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Taking your first steps into higher education
Taking your first steps into higher education

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1.2 How social science thinking works

I’ve been using Popeye’s song lyrics and the short video of the two women bumping into each other to provide useful pointers about how social science thinking works. Basically it’s about starting with an observation about something and seeing if it’s possible to arrive at a better understanding than that provided by everyday knowledge.

This means that social science often starts with a particular observation or individual example but then sets out to explore what is often taken for granted. The concept of identity is a great example because it is widely discussed and debated in social science and we all have our own ideas about our own identity and the identities of other people – about who we are and who other people are.

Social science recognises that we all have identities but then poses questions like:

  • How are identities created?
  • Are we completely responsible for creating our own identities?
  • What other factors might play a part in shaping identity?

This course looks at some of these factors so you see how a social science approach can help develop your understanding

Social science thinking differs from everyday thinking in another important way – it is generally part of a cycle of enquiry:

The cycle of enquiry comprises of five linked elements.
Figure 2 Cycle of enquiry