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2022/23 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

LUBS5287M Nature and Philosophy of Social Science Research

15 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Andrew Brown

Taught: 1 Sep to 31 Jan (adv yr), Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

All students participating in this module must already have obtained the required qualifications to enter the LUBS PhD programme.

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

There is a confusing array of possible methods of research both within and across the social sciences. They raise many questions. Is objectivity and truth achievable in social science (or even in natural science)? Should the methods of natural and social science be the same? What is the relation between qualitative and quantitative methods? What philosophical perspectives can support inter-disciplinary research? What philosophical perspectives can justify mixed methods research? How and why do disciplines differ in the social sciences? What are the social influences on, and functions of, social science? Drawing on the philosophy of social science literature but taking the practical standpoint of the social science researcher, this module will explore attempts to find answers to some of these questions.


General aim:
- To cover key issues in the philosophy and history of the social sciences from the perspective of the practicing social science researcher.

- To explore issues in the philosophy of the social sciences that directly impinge upon practical social science research.
- To explore the historical trajectory of the social sciences, inclusive of contemporary debates around interdisciplinary social science research.
- To explore the differential impact of these general ideas and developments on social science research across different disciplines and traditions.

Learning outcomes
On completion of the module the general outcome is that the student
- will be aware of the philosophical and historical foundations of the methods that they will encounter and may choose to use in social research.

More specifically they will gain understanding of the research issues raised by
- Logical positivism and debates concerning the search for a 'rules based' justification of scientific knowledge (e.g. Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos)
- Interpretative approaches and social contructionism
- Scientific realist approaches in the social sciences
- The initial separation and recent moves towards the reuniting of economics, sociology, psychology and other disciplines
- Philosophical aspects of practical and policy issues regarding knowledge production


The module will provide grounding in the philosophical concepts and historical developments that explicitly or implicitly influence the methods and process of social research. Three broad groupings of philosophical approaches will be addressed: positivism and the debate about 'rules based' scientific method (Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos); interpretative approaches and social contructionism; realist approaches in social science. The historically shifting differences and similarities between social scientific disciplines will be emphasised. Recent reflections on the prospects for closer collaboration or partial merging of disciplines will be addressed, as will recent debates regarding the social influences on, and impact of, knowledge production.

Indicative Outline:
- What is philosophy of the social sciences? Why study it?
- Debating 'rules-based' method: positivism, Popper, Kuhn and Lakatos; the impact on, and implications for, social research of these debates
- Interpretive approaches and social constructionism: their impact and implications for, social research
- Realism in the social sciences: their impact and implications for, social research
- The shifting boundaries of key social scientific disciplines
- Challenges of interdisciplinary research

Key text: Benton, T. and Craib, I. (2010) Philosophy of Social Science: The Philosophical Foundations of Social Thought, (2nd edn), New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours127.50
Total Contact hours22.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

This could include a variety of activities, such as reading, watching videos, question practice and exam preparation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Your teaching methods could include a variety of delivery models, such as face-to-face teaching, live webinars, discussion boards and other interactive activities. There will be opportunities for formative feedback throughout the module.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3,000 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

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: 29/04/2022 15:28:10


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