Philosophy of Science and Social Science Research Practice (500X8)

30 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Autumn teaching

Are the methods of the social sciences essentially the same or essentially different from those of the natural sciences?

On this module, you’ll find out about some of the standard methodological and philosophical problems posed by social inquiry. You’ll explore how theoretical and philosophical traditions in social science influence the methodological approaches and theoretical models that guide social research practice. You’ll:

  • study one or two examples of major philosophical or theoretical approaches each week
  • learn about these approaches with an emphasis on the theoretical model of society that they advocate
  • see what methodological implications for social research follow from these philosophical and theoretical ideas
  • understand how broad theoretical frameworks and concepts, often based in philosophical traditions, lead to particular methodological approaches around theoretical models
  • explore how theory can shape research methodology.

Topics include:

  • developments in the philosophy of science from positivism to postpositivism and their relevance to social inquiry, explanation versus interpretation and the interpretive critique of social science
  • problems of validity and values
  • realism and constructivism
  • the advantages and disadvantages of taking a critical stance
  • feminist and postcolonial critiques of social science.

You’ll read about the problems in specific texts but we'll encourage you to pursue parallel arguments in different sources.


100%: Seminar


100%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.