This course aims to demonstrate the significance of philosophical perspectives in the social sciences that underpin the creation of knowledge and empirical research. It does this by examining key issues in the philosophy of the social sciences and by mapping the different approaches. Students should learn to critically discuss postmodern claims of 'diversity' of knowledge and 'uncertainty' of truth in science in relation to methodological claims for objectivity and 'truth' in scientific knowledge. They should learn about the values of social theory in relation to empiricism and positivism.
By the end of the unit the students should be able to:
* identify the philosophical approach that underpins empirical data and scientific knowledge;
* critically discuss the claims for truth of scientific knowledge;
* reflect on ethical issues of philosophical approaches;
* understand diversity of philosophical approaches and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses;
* understand the values of social theory,
* understand the emergence of the social sciences and place current trends in historical context;
* link classic approaches in the philosophy of social sciences to contemporary writing and empirical questions.
The unit aims to foster the following skills:
* understanding abstract texts and queries;
* reading and understanding original work, including writing of early sociologists;
* analytical skills;
* reflective learning skills;
* developing an own standpoint regarding methodology;
* discussing pros and cons of different philosophical approaches;
* group-work skills.
* These skills will also be very useful for your dissertation and for understanding the particular strength and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative methods.
* To think creatively and analytically
* To communicate an argument
* To evaluate others' arguments and research
* To critically evaluate and assess research and evidence as well as a variety of other information
* To gather information, data, research and literature from a number of different sources (i.e. library, web-based, archives etc.).
* To select appropriate and relevant information from a wide source and large body of knowledge
* To synthesise information from a number of sources in order to gain a coherent understanding
* To utilise problem solving skills
Professional Practical skills:
* To effectively and efficiently apply principles of sociological/social policy analysis within a variety of environments
* Study and Learning skills (note taking, avoiding plagiarism, using the library, gathering and using information, constructing a bibliography, referencing)
* Basic Information and Computing Technology skills (word processing, email, using the web to search for information)
* Inter-personal and communication skills
* Essay research, preparation and writing skills
* To construct a bibliography of varying complexity
* Revision and Examination skills
* Time-management and administrative skills
* Presentation skills and verbal communication (i.e. oral presentations, seminar and tutorial contributions)
* To reflect upon his/her own academic and professional performance and take responsibility for personal and professional learning and development.
* To solve problems in a variety of situations
* To manage time effectively and respond to changing demands.
* To prioritise workloads, and utilise long- and short-term planning skills.
The course will examine positivist models of scientific method and the interpretivist tradition in sociology as well as new approaches that highlight the social construction and context-dependency of knowledge, including Popper, Kuhn, Durkheim, Weber, culture/language sensitive approaches and feminist epistemology; it also comprises examples on how to apply epistemological questions to contemporary issues of society, such as for instance New Public Management.