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Introducing the social sciences - part one

This key introductory OU level 1 module provides an approachable and contemporary introduction to the disciplines and subjects that form the social sciences, as well as the questions and issues that social scientists investigate and explore. It tackles everyday issues in an appropriate way, so that you can build on what you already know and gain a solid grounding in study techniques and social science skills and debates. Combining this with another 30-credit module – such as Discovering psychology (DSE141) – is an excellent choice if you want a gradual entry into the social sciences.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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What you will study

This module is an ideal introduction to the social sciences – psychology, social policy and criminology, geography and environment, politics and international studies, economics and sociology – through study of contemporary UK society. Using a blend of text, audio, DVD and online materials, you’ll explore a wide range of topics, including questions of society’s relationship to the environment, questions of identity and issues of social order and governance – all considered in their national and international contexts – that will equip you with a range of skills for independent study and for your personal and working life.

The module-wide questions are: How is society made and repaired? How are differences and inequalities produced? How do we know? Social sciences answers to these questions are explored by looking at three strands of study materials called: Material Lives, Connected Lives and Ordered Lives. The module is introduced by a DVD and has an integral virtual learning environment (VLE) throughout that complements the text-based materials.

Material Lives considers how the making of society involves not only relations between people, but also relations between people and things and their environments; how society shapes and is shaped not just by humans but by material objects and the environment; and some of the consequences of the fact that our lives are influenced by both the human and material worlds. This strand is developed through an examination of consumption and consumer society, questions of power and markets, and issues of waste and sustainability.

Connected Lives also considers people’s connections to material places but the focus is on the people themselves and how they are connected and disconnected from one another, how they see themselves and others, where they live and the mobility of things and people involved in making and breaking connections. This strand is developed through examining questions of identity in relation to personal and social lives, issues around our connections to place and the natural and built environment, and the social life of neighbourhoods or communities.

Ordered Lives explores some of the different ways in which social life is ordered and governed through the rules, norms and expectations people have of one another in day-to-day interaction, and how these arise and are sustained; how social order and ordering vary in time and place; and how social order is contested, challenged, sometimes broken and repaired, including by institutions that claim various kinds of expertise and authority. This strand is developed by an examination of day-to-day ordering in daily lives, through the issue of the anti-social as a certain kind of challenge to normal ways of ordering and by looking at aspects of how governments seek to assemble and regulate their populations.

You will learn

You will learn about the nature of social sciences and the ways they develop through a process of questions, arguments, evidence and evaluation. You will also learn about some key issues and debates at the centre of life in the contemporary UK. You’ll develop an awareness of a range of different disciplinary approaches in the social sciences. You will gain confidence and skills in studying and accessing information from a range of sources; constructing arguments; reading, interpreting and evaluating evidence; and presenting and communicating ideas and information in a variety of formats. You will also practice how to:

  • manage your time effectively
  • organise and complete a programme of work
  • learn from feedback and reflect on your own learning, and be given an opportunity to plan a study pathway leading to personal and/or career goals.

Vocational relevance

After this module, further study in the social sciences could open up employment opportunities in a wide range of occupations in business, banking, insurance, education, health professions, administration, law, social services, voluntary and campaigning organisations, the media, public relations, public service organisations and government (national and local), planning and environmental management, criminal justice system, and social welfare organisations. The module builds a strong basis of vocationally orientated skills that are transferable to the job market: clarity of written communication; critical thinking; ability to analyse, reflect on and present arguments, evidence and theories; problem-solving; evaluating issues; time-management; self-motivation; and basic numerical skills.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. If you are new to the OU, you will find that your tutor is particularly concerned to help you with your study methods. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where tutorials are held depends on the distribution of students taking each module.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

For TMAs 01 - 03 you can choose whether to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) on paper or online through the eTMA system. You may want to use the eTMA system for some of your assignments but submit on paper for others. This is entirely your choice, but the final TMA, TMA 04, must be submitted online through the eTMA system.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that started in October 2013 and February 2014 for the last time. A new 60-credit module Introducing the social sciences (DD102) is available from October 2014.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No examination
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you progress to courses at level 2.

You are strongly advised to start your social science studies with an OU level 1 module – either the 60-credit module Introducing the social sciences (DD101) or two 30-credit modules, for example this module followed by Discovering psychology (DSE141). Two 30-credit modules are an excellent choice if you want a gradual entry into the social sciences. Their approaches to the social sciences and integrated teaching of key study and skills provide a firm foundation for further study at level 2.

Alternatively, if you're unsure whether social sciences is for you, try our diagnostic quiz at Are you ready for DD101? to help you decide. Introducing the Social Sciences: Part One (DD131) is the same as the first half of DD101, so, the resources here may still be of relevance to you.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.


Start End Fee
- - -

No current presentation - see Future availability

This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2014.
Sorry, there is a problem with this page at the moment, while we are fixing it please review the information on our main Fees and Funding Page

What's included

Module book, other printed materials, DVD, audio CDs and module website.

You will need

Audio CD and video DVD playback facilities.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Large print versions of the study materials can be provided on request. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.