Social science is the branch of science devoted to the study of societies and the relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociology, the original “science of society”, established in the century. In addition to sociology, it now encompasses a wide array of academic disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, economics, human geography, linguistics, management science, media studies, political science, psychology, and history.
Positivist social scientists use methods resembling those of the natural sciences as tools for understanding society, and so define science in its stricter modern sense. Interpretivist social scientists, by contrast, may use social critique or symbolic interpretation rather than constructing empirically falsifiable theories, and thus treat science in its broader sense. In modern academic practice, researchers are often eclectic, using multiple methodologies (for instance, by combining both quantitative and qualitative research). The term “social research” has also acquired a degree of autonomy as practitioners from various disciplines share the same aims and methods.
The social science disciplines are branches of knowledge taught and researched at the college or university level. Social science disciplines are defined and recognized by the academic journals in which research is published, and the learned social science societies and academic departments or faculties to which their practitioners belong. Social science fields of study usually have several sub-disciplines or branches, and the distinguishing lines between these are often both arbitrary and ambiguous.
Social science includes such branches as
Anthropology is the holistic “science of man”, a science of the totality of human existence. The discipline deals with the integration of different aspects of the social sciences, humanities, and human biology. In the twentieth century, academic disciplines have often been institutionally divided into three broad domains. The natural sciences seek to derive general laws through reproducible and verifiable experiments. The humanities generally study local traditions, through their history, literature, music, and arts, with an emphasis on understanding particular individuals, events, or eras. The social sciences have generally attempted to develop scientific methods to understand social phenomena in a generalizable way, though usually with methods distinct from those of the natural sciences.
Communication studies deals with processes of human communication, commonly defined as the sharing of symbols to create meaning. The discipline encompasses a range of topics, from face-to-face conversation to mass media outlets such as television broadcasting. Communication studies also examines how messages are interpreted through the political, cultural, economic, and social dimensions of their contexts. Communication is institutionalized under many different names at different universities, including “communication”, “communication studies”, “speech communication”, “rhetorical studies”, “communication science”, “media studies”, “communication arts”, “mass communication”, “media ecology”, and “communication and media science”.
Economics is a social science that seeks to analyze and describe the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth. An economist is a person using economic concepts and data in the course of employment, or someone who has earned a degree in the subject. The classic brief definition of economics, set out by Lionel Robbins in 1932, is “the science which studies human behavior as a relation between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses”. Without scarcity and alternative uses, there is no economic problem. Briefer yet is “the study of how people seek to satisfy needs and wants” and “the study of the financial aspects of human behavior”.
Education encompasses teaching and learning specific skills, and also something less tangible but more profound: the imparting of knowledge, positive judgement and well-developed wisdom. Education has as one of its fundamental rights the imparting of culture from generation to generation (see socialization). It is an application of pedagogy, a body of theoretical and applied research relating to teaching and learning and draws on many disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, sociology and anthropology.
Geography as a discipline can be split broadly into two main sub fields: human geography and physical geography. The former focuses largely on the built environment and how space is created, viewed and managed by humans as well as the influence humans have on the space they occupy. This may involve cultural geography, transportation, health, military operations, and cities. The latter examines the natural environment and how the climate, vegetation and life, soil, oceans, water and landforms are produced and interact. Physical geography examines phenomena related to the measurement of earth. As a result of the two subfields using different approaches a third field has emerged, which is environmental geography. Environmental geography combines physical and human geography and looks at the interactions between the environment and humans. Other branches of geography include social geography, regional geography, and geomatics.
History is the continuous, systematic narrative and research into past human events as interpreted through historiographical paradigms or theories.
The social science of law, jurisprudence, in common parlance, means a rule that (unlike a rule of ethics) is capable of enforcement through institutions. However, many laws are based on norms accepted by a community and thus have an ethical foundation. The study of law crosses the boundaries between the social sciences and humanities, depending on one’s view of research into its objectives and effects.
Linguistics investigates the cognitive and social aspects of human language. The field is divided into areas that focus on aspects of the linguistic signal, such as syntax (the study of the rules that govern the structure of sentences), semantics (the study of meaning), morphology (the study of the structure of words), phonetics (the study of speech sounds) and phonology (the study of the abstract sound system of a particular language); however, work in areas like evolutionary linguistics (the study of the origins and evolution of language) and psycholinguistics (the study of psychological factors in human language) cut across these divisions.
Political science is an academic and research discipline that deals with the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behavior. Fields and subfields of political science include political economy, political theory and philosophy, civics and comparative politics, theory of direct democracy, apolitical governance, participatory direct democracy, national systems, cross-national political analysis, political development, international relations, foreign policy, international law, politics, public administration, administrative behavior, public law, judicial behavior, and public policy. Political science also studies power in international relations and the theory of great powers and superpowers.
Psychology is an academic and applied field involving the study of behavior and mental processes. Psychology also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human activity, including problems of individuals’ daily lives and the treatment of mental illness.
Sociology is the systematic study of society, individuals’ relationship to their societies, the consequences of difference, and other aspects of human social action.
Social Science subjects are wonderfully varied, offering a wide range of career progression routes following graduation. The scope is broad, but these subjects are united by one thing – a focus on understanding the workings of human society. Here are some of the reasons why so many students from around the world are attracted to social science degrees.
Flexible career options
Degrees in social work, politics, criminology, sociology, anthropology, statistics, finance, economics, law, psychology. The social sciences cover a lot of ground. The appeal is broad because the many subjects that come under the social sciences umbrella provide fascinating insights into everyday life in our communities, families and workplaces. All social science courses help students develop a wide range of transferable skills and open up many career options.
The successful completion of a degree in any social sciences subject demonstrates research skills, analytical ability, a flexible and adaptable approach to learning, critical evaluation, the ability to work to deadlines, creativity, logical thinking, team-working, self-organization and communication skills – all skills that will serve graduates no matter where they want to take their careers.
Jobs that make a difference
Graduate with a social science degree and you’ll be equipped with the skills you need to help to shape the future. Social sciences subjects naturally lead to progression into the kinds of careers that make a very real difference to society. Environmental planning, health, education, politics, law, international relations – these are just a handful of the many social science areas that help you to improve the lives of children and adults in societies around the world. Whatever sphere of social science you specialize in, the world needs your expertise.
Human beings are fascinated by other human beings. What makes us tick? What makes a successful society? Why do so many of us watch Big Brother, read newspaper gossip columns, check Twitter feeds? Just one of the reasons why social science degrees are so popular is that we’re keen to study ourselves. As humans, we are, innately, problem solvers. Looking inward, be it at ourselves through psychology, or at our society as a whole, through sociology for example, we like to question, analyze, and look for answers. Social sciences subjects allow us to do just that.
Do you enjoy a variety of fields of study? Are you interested in receiving a classic liberal arts degree, or do you not want to focus on only one area during your time in college? Or would you simply like to become a well-rounded person? Then the Social Science major is for you. In the Social Science program, you are offered the chance to explore the human condition and how we relate to one another and our world in a variety of contexts. You will spend time studying Communication, Criminal Justice, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology. And if one of them becomes a favorite, then that area can become the specialty of your Social Science major.