PIM54-Philosophical Issues in the Social Sciences

Module Provider: Graduate Institute for Politics and International Studies
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Brian Feltham

Email: b.m.feltham@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:
A research training module for doctoral students which provides training on research design and theoretical and philosophical perspectives on research in the social sciences.

1. To deepen each student's awareness of the basic philosophical and methodological issues encountered in the study of human activity.
2. To extend each student's familiarity with the major approaches to theory and analysis within politics and international relations.
3. To heighten each student's sense of the inherent difficulties and dilemmas, including analytical, ethical and epistemological, encountered in any advanced study of politics and international relations.
4. To equip each student with a basic understanding of the sources, uses and difficulties of the quantitative and qualitative techniques that might be employed in the study of a range of issues in politics and international relations.
5. To enable students to engage with a key philosophical and theoretical issues in the development, criticism and defence of research methods for a range of subject matter within politics and international relations.

Assessable learning outcomes:
Students will learn important philosophical perspectives underlying research in the social sciences, including research traditions such as positivism, interpretivism, and critical theory.
Students will develop skills to detect and address philosophical problems arising in the course of their research, including ethical, conceptual and epistemological issues.
Students will learn key skills in research design in the light of philosophical issues underlying social science.
Students will learn philosophical perspectives that contribute to the development, critical assessment, and defence of research questions and methods in relation to a range of subject matter within the social sciences.
Students will gain knowledge of the presuppositions, possibilities and limitations of social science research more generally.

Additional outcomes:
Practice and confidence in the oral presentation of philosophical and theoretical ideas on methodologies used in social science, including making effective use of visual material such as handouts and slides.
Practice in employing such philosophical and theoretical ideas in oral discussion.
To participate constructively and critically in discussions of theoretical material in relation to a range of research in social science.
To effectively write argumentative, evidenced essays with full and correct referencing.

Outline content:
This module introduces students to the consideration of methodological, philosophical and ethical problems encountered in graduate research in the social sciences. Students will study and discuss the difficulties involved in characterising the nature of social-scientific research and the status of the knowledge it produces, as well as a range of research traditions. It will also cover specific issues such as principles of research design, reflexivity, causation, conceptual and normative analysis.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The class will be taught in 10 two-hour seminars, which will begin with brief student presentations. There may be mini-lectures when appropriate, but stress will be placed on developing the skills of philosophical discussion. Students will be encouraged to use examples drawn from their own field (and from their own research, where possible) in the essay, presentations and class debates.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 10 10
Guided independent study 90 90
Total hours by term 100.00 100.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 60
Report 40

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Summative Assessment Methods:

1. Critical Report on the methods of a selected piece of published research (e.g. a paper or book) (1,500 to 2,000 words) 40% of the mark. 

2. Essay (2,000 words) worth 60%. 

The subject matter of these pieces of work must be agreed with the module convenor (Brian Feltham).  Ideally, seek the advice and agreement of your supervisor, to ensure that the focus of your Report or Essay is of substantial value to your wider research.  Essay questions should be designed to apply at least one of this modules topics to an area within your own research.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:
50% overall module mark

Reassessment arrangements:
Reassessment is by the same method as the original assessment. Resubmission of coursework or re-examination in September.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books: There are no essential purchases for this module, but possible purchases include:
Ted Benton, Ian Craib, Philosophy of Social Science: The Philosophical Foundations of Social Thought, Second Edition, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan 2011. £29.99
Gary King, Robert O. Keohane, Sidney Verba, Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994. £24.95

2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 20 April 2018


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