This course seeks to turn learners into informed consumers of social science research. It introduces concepts, standards, and principles of social science research to the interested non-expert. Learners who complete the course will be able to assess evidence and critically evaluate claims about important social phenomena.
It reviews the origins and development of social science, describes the process of discovery in contemporary social science research, and explains how contemporary social science differs from apparently related fields. It describes the goals, basic paradigms, and methodologies of the major social science disciplines. It offers an overview of the major questions that are the focus of much contemporary social science research, overall and for China. Special emphasis is given to explaining the challenges that social scientists face in drawing conclusions about cause and effect from their studies, and offers an overview of the approaches that are used to overcome these challenges. Explanation is non-technical and does not involve mathematics. Statistics and quantitative methods are not covered.
Explore the big questions in social science and learn how you can be a critical, informed consumer of social science research.
Part 1 should be completed before moving on to Part 2.
Who is this class for: Advanced undergraduates or college graduates without a background in social science who seek a basic understanding of the relevant disciplines’ concerns, methodologies, and challenges. It is especially aimed at anyone contemplating applying to a social science postgraduate program who has not had systematic prior exposure, and would like to assess the fit of social science to their interests, and gain a basic understanding that will help them decide whether to pursue advanced training. The course may also be useful to students enrolled in an introductory social science research methods class as a complement to lectures and readings.
What is social science?
Welcome to Social Science Approaches to the Study of Chinese Society Part 1! Part 1 focuses on being a CONSUMER of social science research. Take some time to review the Course Overview video and the assignments for this course. In Week 1, we will explore What is Social Science. By the end of this week, you will be able to understand the differences between social science from humanities, natural and life sciences, outline the origins of social science and have a grasp of key definitions and terms.
Graded: Week 1 - What is social science?
The Big Questions
In Week 2, we will focus on The Big Questions. By the end of this week, you should have some sense of the range of questions that are the focus of much social science research.
Graded: Week 2 - The Big Questions
Social Science Research on China
In Week 3, we will focus on Social Science Research on China. By the end of this week, you should have some sense of major topics in current social science research on China.
Graded: Week 3 - Social science research on China
The Social Science Disciplines
In Week 4, we will focus on The Social Science Disciplines. By the end of this week, you should have a better understanding of the emphases of each of the major social science disciplines, and the differences between the disciplines.
Graded: Week 4 - Social science disciplines
In Week 5, we will focus on Study Designs. By the end of this week, you should understand the differences between the most common types of study, and have some sense of the settings in which each is most relevant.
Graded: Week 5 Study Design Peer Assignment
In Week 6, we will focus on Challenges. By the end of this week, you should be able to have a better understanding of key challenges to interpreting results from social science research, and be able to reflect on potential problems with study design.
Graded: Week 6 - Challenges
Cause and Effect
In Week 7, we will focus on Cause and Effect. By the end of this week, you should understand the basic approaches that social scientists follow in trying to establish that an observed relationship reflects cause and effect.
Graded: Week 7 - Cause and effect
You've reached the final exam week! Complete the final exam and post-course survey. Your feedback can help us improve future iterations of the course. Good luck on the exam and hope to see you in Social Science Approaches Part 2.
Graded: Final Exam