The University of Southampton

RESM6001 Philosophy of Social Science Research

Module Overview

This module will look at the dominant traditions in the philosophy of social science and how these have shaped substantive research within the study of the social sciences.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Familiarise students with the dominant traditions in the philosophy of social science and how these have shaped substantive research within the study of the social sciences. • Introduce students to the variety of contemporary methodological debates that impinge on social science research.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding to critically evaluate philosophical debates in social science
  • Apply oral communication skills
  • Use Information Technology skills
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding to identify different value positions and their implications for research
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding to describe the relationship between philosophical standpoints and methodological strategies
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding to discuss the contribution of philosophical issues and knowledge bases to research practice
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding to identify a variety of social and political contexts and uses of research
  • Apply Interpersonal skills
  • Apply written communication skills
  • Apply independent working skills
  • Use problem solving skills


This module explores key theoretical and methodological issues in social science research, contrasting ‘ways of knowing’. It is premised on the idea that social science is better served by researchers who can master several methodologies, who can consciously choose among concepts and theories and who command many basic principles of reasoning. Indicative content includes a discussion of philosophical and theoretical positions, understanding causality, comparative and case study research and discuss the relevance of social science research to real-world problems.

Special Features

This module is one of the ESRC DTC’s seven research methods modules. The modules are taught by leading experts from across Academic Units and Faculties. This co-ordinated research methods training programme brings together students from across the faculties of Human and Social Sciences, Humanities and Health Sciences.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

• Multi-disciplinary lectures • Multi-disciplinary seminars • Independent study

Independent Study80
Total study time100

Resources & Reading list

Ted Benton and Ian Craib (2001). Philosophy of Social Sciences. 

Peter Burnham et al (2008). Research Methods in Politics. 

John Hughes and Wes Sharrok (2008). Theory and Methods in Sociology. 

Jonathon Moses and Torbjorn Knutsen (2007). Ways of Knowing. 

Martin Hollis and Steve Smith (2001). Explaining and Understanding International Relations. 

Other. Listed set books, text books, web sites, other sources of related information. Resources to support the production of blended learning materials will be made available by the Doctoral Training Centre


Assessment Strategy

The module will be assessed by one 2500-3000 word coursework assignment. The essay is based on materials introduced and discussed in the lectures and from students’ independent study


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s) 100%
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