist pro-pornography sexual movement from the 1970s onwards this dissertation looks at issues of zoning within the USA, free speech, and representation with the pornography industry. The issue of the extent to which pornography may also be seen to be akin to ‘hate speech’ is also addressed.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Strossen, N. (1993) ‘A Feminist critique of “the” feminist critique of pornography’, Virginia Law Review, Vol. 79(5), pp. 1099-1190.
  • Sun, C., Bridges, A., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E. and Liberman, R. (2008) ‘A comparison of male and female directors in popular pornography: What happens when women are at the helm?’, Psychology of Women Quarterly, Vol.32, pp. 312-325.

Example contemporary social issues dissertation topic 5:

Community and identity: An appraisal of suburban neurosis

The suburbanisation of cities from the mid-1930s onwards led, according to contemporary academics, commentators and medical professionals, to a developing social neurosis in which housewives, deprived of familiar surroundings and facilities, became imprisoned within their newly painted ‘pastel-shaded’ semi-detached houses. Using an array of sociological, historical and literary references this dissertation seeks to address these interlinked issues through a critique of two housing developments of the period.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Colls, R. (2004) Identity of England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Taylor, S. (1938) ‘The suburban neurosis’, The Lancet, Vol. 231 (5978), pp. 759 – 762.

Social Methodologies and Theories

Are you interested in research methods and analytical techniques used in social science research, or perhaps a specific social theory? You might want to consider a dissertation in the topic of Social Methodologies and Theories. Here are some good examples:

Example social methodologies and theories dissertation topic 1:

Perceptions of place and study: A critique of the works of Massey

The region of the self is, according to Massey, dependent upon not only one’s own perception of place but also of those around us. This in turn can be shaped, moulded and altered by factors as diverse as social relationships, working patterns, government initiatives and socio-economic changes. This dissertation critiques the opinions of Massey, placing them into wider context of conurban and metropolitan development from the 1970s onwards; asking whether locality of the place is still an appropriate concept in an ever more ‘joined-up’ communicative world.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Massey, D. (1999) ‘Space-time, ‘science’ and the relationship between physical geography and human geography’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 24, pp. 261-276.
  • Massey, D. (2004) ‘Geographies of responsibility’ Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, Vol.86, pp. 5-18.


Example social methodologies and theories dissertation topic 2:

New directions in positivist research: An assessment of methodological approaches in sociology

This dissertation evaluates a range of qualitative and quantitative approaches and their validity within sociology. In so doing ethical questions are raised with regards to the participation of volunteers in surveys, the need for confidentiality agreements, and issues of data protection. Such concerns are then measured against quantitative approaches and the benefits to be brought by adopting a mixed-method approach to the study of the discipline. Finally, the dissertation considers the environment of sociological research in a post-Gouldner era, and whether the prevalence of interpretivist research is likely to continue to dominate in some sectors of the science.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bruyn, T. (1966) The human perspective in sociology: The methodology of participant observation. Eaglewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Hassard, J. (1995) Sociology and organization theory: Positivism, paradigms and postmodernity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wadsworth, Y. (2005) ‘‘Gouldner’s child?’ Some reflections on sociology and participatory action research’, Journal of Sociology, Vol. 41(3), pp. 267-284.

Example social methodologies and theories dissertation topic 3:

An analysis of Foucault’s relationship to sociology

Foucault’s critical studies of social institutions, as well as the social anthropology of medicine, are well known. So too, is his work on the history of human sexuality, aspects of power and prisoner rights. He has become an academic thinker whose views seem to be, as a consequence, able to be applied to almost every genre within the social sciences.  Reviewing existing debates within academic literature this dissertation charts his involvement and relationship to sociological issues and in so doing touches upon not only aspects of structuralism, but also poststructuralism and postmodernism. Unusually for a sociological dissertation primary research is not needed to make this a full and wholesome piece of research.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Fox, N.J. (1998) ‘Foucault, Foucauldians and sociology’,  The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 49(3), pp. 415-433.
  • Smart, B. (1982) ‘Foucault, sociology, and the problem of human agency’, Theory and Society, Vol. 11(2), pp. 121-141.

Sociology of Sport

Perhaps you have an interest in sport and would like to look at its provision and different societal constructs? If so, the topic of Sociology of Sport would be a great topic to choose for your dissertation. Here are some examples:


Example sociology of sport dissertation topic 1:

A sociological approach to the study of children’s soccer leagues

Using hierarchical multiple regression analyses, this dissertation evaluates the effects of training, crowd support and personal motivation on the success of youth soccer teams within the UK. Noting, in addition, gender differences between girls’ and boys’ teams, this dissertation makes particular reference to a southern league. Through also conducting primary data through interviews this study also looks at aspects of low sporting moral and how family upset can have a critical impact upon the playing ability of young football athletes.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ommundsena, Y. (2003) ‘Perceived motivational climate in male youth soccer: Relations to social-moral functioning, sportspersonship and team norm perceptions’, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Vol. 4(4), pp. 397-413.
  • Robertsa, G.C.,  Lemyrea, P.N. and Treasureb, D. (2005) ‘Effect of perceived motivational climate on moral functioning, team moral atmosphere perceptions, and the legitimacy of intentionally injurious acts among competitive youth football players’, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Vol. 6(4), pp. 461-477.

Sociology of Education

Are you considering to research the historical development and the current provision of education, along with the social constructs in this area?  Here are some topics you may want to consider:


Example sociology of education dissertation topic 1:

Sociological perspectives in teacher training

This is a dissertation focused upon issues of subordination and control. This is because whilst the student trainee teacher may be taught the most up-to-date theories of classroom management, differentiation and assessment, in the practical realities of classroom he or she may find such theories to be of little comfort. Accordingly, he must become subordinate to the institutional approaches adopted by his mentor and professional colleagues in the staffroom. As a consequence, the desire to put the best theories into practice may become subverted as he accepts the advice of his elders, the proverbs of the fraternity, and the commandments of principals. It is the failure of the science of education to enable theory to be put into sustained practice by new teachers that, this dissertation contends, has resulted in the very slow progress of developed educational practice. A dissertation that crosses academic disciplines, it provides a fascinating insight into the sociology of the staffroom and would benefit from a range of primary source based interviews.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Goodman, J. (1988) ‘Constructing a practical philosophy of teaching: A study of preservice teachers’ professional perspectives’, Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 4(2), pp. 121-137.
  • Ingersoll, R.M. (2005) ‘The problem of underqualified teachers: A sociological perspective’, Sociology of Education, Vol. 78(2), pp. 175-178.


Example sociology of education dissertation topic 2:

Sunday school attendance: An examination of changes in the last fifty years

Using primary data from a number of churches within Scotland (on both present day attendance rates and historic rates) as well as the records of the Salvation Army this dissertation firstly presently an empirical study of declining Sunday school numbers over the last fifty years. In the second part of the work, an analysis as to why attendance has diminished is offered based on the views of respondents as well as with regard to differing rates of participation amongst the sexes. Thereafter the study is linked into wider sociological concerns as to the role of the family and how time is spent at weekends.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Gibsona, H.M. (1989) ‘Measuring attitudes towards Christianity among 11‐ to 16‐year‐old pupils in non‐denominational schools in Scotland’, Educational Research, Vol. 31(3), pp. 27-36.
  • Reid, I. (1977), ‘Sunday school attendance and adolescents’ religious and moral attitudes, knowledge and practice’, Learning for Living, Vol. 17(1), pp. 3-8.

Political Sociology

If you are interested in the relationship between societies, states and politics then the topic of Political Sociology could be the perfect match for your dissertation. It concerns issues such as social movements, culture politics and the sources of social power. Here are some suggestions:


Example political sociology dissertation topic 1:

The sociology of governance: An analysis

Society is increasingly burdened by laws and regulations, with the result that personal freedoms may be sacrificed on the altar of conceptual freedoms for the common good. This dissertation considers the mechanisms by which governance controls the lives of citizens, and the reactions to those controls. Examples can include the rejection or acceptance of city mayors in recent referenda; perceptions of the effect of the European Court of Human Rights upon the lives of Britons today, and so on. Finally, it considers whether the populace believes that their democratic rights have been extended or diminished over the last thirty years as a result of greater structures of authority.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bang, H.P. (ed.) (2003) Governance as social and political communication. Manchester, University of Manchester Press.
  • Lascoumes, P. and LeGales, P. (2007) ‘Introduction: Understanding public policy through its instruments—From the nature of instruments to the sociology of public policy instrumentation’, Governance, Vol. 20(1), pp. 1-21.
  • Malpas, J. and Wickham, G. (1995) ‘Governance and failure: On the limits of sociology’, Journal of Sociology, Vol. 31(3), pp. 37-50.


Example political sociology dissertation topic 2:

Revised perspectives on conflict theory in the trade union movement: An historic evaluation

Though the trade union movement, certainly within the UK, has declined in membership since the early 1980s, it still possesses significant political might. Moreover, as the country prepares for the summer 2012 Olympics there are substantial fears of industrial action affecting London buses and the Tube network as well as threatened walkouts at airports. Applying conflict theory to the arena of industrial relations, this dissertation looks not only at the historic development of trade union activism over the last thirty years but also the key players within the movement at the moment and, in so doing, assesses the likely impact not only of strikes upon Britain’s international reputation this summer but more generally within this time of economic uncertainty.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Dahrendorf, R. (1958) ‘Toward a theory of social conflict’, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 2(2) pp. 170-183.
  • Kelly, C. (1994) ‘Who gets involved in collective action? Social psychological determinants of individual participation in trade unions’   Human Relations, Vol. 47(1), pp. 63-88.
  • Lehmann, T. and Young, T.R. (1974) ‘From conflict theory to conflict methodology: An emerging paradigm for sociology’, Sociological Inquiry Vol. 44(1), pp. 15-28.
  • Thompson, P. and Ackroyd, S. (1995) ‘All quiet on the workplace front? A critique of recent trends in British industrial sociology’,  Sociology, Vol. 29(4), pp. 615-633.

Crime and Society

If the issues of crime, violence and law are of interest to you then the topic of Crime and Society may be a good match for you dissertation project. Here are some good examples. 


Example crime and society dissertation topic 1:

Racial hatred in British prisons: Waxing or waning?

This dissertation looks at issues of race within three prisons: Wandsworth and Brixton and a low security prison (Ford). Using interviews with prison staff, visitors to prisoners and prisoners themselves (along with offenders out on licence) this qualitative study assess the issues of race as a dynamic within these three prisons. Significant differences were found within the different categories of prison with regard to the prevalence of race issues and whilst it was found that there was more ‘aggressiveness’ in younger inmates, issues of ingrained racial intolerance were more noticeable within the elder population. An interesting finding of this study is the fact that Muslim prisoners are seen as being treated differently with a number of non-Muslim white prisoners feigning to have converted in order to get extra blankets and different food whilst remanded. The extent to which ethnic minority groups felt marginalised is also addressed within this study and the entire dissertation is grounded in previous academic literature.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Leonidas, K., Cheliotis, L.K. and Liebling, A. (2006) ‘Race matters in British prisons towards a research agenda’,  British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 46(2), pp. 286-317.
  • McWilliams, R.M., Batten, B., Cameron, N.C. and Cutler, J. (1995) ‘Foreign nationals in English prisons: II. Some policy issues’, The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 34, pp. 195-208.
  • Spalek, B. and Wilson, D. (2001) ‘Not just “visitors” to prisons: The experiences of imams who work inside the penal system’, The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 40, pp. 3-13.


Example crime and society dissertation topic 2:

Have cases presented on behalf of prisoners in the European Court of Human Rights diminished public respect for human rights for prisoners?

Over the last thirty years the number of prisoners seeking recourse to the ECtHR has grown. This dissertation looks firstly at the decisions that have been made in successful cases and how these have affected prison law and policy within the UK. Thereafter the dissertation assesses the manner in which such cases have been reported in the media along with the general portrayal of ‘rights’. Subsequently, through the use of survey questionnaires, qualitative research is undertaken to measure contemporary public opinion on the issue of prisoners’ rights and to address the question of the extent to which the cumulative effects of the processes noted in this dissertation have resulted in diminishing public respect for not only human rights for prisoners but also the ECtHR in general.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Livingstone, S. (2000) ‘Prisoners’ rights in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights’, Punishment & Society, Vol. 2(3), pp. 309- 324.
  • Owers, A. (2006) ‘The protection of prisoners’ rights in England and Wales’, European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, Vol. 12(2), pp. 85-91.
  • Schone, J.M. (2001) ‘The short life and painful death of prisoners’ rights’, The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 40, pp. 70-82.

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