It is suggested that the knowledge organization (KO) field places greater emphasis on basic research that examines the sociology of KO systems (KOS) and the broader, environmental reasons for the development of both formal and informal KOS. This approach is contrasted with applied KO, which focuses on the practical construction or improvement of specific KOS. The preponderance of applied research in the field of KO is confirmed, at least within the document-centric strand more closely aligned with library and information science, through a survey of articles in the Knowledge Organization journal published between 2009 and 2018. The survey utilized the Frascati Manual definitions for basic and applied research, and referenced Tennis’s classification of KO research (2008). There is considerable potential for building on the critical tradition of KO, with various areas ripe for further sociological investigation. A sociology of KOS could also be accommodated in the popular KO approach of domain analysis.