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In every scientific field, there is distinction between pure and applied science. Pure science is a search for knowledge, without primary concern for its practical use.

Applied science is the search for ways of using scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. For example, a sociologist making a study of the social structure of a slum neighborhood is working as a pure scientist. If this is followed by a study of how to prevent crime in a slum neighborhood, the latter study is applied science. Examples of such applied research include investigations of the impact of neighborhood watch groups and patrols on crime and vandalism rates (Levitz, 2009) and of how certain changes in schools and schooling might reduce delinquency (Gottfredson, 2017).

Fundamentally, sociology is both a pure and an applied science. A substantial amount of sociological work is still generated for academic purposes and executed with disciplinary concerns in mind. The consumers of the knowledge generated are typically sociologists and other social scientists. But sociologists and other social scientists also increasingly wish to generate and disseminate knowledge with potential applied or policy-relevant implications (Belknap, 2015; Trevino and McCormack, 2016). Social science research has long been used to help resolve empirical issues that arise in litigation (Monahan and Walker, 2010), and sociological knowledge and methodology can be useful in the formulation and instrumentation of social policy and in the evaluation of current policies or proposed policy alternatives.

Because theoretical knowledge can and should be translated into practical applications, this section discusses social science knowledge and expertise can have an impact on social policy (Anderson, 2015). Social policy generally refers to purposive legal measures that are adopted and pursued by representatives of government who are responsible for dealing with particular social conditions in society. The term policy-making refers to the process of identifying alternative courses of action that may be followed and choosing among them (Scott and Shore, 1979:XIV).

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