SFEL8000 - Philosophy of Science for the Social Sciences


Examination arrangement

Examination arrangement: Assignment
Grade: Passed/Failed

Evaluation Weighting Duration Grade deviation Examination aids
Assignment 100/100

Course content

The general themes of the course are: Module 1: Introduction. Basic concepts and perspectives. An overview of ontological and epistemological traditions and their implications for contemporary social/behavioural science. Paradigmatic traditions - programmatic and methodological standpoints. Controversies within the field of philosophy of science. Interdisciplinary perspectives. The role of values in research. Module 2: Philosophy of science. Methodological implications and strategies. The building blocks of social science - definitions and concept-formation. Descriptive strategies. Traditions of interpretation. Forms of aggregation and strategies of inference. Forms of explanation and explanatory strategies. The practical use of theory. Social and behavioral science: a cumulative project? Module 3: Research ethics in the research process and the organization of research. Module 4: Workshop related to the exam. Summary, workshop. Module 5: Seminar with feedback (not obligatory). Tutorial related to individual PhD-projects.

Learning outcome

To give the students extensive training in philosophy of science and the application of perspectives of philosophy of science on the research process.

Knowledge: The doctoral student  

  • has a good overview of the field of philosophy of science, including concepts, perspectives, theories and conflicts, and has knowledge of its implications for own research.
  • can identify basic paradigmatic traditions within social science and knows the importance of these traditions for contemporary social science and their consequences for interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • has a reflective approach, based on philosophy of science, to the knowledge- fronts within her/his research field.  
  • has a reflective approach, based on philosophy of science, to the relation between robustness and innovation in research.

Skills: The doctoral student  

  • can, from a philosophy of science perspective, identify theoretical, ethical and methodological problems in the research process, and has the ability to evaluate consequences of different approaches to these problems.
  • can, within her/his research tradition, identify strategic research questions and formulate realistic research plans, with knowledge-strategies informed by philosophy of science. 
  • can analyze the relationship between matters of method and general epistemological positions, and apply this insight in the evaluation of potential research-projects.
  • can identify, evaluate and practically handle ethical problems in research.

General competence: The doctoral student.

  • can apply perspectives and concepts with interdisciplinary scope in the analysis of research and in the development of own research projects.
  • can with good overview contribute to an interdisciplinary understanding of potential research-strategies and evaluate their consequences in relation to a given problem or need for knowledge.
  • can, in a reflective way, identify new needs for knowledge and has the capability on basis of these to formulate realistic research plans with consideration of ethical aspects.
  • can independently summarize, evaluate and communicate research as well as in the research community as in a broader context.

Learning methods and activities

The lectures and seminars starts early each semester. The registration deadlines for this course are 10 August (autumn semester) and 10 January (spring semester).

The teaching consists of 8 introductory lectures and 4 seminars (2 obligatory) distributed over 5 modules. Each modul is organized over two to three days. The seminars in modul 3 and 4 require active participation from the students. Examination is in the form of written and oral presentation of group tasks and written individual assignments, related to the participants research interests.

Form of evaluation: Essay

Compulsory assignments

  • 50% attendance

Specific conditions

Compulsory activities from previous semester may be approved by the department.

Required previous knowledge

Master's degree in the Social Sciences or equivalent. The course is limited to a maximum of 20 participants. Applicants affiliated with one of the PhD programmes at the Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences will be prioritized. External applicants must apply via Søknadsweb.

The course has largely what could be called a "laboratory character", meaning that concepts and topics of philosophy of science are applied on research within the participant's own research tradition. Consequently it is to prefer that the participants have begun working with the thesis, making it possible to relate their own work to themes of philosophy of science. If the participant not formally has begun working with the thesis it is necessary that a research plan is formulated, specifying research questions, method (s) and theoretical perspective (s).

Course materials

Relevant literature: Reading list: (Selection to be made, dependent on participant's research interests). Abbot, A. 2004. Methods of Discovery. Heuristics for the Social Sciences, New York, London, W.W. Norton & Company. Baert, P. 2013. Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Towards Pragmatism, Cambridge, Polity. Becker, H.S. 1998. Tricks of the Trade. How to Think About Your Research While You Are Doing It. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Benton, T. & Craib, I. 2001. Philosophy of Social Science. The Philosophical Foundations of Social Thought. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Bird, A. & Ladyman, J. 2013. Arguing About Science, Routledge. Blaikie, N. & Priest, J. (2017). Social Research: paradigms in Action. Cambridge: Polity. Bourdieu, P. 2004. Science of Science and Reflexivity. Oxford: Polity. Couvalis, G. 1997. The Philosophy of Science. Science and Objectivity, London, Sage. Dancy, J. Sandis, C. 2015. Philosophy of Action. An Anthology, Wiley Blackwell.Delanty, G. & Strydom, P. (eds.) .2003. Philosophies of Social Science. The Classic and Contemporary Readings. Maidenhead ; Philadelphia: Open University Press. Gergen, K.J. & Gergen, M. (eds.) (2003). Social construction: a reader. London, Sage. Hacking, I. 1999. The Social Construction of What? Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press. Harding, S. (ed.).2004. The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader. Intellectual and Political Controversies. New York: Routledge. Hollis, M. 1994. The Philosophy of Social Science. An Introduction, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Kim, J. 2011. Philosophy of Mind. Third edition, Westview Press. Kuhn, T. 2012. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 50th Anniversary edition. With an Introductory Essay by Ian Hacking, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press. Lamont, M. 2009. How Professors Think. Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment, Cambridge Massachusetts, London, Harvard University Press. Martin. M. & McIntyre. L. C. (eds.) 1994. Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science, Cambridge, Mass. The MIT-Press. Montuschi, E.2003. The Objects of Social Science. London: Continuum. Newton-Smith, W.H. (ed).2001. A Companion to the Philosophy of Science, Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Nowotny, H. Scott, P., Gibbons, M. 2011. Rethinking Science. Knowledge and the Public in an Age of Uncertainty, Cambridge, Polity. O’Connor, T. and Sandis, C. 2013. A Companion to the Philosophy of Action, Wiley-Blackwell. Radder, H. (ed). 2003. The Philosophy of Scientific Experimentation, Pittsburgh, The University of Pittsburgh Press. Sayer, R.A. (2010). Method in social science: a realist approach. (Rev. 2. ed..) London: Routledge. Steel, D. and Guala, F (eds). 2011. The Philosophy of Social Science Reader, London and New York, Routledge. Symons, J. and Calvo, P. 2012. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Psychology, London and New York, Routledge. Williams, M. 2001. Problems of knowledge. A critical introduction to Epistemology. Oxford University Press, 2001. General guidelines for research ethics:. Additional material related to the participants' specific research interests. related to the participant's specific Research interests.

More on the course



Version: 1
Credits:  10.0 SP
Study level: Doctoral degree level


Term no.: 1
Teaching semester:  AUTUMN 2021

Term no.: 1
Teaching semester:  SPRING 2022

Language of instruction: English, Norwegian

Location: Trondheim

Subject area(s)
  • Pedagogics
  • Social Sciences
Contact information
Course coordinator: Lecturer(s):

Department with academic responsibility
Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences


Examination arrangement: Assignment

Term Status code Evaluation Weighting Examination aids Date Time Digital exam Room *
Autumn ORD Assignment 100/100
Room Building Number of candidates
Spring ORD Assignment 100/100
Room Building Number of candidates
  • * The location (room) for a written examination is published 3 days before examination date. If more than one room is listed, you will find your room at Studentweb.

For more information regarding registration for examination and examination procedures, see "Innsida - Exams"

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