Research Philosophy

A range of important philosophical debates on the nature of research in the social sciences

Research Design and Practice

Research Philosophy
This module deals with a range of important philosophical debates on the nature of research in the social sciences. These debates will help inform your theoretical and methodological reflections and choices, and provide you with a broad overview of differing approaches to conceptions of research in social science.


This module runs in Semester Two - Monday 14th January - 17th March 2020, 12 - 2pm


    • Explanation and understanding and the practice of social science
    • Theme I: Positivism and postpositivism
    • Theme II: Interpretivism and critical social science
    • Theme III: Poststructuralism and beyond
      Learning outcomes

      Social science research philosophy is a highly contested terrain and therefore we will work towards a critical and reflexive approach to these issues, as specifically relevant to the students on the module and with focus on your intended PhD projects.


      1. introduce students to core debates in the philosophy of the social sciences through hands-on interactive teaching
      2. give students a firm grasp of the philosophical underpinnings of different approaches to social science research
      3. encourage students to explore different philosophies of social science and make connections between the various issues involved in each one of them
      4. be able to apply philosophical issues of social science research critically in their consideration of different research traditions in social science
      5. challenge students to think about the epistemological and ontological assumptions underlying their own PhD projects
      6. give students an awareness of a broad range of debates and controversies that constitute these approaches

      On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

      • Explain key philosophical debates in the social sciences
      • Appreciate the variety of philosophies in the social sciences and similarities, differences and connections between the various approaches
      • Critically reflect on the ontological and epistemological issues of a research project
      • Select an appropriate philosophical approach for the PhD project and justify that selection
      • Work collaboratively and lead seminar discussions
      • Write about philosophical approaches in the social sciences in a concise and clear manner
      • Identify how onto logical and epistemological claims feed through into the methodology of social science research.

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      The DRT is offered via the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities (CSSAH). Find out more about the College by following the link below.
      Contact details

      College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities
      Attenborough Tower, 4th floor
      University of Leicester
      University Road
      Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK


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