Introducing the social sciences
This OU level 1 module provides an ideal introduction to the social sciences – 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'll 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 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'll 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'll explore social science answers to these questions by looking at the following three strands of study:
1: 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'll 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 people’s ability to belong to a consumer society.
2: 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 sociologists can bring to an examination of questions of identity. This will be in relation to personal and social lives, issues of class, gender, race and disability and issues around our connections to place and migration.
3: 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'll 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. You'll explore the relationship between social order and disorder, beginning at the level of homelessness and finishing with examining the role played by political authorities (governments and states) in defining and attempting to govern order and disorder.
You will learn
By studying this module, you'll 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.
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 modules at OU level 2.
Introducing the social sciences is available for standalone study and is an ideal starting point if you are considering going on to study one of our qualifications in social sciences. Its interdisciplinary approach to the social sciences and its integrated teaching of key study skills will give you a firm foundation for further study.
If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.
You’ll be provided with two printed module books and have access to a module website, which includes:
- a week-by-week study planner
- course-specific module materials
- audio and video content
- assignment details and submission section
- online tutorial access.
You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).
Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.
To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).
Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.
Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.
It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.