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The uses of social science

Designed to integrate online and print materials with interactive activities, as well as some assessments oriented to practical and employability skills, 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'll 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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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See 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.

Supporting study materials
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'll 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 uses of social science starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019 when we expect it to start for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations 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.

    Entry requirements

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

    We recommend starting 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
    05 Oct 2019 Jun 2020 £3012.00

    Registration closes 12/09/19 (places subject to availability)

    October 2019 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, 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 your module has started.

    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.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

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

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. 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 module 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 module.  

    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, Mastercard, Visa 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 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 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 22/08/2019.

    What's included

    A module book and module website.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD206 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.