History of Social Sciences

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  • Topic: Sociology, Science, Social sciences
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  • Published : March 8, 2009
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The History Of Social Sciences: Senior Seminar Project

Rebecca Pottle

In order to provide a historical view of the social sciences, it is critical to include a definition of just what exactly social science is. Social science is a somewhat complex field, in that it encompasses several sub-fields within, or sub-branches if you will. The simplest definition is the study of human society and of individual relationships in and to society. It can also be defined as a scientific discipline that deals with such study, generally regarded as including sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political science and history. (1). My definition of social sciences, although not supported by all in the field, is an interconnectedness of specific aspects of various components in society. For example, if you were seeking answers to the current state of the economic issues going on in the United States, one must first look at all elements that are contributing to the poor economy, instead of just narrowing it down to one area, such as lack of employment options. There are several layers involved in social sciences, just as there is to the example of the economic situation the United States is dealing with. A social scientist studies all aspects of society, from past events and achievements, to human behavior and relationships among groups. The research is used to provide insight into the different ways individuals, institutions and groups make decisions, respond to change and exercise power. The studies and analyses drawn by social scientists provide possible solutions to social, economic, business, governmental, environmental and even personal problems. Social scientists have certainly earned the reputation of being problem solvers! Although there is controversy within the sciences as to whether or not social science is a “true” science, history has proven that social scientists are a unique, necessary breed of problem solvers.

So why does one seek higher education opportunities in the social science field? For some such as myself, it is an accidental discovery of a strong interest in the subject. A student may be well aware that they have an inner-drive to help others but not entirely clear on how to channel that desire into a specific degree. For me the journey into a social science degree was ignited by my first course in sociology. Most agree it is much easier to grasp the theories and information about a certain topic if the student holds an interest in the subject matter. Due to my limited knowledge of social sciences upon my entry into college, I was unable to identify this as a degree option. Was my lack of knowledge of a degree available in social sciences related to the controversy around social sciences as being a “true” science? Unfortunately I cannot say for certain why I was not provided this as a career choice during my pre-entrance career guidance, but I do believe that much more information about this field needs to be disseminated to graduating seniors. Perhaps when social sciences are deemed as important and “scientific” as the other natural sciences, than the information about this field will be better spread.

As stated earlier, there is a bit of controversy in regards to the validity of social sciences being labeled as a science. At the base of the disagreement lies the definition of science itself. Some scientists, who rely on more concrete laws, measurement tools and concrete scientific measuring, doubt the validity of social sciences as a whole. The two sides debate that social science can be termed that of a science because, the physical sciences believe that social scientists draw analyses that can be subjective and can manipulate the research design to sway the outcome, where a physical science such as biology can’t. Social sciences are often criticized as being less scientific than the natural sciences, as they are believed...
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