Introduction to Social Theory for Researchers PSYCH5096

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: School of Psychology
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course aims to introduce students to the main debates and issues in the philosophy of social science. It will examine the philosophical foundations of the social sciences, explore the nature of scientific knowledge, and the differences between the social and the natural sciences. The course will be structured historically and its emphasis will be on the foundations of empirical research.


Lectures: Tuesdays 5.30-6.30pm

Tutorials: Tuesdays 6.30-7.30pm

Requirements of Entry

Typically a 2:1 honours degree in psychology or a related discipline.

Excluded Courses





One piece of coursework (2,500 words) = 100% of the grade

Course Aims

The course aims to introduce students to the main debates and issues in social theory. The course will be structured broadly historically, looking at the dominant theoretical positions in social theory as it has developed over the last century or so. It will, for instance, look at the ways in which the methodological concerns that underlie social research stem from debates and issues in social theory and the philosophy of social science (issues such as the nature of scientific knowledge, the role of values in social scientific research, and the difference between individualistic and holistic methodologies/structure and agency, amongst others).


The course aims to show the integral role that theory plays in the grounding of all research projects and in the successful integration with, and defence of, these projects in the wider academic community. As such, special emphasis is placed on exploring the manner in which the various theoretical positions map onto the students' own individual projects. At the end of the course students should be able to place their own research somewhere along the social theory continuum, making their own projects more robust and penetrating, and providing a platform for greater assuredness and confidence throughout their programme of studies at Glasgow and beyond.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

provide a critical account of the development of social theory;

display a wide-ranging awareness of a number of recent influential developments in, and reassessments of, social theory;

display knowledge of the way in which social theory connects to social research methodology, and, where appropriate, to their own research projects;

examine the debates regarding the scientific nature of social research;

reflect on the social nature of scientific research;

compare individualistic and holistic methodologies in social research.

demonstrate an understanding of key terms such as: 'historical materialism', 'functionalism', 'interpretivism', 'interactionism, 'structuralism', 'postmodernism', 'poststructuralism'.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.