Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap None.


  • NONE


  • NONE

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • NONE


  • to engage students with philosophical issues arising in the social sciences
  • to introduce central philosophical theories and concepts relevant to these issues
  • to introduce key arguments for and against these theories


  • Philosophical issues concerning the nature of social scientific theory and its applications. Topics to be covered will include some or all of the following:
  • Measurement
  • Causation and causal explanation
  • Laws in social science
  • Social mechanisms
  • Facts and values in social science
  • The role of social science in a democratic society
  • Evidence-based social policy
  • Complex systems
  • Social preferences and game theory
  • In consultation with the Module Leader, students will choose a topic for their assessed essay. The essay's topic should normally come from one of the subject areas covered in the seminars. Topic proposals falling outside these areas will have to be approved by the Course Director.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module students should have a familiarity with key philosophical theories and concepts concerning social science.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to:
  • demonstrate skills in understanding and interpreting philosophical theories and arguments concerning social science and in contemporary;
  • analyse and evaluate central arguments for and against theories;
  • write a critical and well-informed essay on a selected topic in the philosophy of social science.
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Identify and locate research materials.
  • Write in a clear, rigorous, argumentative style.
  • Manage their time effectively.
  • Pursue interdisciplinary research.
  • Use their own initiative to choose a research topic.
  • Exercise self-discipline, responsibility and autonomy in pursuing a research project.
  • Engage in disciplined reflection upon the nature of their experiences.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • This module will be taught in 7 two-hour group seminars, and with individual tutorial sessions on the topic of the assessed essay.
  • Each of the two-hour seminars will be led by a lecturer. The seminars include a short introduction to the topic by the lecturer; students' short presentations of key literature; and joint critical discussion of pre-read research publications (partly in group work).
  • The individual tutorials (entitlement of up to 2 hours with the chosen supervisor) will support the students' work towards the assessed essay. They include discussion of the chosen research/ essay topic; guidance on relevant research methods and literature; development of a research plan and time-table; and feedback on essay drafts.
  • These teaching and learning methods will support students in achieving Subject-Specific Skills 1-3 above. The Subject-Specific Skills will be formally assessed by the essay.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials up to 2 Flexible 1 hour 2
Seminars 7 Fortnightly 2 hours 14
Preparation and Reading Time 284
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5,000 100%

Formative Assessment:

One essay of 2,000 words

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University