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This page explains what the subject sociology covers, gives an overview of the material the British Library holds for this subject, and advice on how you can find and use it. It also gives details of current activities for developing the collections for this subject.

Sociology is defined as any discipline which studies individuals, groups and institutions in their societal context. It is divided into a number of sub-disciplines which have overlapping themes, and which have both theoretical and practical applications. These include: sociological theory, socialization (citizenship, inclusion, gender, ethnicity, social mobility issues etc); social interaction (family, deviance, sociology of the body, ageing, welfare issues etc); social movements, and the sociology of various subjects (sport, psychology, the workplace, education, politics etc). Please note that some of these subjects are also given separate coverage on the social sciences web pages, notably the social policy and social welfare page.

Collection overview

The British Library holds an enormous collection of materials relevant to the study of sociology, ranging from seminal theoretical texts to the documentary evidence which informs the work of sociologists such as statistics, social surveys and official reports. English-language material is particularly strongly represented, but the Library's area curators collect in this discipline from the publishing output of countries from around the world. Some printed material is kept offsite and has to be ordered in advance of your visit; or ordered via our document supply service; but a wide range of books published in the last three years, and journals published in the last twelve months, are available on the open access shelves in the London social science reading room. Overall we have:

  • a comprehensive collection of UK material acquired through legal deposit, including report literature, working papers and conference papers
  • strong English-language collections from other countries, especially North America, Australasia and Eastern Europe.
  • extensive collections of government publications from across the world, including statistical series, social surveys and censuses, as well as publications from a range of international and regional organisations such as the European Union and the UN.
  • extensive journals coverage, with a growing number of full text e-journals, plus indexing and abstracting databases to help you find articles
  • extensive newspaper collections, print and online
  • a growing collection of electronic resources and useful websites. We also archive relevant websites as part of the UK Web Archiving Consortium
  • oral histories encompassing a wide range of human experience in the sound archive.

Social Sciences Enquiry team

For more help on using the Social Sciences collections, contact the Enquiry team at or telephone +44 (0)20 7412 7894 from 10.00 - 20.00 Mon- Thurs or 10.00 - 17.00 Friday.

Current activities

British Library Content Strategy

We have refined our Content Strategy (i.e what we collect now and in future). Please see the content strategy pages on our website. These pages are organised by subject. Please remember that different aspects of a research theme may be described under more than one subject. A subject will also cover a variety of research themes, so even though your topic may not be specifically listed, it will likely be found under one of our headings.

If you have comments on the Library's content strategy, we would be pleased to hear from you.