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The uses of social science

Making use of a blend of learning technologies, this interdisciplinary module investigates how social science is used to make sense of everyday dilemmas such as sustaining relationships, making a living, finding a place to live, being part of a community, or making one’s voice heard. The module explores how social scientists use evidence and data, theories and explanations, and norms and values to make sense of social life. By studying this module you will develop the practical skills and intellectual resources required to analyse the ways in which social science can be used both to understand and to shape our social lives.

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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
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

What can social science tell us about the social world? How can it help us solve the troubles and dilemmas of private and public life? The uses of social science explores the role of social science in understanding and shaping our social world. It offers vital knowledge and a set of practical, transferable skills that will help you to investigate and address key social issues and dilemmas. The module is designed to be accessible and engaging – and being interdisciplinary in scope is suitable for anyone who wishes to develop their knowledge and practical understanding of the difference that social science can make to the world around us.

The module explores how social science is used to:

  • describe the social world through the gathering of data and the generation of evidence
  • understand the social world through the use of skills of interpretation, analysis and explanation
  • enact the social world through processes of evaluating, intervening and challenging.

These themes are explored through the following topics, studied in six blocks.

Block 1 – Using social science

The first block introduces the module by considering the uses of social science in relation to everyday problems and dilemmas – which includes revealing the social basis of some of our apparently personal ‘bad habits’.

Block 2 – Describing intimacy

Block 2 examines personal relationships, looking at the ways in which we make and maintain associations with others. It reveals how techniques of social science have been vital in helping us to define and understand different kinds of intimate relationship – in friendship, caring and sexual relations.

Block 3 – Understanding work

The next block explores how we make ends meet, and shows how social science helps to define and understand different kinds of work, employment and leisure – whether in the factory or office, in the home or on the margins of society.

Block 4 – Contesting mobility

Block 4 examines the movement of people and things – revealing how the mobility of commodities, peoples and cultures helps create the social world, as well as the role played by social science in understanding and shaping these processes.  

Block 5 – Enacting participation

This block investigates how we participate in public life. Through forms of voting, volunteering or protesting, it explores how participation is unevenly distributed amongst different citizens, subjects and communities; and the role of social science in understanding and enacting this diversity.

Block 6 – Making use of social science

The final block concludes the module by showing how to synthesise and apply knowledge of the uses of social science to private and public problems and issues. The knowledge and skills learnt on the module are applied to real-world scenarios and cases.

The module is delivered through a combination of an online learning guide, which includes all study support and audio-visual materials, and a single textbook.

You will learn

As well as building your interdisciplinary social science knowledge, and learning a range of social science topics, you will develop a set of practical and transferable skills. These include critical thinking; collaborative working; report and essay writing; making presentations; ICT and numerical skills; and synthesising and applying knowledge. You will also learn how to manage your time effectively and organise and complete a programme of work to a specified standard; how to learn from feedback from others; and to critically reflect on your own learning.

Vocational relevance

This module offers a comprehensive grounding in interdisciplinary social science, suitable for a variety of qualification pathways and provides opportunities to develop skills that will be of vital importance in current or future careers.

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 course provides a set of transferable skills and aptitudes that are relevant to many other career pathways.

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.

Contact us 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.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year, in October.


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:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have a good knowledge of the subject area, obtained either through level 1 study with the OU, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

We recommend that you start with our key introductory module Introducing the social sciences (DD102). This interdisciplinary OU level 1 module, with its integrated teaching of key study skills, provides a firm foundation for OU level 2 study.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2021.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 31/07/2015.

What's included

A module book and website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

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. 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.