Monday, September 30, 2013

Social sciences

  • no single authoritative definition
  • those mental or cultural sciences which deal with the activities of the individual as a member of a group (R. A. Seligman. Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences)
  • any discipline or branch of science that deals with human behaviour in its social and cultural aspects (Encyclopedia Britannica)
  • branch of science
  • human behaviour focus is important
  • identify phenomenons
  • Those fields that study human behavior at the level of the individual, the group, and the society, and are concerned with people and their cultures, and with the structure and activities of human collectives, and with the interaction of human beings and their physical environment. (The Reader’s Adviser v. 3, 14th ed.)
  • Those fields of learning and research that are primarily concerned with human relationships, or more broadly, social phenomena. (Encyclopedia Americana)
Related/alternative terms
  • Behavioural sciences
    • sometimes used as a synonym
    • term came into widespread use in the 1950s
    • applies principally to the fields of psychology and sociology but also to areas within economics and political science
    • the aim of behavioural science is to establish generalizations about human behaviour that can be supported by empirical evidence (capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment)
  • Human sciences
    • all disciplines not falling under the natural sciences, engineering or medicine
  • Social studies
    • courses or instruction in the social sciences at the elementary and secondary school levels
Core disciplines
  • anthropology
    • languages and linguistics are consistently mentioned
  • sociology
  • psychology
  • economics
  • political science
  • history
  • geography
    • reminder that some disciplines float between humanities and social sciences and sciences
Social science professions
  • May apply findings and conclusions generated by social scientists
    • business
    • education
    • journalism
    • law
    • public health
    • social work
Social sciences: evolution
What caused the social sciences to be known as they were? Where did they come from? They have morphed since then.
  • Industrial revolution: French revolution
    • changed the way people survived in 1700s, 1800s
British revolution
Water wheels
Spinning industry
All work 16 hours a day
Create wealth for industrialists
Housing, pollution problems
French revolution
Social autocracy
People who weren't/were taking over the country

Social sciences: characteristics, trends
  • Since 1980’s majority of degrees of faculty from Canadian institutions (previously U.S., England, France)
  • Growth in Canadian history, Canadian political science
  • Noted for expertise in
    • Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
    • Research methodology for understanding how election campaign shape way people vote
    • French immersion and second language learning
General trends, characteristics, problems
  • Increasing number of women at PhD level
  • Public feels personally knowledgeable in areas of social sciences
  • Harder to get funding for research
    • public money decreasing
  • Twigging or fragmentation
    • no one place to go to
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Mission-oriented research
  • Use of new info technologies
  • Massive way of faculty retirements on horizon
Research can be spent on opinion polls. Over 70 disciplinary in humanities. Mission-oriented research look at a particular problem with people with expertise and present information.

Social science research
  • Greater use of numbers post WWII
  • Research may not be used
  • Ethical problems

Other major problems
  • Literature scatter
  • Lack of global consistency
  • Different patterns of development according to culture, resources and politics of regions

  • Social science literature and its users
    • Interdisciplinary
    • Often little interest in research conducted in other countries, especially as typical social scientist lacks reading fluency in foreign languages
    • Reliance on both journals and monographs
    • Publication explosion results in problem of information overload
    • Citations single most important source of information for social science researchers
    • Consultation with colleagues (invisible college) important but less so than in natural sciences
    • Tend to be heavy users of government information especially census and statistical data
    • With improvement in online technology and resources recent dramatic increase in their use

    Public libraries
    • Practitioners may seek info at public libraries (business, social workers, etc.)
    • General public will have need or interest for info falling in many areas of the social sciences (teachers)
    • Students at all levels for homework, general interest

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