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2008/09 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC1200 How Science Works

10 creditsClass Size: 300

In light of the effect of COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions on students' learning experiences, the School of PRHS have made the decision to modify assessment in Semester 2 modules in the 2020-21 academic year. Changes may involve reducing the number of assessment points (e.g. assessing one essay rather than two) or reducing word counts where it is possible to do so whilst protecting the integrity of the module's Learning Outcomes. Information on any changes to assessment is available to enrolled students in the Minerva module area, and can also be sought from the module leader or the PRHS SES team.

Module manager: Shane Glackin

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2008/09

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

How does science work? We shall try to answer this question by looking at the following four stages of scientific enquiry: Discovery. Are scientific theories discovered through a 'flash of genius' or is something more methodical involved? How much of scientific discovery is down to careful observation? Justification. Are observations in science always secure? What is the relationship between theories and data? What roles do models play in science? Realism. Do theories tell us how the world really is? What lessons should be drawn from the history of science? Are there alternative ways of understanding scientific theories? Independence. Is science independent of its social context? To what extent is it biased by gender, race or politics? Is there such a thing as truth that is not relative to a particular culture, social class or historical era? Drawing on accessible examples from a variety of different scientific fields and by answering these and related questions, we shall try to come up with a clear picture of how science works. For more details contact Steven French (S.R.D.French@leeds.ac.uk).

Objectives

On completion of this module students should be able to describe and critically assess a range of important issues which help shed light on the question 'how does science work?'.

Syllabus

The module covers four central issues:

1) Discovery: How are theories discovered? Is it simply a matter of creativity? Or is it just plain hard work? Is discovery in science different from discovery in other fields? Is there a special method to scientific discovery that distinguishes science from other fields?

2) Evidence: What is the relation between scientific theories and experimental evidence? How does experimental evidence support a theory? How do scientists generate 'evidence'? How does experimental evidence support a theory? How do scientists generate 'evidence'? How do they distinguish between 'good' and 'bad' experimental evidence?

3) Realism: Do electrons (or genes, the ego, whatever) exist? How can we be so confident they do when other scientific entities have come and gone? Should we take our best theories to be true? Or should they be regarded instead as nothing more than a kind of convenient summary of the experimental evidence?

4) Independence: Is science objective? Or do social pressures undermine any pretence to objectivity? Are scientific theories 'gender biased', for example? What is the role of these social factors in general? And can they be accomodated in a way that retains a sense of objectivity?

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Lecture111.0011.00
Tutorial51.005.00
Private study hours84.00
Total Contact hours16.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

1 x 1,500 word essay & 1 x 1hr exam

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information


Coursework
Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1,500 words50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated


Exams
Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)1 hr 50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 09/06/2009

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