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Investigating the Social World


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Chao-Yo Cheng
  • Tutors: Margarita Aragon, Chao-Yo Cheng
  • Assessment: to be confirmed

Module description

How can we make sense of the social world and the relations of power that run through it? How do we produce valid and useful knowledge about it? Under what social and political conditions is knowledge produced? What is the relationship of the knowledge producer to the worlds they make claims about? Should we investigate the social world in order to interpret it or to change it?

In this module, we will examine both qualitative and quantitative approaches to knowledge production. We will make links between theory and practice, as we engage with a range of both foundational and emerging frameworks for theorising the social world. We will ask on what basis we can make claims about social reality and to what end, considering feminist, race critical and post- and decolonial critiques of the social sciences.

The module will help you understand the relevance of these debates for your own sociological projects as well as how you might apply and engage with the theoretical approaches that we consider.

Indicative module syllabus

  • The history and politics of social scientific enquiry
  • Examining conceptualisations of objectivity and subjectivity in social analysis
  • Situated knowledge and reflexivity in social analysis
  • Standpoint theory and epistemic privilege
  • Intersectionality as an analytical sensibility
  • Decolonial methodologies
  • New materialisms
  • International and comparative social analysis
  • Epistemology of quantitative and qualitative methods
  • Causality in social research

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • critically evaluate different theoretical approaches to social inquiry, assessing the differences and commonalities between them
  • demonstrate in-depth understanding of the political issues at stake in knowledge production
  • articulate how particular theoretical frameworks underpin the practice of social research.