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Investigating the social world

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This multidisciplinary module uses a range of learning technologies to help you understand how social scientists investigate the social world. Drawing on the subjects of criminology, social policy, economics, environmental studies, geography, international studies, politics and sociology, you'll explore a wide range of everyday topics. Through the module’s investigative and thematic approach you’ll learn the methods, perspectives and tools of the social sciences, further developing your analytical and evaluative skills. This module will help you decide your specialisation at OU level 2, and equip you with a range of skills for further independent study, and for your personal and working life.

What you will study

This module consists of four blocks of study that take an international perspective to exploring the structure of the social world.

Block 1, the introductory block, uses the topic of money to introduce you to the way the social sciences investigate the social world.

Block 2 uses the topic of home and the theme of inequality to explore how five different social science perspectives understand different meanings and issues around what home is, or what it can be. The learning and teaching materials in this block focus on helping you develop your questioning and evidencing skills.

Block 3 looks at the political, economic and geographical aspects of responsibility for the environment and questions around the use of its resources. The theme of rights is used to look at different aspects of this key contemporary issue. The learning and teaching materials in this block focus on helping you develop your analysing and evaluating skills.

Block 4 explores boundaries – social, policy, legal and others – and how they structure the world. The theme of justice is used to understand key issues such as immigration, criminalisation, Fairtrade policies and noise as examples of boundaries. The learning and teaching materials in this block focus on helping you develop your debating and communicating skills.

You will learn

In this module you'll learn:

  • the ways in which the social sciences investigate the social world through questioning, analysing, evaluating and engaging
  • how the social sciences investigate familiar and contemporary social issues
  • about debates at the centre of life in the contemporary world.

You’ll also 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.

Entry requirements

This is an 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.

This module is designed to follow on from Introducing the social sciences (DD102) but is also available for standalone study.

If you are new to higher education, we recommend that you first study Introducing the social sciences (DD102) as its interdisciplinary approach to the social sciences and its integrated teaching of key study skills will give you a firm foundation for further study.

You can use our online diagnostic quiz Are you ready for DD103? to help you decide if you need some extra preparation.

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

What's included

You’ll be provided with two printed module textbooks, an introductory booklet and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

Computing requirements

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.

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, your tutor can also provide additional support with your study skills.

We aim to provide online tutorials and recordings of these will typically be made available.

While you’re not obliged to attend any of these tutorial events, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

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 DD103 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

Investigating the social world starts twice a year – in February and October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2022 and February 2023 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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