Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Code SOCI504
Coordinator Dr N Vitellone
Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2020-21 Level 7 FHEQ First Semester 15


• To introduce students to the main philosophical conceptions of social science
• To examine the status of sociology as a social science
• To examine the link between theory and methodology within social research
• To examine the different forms of knowledge production within the social sciences
• To examine the relation between sociological knowledge and wider debates about politics and experience

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) An awareness of the diversity of methods in social science and of different epistemological and ontological assumptions about knowledge that underpin social research

(LO2) An understanding of philosophical issues relating to method in social science

(LO3) An understanding of some of the contested features of method in social science, for example the question of objectivity, neutrality, standpoint, experience, interpretation, prediction, reflexivity

(LO4) An ability to critically evaluate the main philosophical debates on method in social science such as positivism, hermeneutics, critical theory, realism and constructivism.

(LO5) To apply sociological knowledge to wider debates about politics and experience

(S1) Communication (oral, written and visual) - Academic writing (inc. referencing skills)

(S2) Critical thinking and problem solving - Critical analysis

(S3) Critical thinking and problem solving - Synthesis



The module develops understanding of some of the contested features of theory and method in social science - especially in relation to issues of objectivity, neutrality, standpoint, explanation, interpretation, and reflexivity. Developing an understanding of the main foundational debates in social science is crucial for reflection on how methods relate to theory, and how knowledge relates to social worlds. The syllabus will provide frameworks that allow for reflection on how to generate various forms of knowledge for understanding aspects of the social world.

Some of the major debates within the philosophy of social science are addressed in the course of the module, with a particular focus on some of the key controversies that arise from producing and disseminating knowledge in a range of intellectual traditions and – crucially – in specific intellectual/social contexts. The syllabus for the module contains three main themes: to introduce (or in some cases to rei ntroduce) students to the major frameworks within which social scientific inquiry takes place; to encourage reflection on some of the ways to situate research herein; and – relatedly - to understand some of the assumptions and implications of the ways in which social research relates to social science theories and methods.

Each of these themes is taught across the following topics that are addressed in lectures and seminars:

What is social science?





Critical Theory

Power and Knowledge



Standpoint Epistemologies

Teaching and Learning Strategies

The usual teaching pattern for this module is one weekly two-hour session, comprising one hour lecture and one hour seminar discussion. However, as the lecture and seminar are given by one lecturer to the whole cohort of registered students (i.e. small-group seminars are managed in-class by a single tutor, also the lecturer, to a group of approximately 30-35 students), there is little middle ground for a hybrid model. If social distancing prevents face-to-face delivery of the lectures (and the module generally), lectures will be pre-recorded (in digestible "chunks") and uploaded by the weekly scheduled lecture period. These can also be supported by additional resources available on the VLE (e.g. links to other content/readings, etc) where required, such that a comparable amount of content is provided across all lecture sessions.

If social distancing disrupts the face-to-face delivery of a seminar directly following a lecture, a single seminar session for the whole co hort will take place at an alternatively scheduled time over video conferencing software (with details being shared by the seminar leader via the VLE). Materials will be made available in advance on the VLE and supported by other VLE resources (e.g. reading lists, seminar group discussion boards, FAQs).

If it is safe to do so, the lecture and seminar can be delivered face-to-face as normal, in a single two-hour session to the whole cohort. However, if social distancing is required, an online-only format for the module will be necessary, with the knock-on effect of requiring that the single two-hour session be broken up into two one-hour components (see Module Delivery below for details), with the lecture taking place early in the week prior to the one-hour seminar session.

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours   24

Timetable (if known)   120 mins X 1 totaling 24
Private Study 126


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Assessment 1 There is a resit opportunity. Standard UoL penalty applies for late submission. This is an anonymous assessment. Assessment Schedule (When) :First Semester  3,000 word essay    100       

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.