General concepts and domain-specific concepts: An argument about the study of religion in sociology

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Abstract

General concepts that illuminate topics across subfields are highly valued in sociology. Because the discipline encompasses a large number of diverse subfields, though, many of the concepts that are most useful within subfields are domain-specific. In practice, a dialectical relationship exists between the two. General concepts gain attention by drawing on and organizing domain-specific concepts. Research within subfields draws on general concepts to modify domain-specific concepts. In many instances, research demonstrates that general concepts must be specified in terms of other variables and contexts to inform empirical research. I illustrate these processes with examples from the study of religion in sociology, suggesting that this perspective is more helpful for understanding the disciplinary contributions of sociology of religion than bemoaning its apparent marginality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)594-606
Number of pages13
JournalSociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review
Volume75
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

Keywords

  • concepts
  • disciplines
  • individualism
  • social capital
  • subfields
  • symbolic boundaries
  • theory

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