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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

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Critically evaluate philosophical debates in social science
  • Identify different value positions and their implications for research
  • Describe the relationship between philosophical standpoints and methodological strategies
  • Discuss the contribution of philosophical issues and knowledge bases to research practice
  • Identify a variety of social and political contexts and uses of research
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Written communication skills
  • Independent working
  • Problem solving
  • Oral communication
  • Information technology
  • Interpersonal 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 Study150
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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

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

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

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

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

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


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%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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