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The uses of social science

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

Course work includes:

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

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