Introduction to Social Science
The course provides an overview of epistemological and methodological concepts, issues and techniques concerning the production of scientifically relevant knowledge in the domain of social sciences. It is designed and intended for an audience of post-graduate or doctoral students coming from both quantitative and qualitative backgrounds, therefore including students of natural and applied sciences. It proceeds from the illustration of key basic concepts in defining research activities and production of knowledge, with particular reference to their historical evolution in philosophical debates, to the clarification of methodological choices for a number of social science disciplines, to the exploration of themes which are contingent to methodological questions, such as methodological pluralism and interdisciplinarity, ethics of scientific research and effective communication.
At the end of the course, the student should have familiarised with the key concepts informing epistemological and methodological debates in social science, such as hypothesis, theory, falsification, verification, covering law, causality, with particular consideration for positivistic paradigms and anti- or post-positivistic reactions.
The student should be aware of the specific difficulties of social scientific disciplines in studying human societies arising from the problematic separation between the studied object and the studying subject, and the link between social science and the political dimension.
He should familiarise with problems of social research design, starting from the specificities characterizing the various stages of social science research.
The student should become aware of the functional classification of social science methods in qualitative and quantitative, familiarising with a number of techniques in both domains, while grasping that contemporary social research increasingly requires the application of different methods and interdisciplinary approaches, which also lead to the necessity of teamwork coordination.
The course also aims at providing a large variety of examples where the concepts and principles described above find their application and didactical clarification. Those examples will focus in particular on the study of technology and its social impact.
Finally, the student should become aware of the moral implications, limits and rules informing social science research, as well as of the role and importance of effective communication in the social sciences.