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Introducing the social sciences

This key introductory OU level 1 module provides an ideal introduction to the social sciences – psychology, social policy and criminology, geography and environment, politics and international studies, economics and sociology. You’ll explore a wide range of topics which shape the nature of contemporary UK society; from questions of identity, inequalities and differences to consumerism and environment, and issues of social order, disorder and governance. Using a blend of text, audio, video and online materials, you’ll be equipped with a range of skills for independent study and for your personal and working life.

What you will study

Introducing the social sciences provides an accessible and contemporary introduction to the social sciences and the questions and issues that social scientists investigate and explore. It is an ideal entry level module for a range of social science and related qualifications.

The module begins with The Life and Times of the Street as a window into a range of social issues which social scientists are interested in exploring. In addition to providing the starting point for the three questions that form the teaching strands to this module, the street is regarded as a place that provokes questions and issues which you will return to at various points during your study. By exploring the street, this module aims to show you how social life is being made and remade in the contemporary UK.

The three module-wide questions are:

  • How is society made and remade? This question asks how people make society in their relations with one another and with the world around them, and how, in turn, society shapes people.
  • How are differences and inequalities produced? People making and being shaped by society generate differences between and inequalities among groups and individuals – you will discover where these come from and how they change
  • How do we know? This sets out how social scientists investigate and answer questions about society.

You will explore social science answers to these questions by looking at three strands of study materials.

Making lives

This addresses questions about how people make and remake their lives but not in circumstances of their own choosing. Through a focus on consumerism and shopping, power and markets, you will explore how social lives are made and remade, how individuals’ identities and sense of self are shaped by their relationship with other people and with objects. In addition, you will examine the constraints and opportunities that impact upon people’s ability to belong to a consumer society.

Connecting lives

The second strand is about the various ways that individuals and their social lives are made and remade through connections to, and disconnections from, other people and places, plus how they see themselves, see others and where they live. A key focus will be on the insights both psychologists and sociologists can bring to an examination of questions of identity in relation to personal and social lives, issues of class, gender, race and disability and issues around our connections to place and migration. 

Ordering Lives

The final strand 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. You will discover how these are made and remade; how does social order and ordering vary in time and place; and how is social order contested, challenged and sometimes broken. In this strand you will explore the relationship between social order and disorder beginning at the level of the neighbourhood and finishing with an examination of the role played by political authorities (governments and states) in defining and attempting to govern order and disorder. 

You will learn

You will learn:

  • the nature of the social sciences and the ways they develop through a process of questions, arguments, evidence and evaluation
  • 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 and  you will gain confidence and skills in:

  • studying and accessing information from a range of sources
  • constructing arguments
  • reading, interpreting and evaluating evidence
  • presenting and communicating ideas and information in a variety of formats
  • managing your time
  • communicating effectively
  • learning from feedback
  • reflecting on your own learning.

What's included

Two module text books, audio, video and online activities delivered via the module 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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study materials 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 will offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. In addition, there will also be the possibility of online tutorials and day schools.

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).

You must also submit your end-of-module assessment (EMA) online.

If you have a disability

This module includes a website and the use of tools such as online activities and audio-visual files. If you use specialist software or hardware to assist you in using a personal computer or the internet and have any concerns about accessing this type of material you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

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. 

Course work includes:

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