Philosophical Foundations of Social Research

By Prof. Sambit Mallick   |   IIT Guwahati
Learners enrolled: 448
This course is concerned with the nature of social science inquiry. It is intended for students in all disciplines and those early in their masters and doctoral research programmes. The course travels through philosophy of science, epistemology, ontology and specific applications to the major disciplinary areas. The main objectives of the course are to: (a) introduce the philosophy of science and its application to social sciences, (b) outline major differing classes of theory in social sciences and to explicate their metatheoretical foundations, (c) familiarize students with the plurality of views on these issues in the intellectual community, (d) provide students with an opportunity to apply these concepts to the analysis of issues in social sciences, and (e) provide students with an opportunity to practise scholarly discourses.

UG and PG students of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sciences and Engineering
Course Status : Ongoing
Course Type : Elective
Duration : 8 weeks
Start Date : 18 Jan 2021
End Date : 12 Mar 2021
Exam Date : 21 Mar 2021
Enrollment Ends : 01 Feb 2021
Category :
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
Level : Undergraduate/Postgraduate

Course layout

Week 1: Introduction
      History of philosophy of social sciences
      Empiricism and rationalism
      Auguste Comte and positivism
      Epistemology and ontology
Week 2: Emile Durkheim
      Rules of sociological method
      Influence of sciences on sociology
      Objectivity in social sciences
      Social facts, autonomy of knowledge and the necessity of science
      Commonsense and science
      Comparative social sciences Organic analogy and precursor to functionalism
Week 3: Max Weber – I
       Positivism and neo Kantianism
       Methodology of social sciences
Week 4: Max Weber – II
      Methodological individualism
     (Meaningful) social action
      Interpretative understanding (verstehen) of social action: observatory and explanatory understanding
      Ideal types
Week 5: Karl Marx
      Idealism versus materialism
      Materialist conception of history
      Principles of dialectic
      Understanding nature
      Ideology and science: methodological implications
Week 6: Karl Popper: Principle of falsification
      Context of discovery and context of justification
      Hypothetico-deductive model
      Thomas Kuhn:Consensus-driven paradigm
      Normal science: tradition-bound activity
      Crisis within normal scientific tradition
      Revolutionary science: tradition-shattering activity
Week 7: Positivism versus hermeneutics: conflicting traditions
      Natural sciences versus social sciences
      Objectivity and subjectivity in social sciences
      Quantitative and qualitative research traditions
Week 8:Conclusion
      Beginning of the end of philosophy of social sciences
      Overview of the course

Books and references

1. P. Baert, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Polity Press, 2005.
2. M. Hollis, The Philosophy of Social Science: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, 1994.
3. T. Benton, Philosophical Foundations of the Three Sociologies, Routledge, 2015.
4. E. Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method, Macmillan, 1982.
5. M. Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences, Free Press, 1949.
6. P. Halfpenny, Positivism and Sociology: Explaining Social Life, Allen and Unwin, 1982.
7. K. Popper, (1959) 2002. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. London and New York: Routledge.
8. T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
9. C.H. Cooley, Human Nature and Social Order, Transaction Publishers, 1983.
10. A. Schütz, Collected Papers III: Studies in Phenomenological Philosophy, I. Schütz (ed.). The Hague: Nijhoff, 1975.

Instructor bio

Prof. Sambit Mallick

IIT Guwahati
Sambit Mallick is Associate Professor of Sociology at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati. He specializes in the sociology of science and technology, and also includes historical sociology and philosophy of the social sciences among his research interests. His research and teaching are at the intersection of philosophy, social theory, and science and technology studies. His courses under NPTEL have attracted a large number of students even from the remote areas in India and abroad.

Course certificate

The course is free to enroll and learn from. But if you want a certificate, you have to register and write the proctored exam conducted by us in person at any of the designated exam centres.
The exam is optional for a fee of Rs 1000/- (Rupees one thousand only).
Date and Time of Exams: 21 March 2021 Morning session 9am to 12 noon; Afternoon Session 2pm to 5pm.
Registration url: Announcements will be made when the registration form is open for registrations.
The online registration form has to be filled and the certification exam fee needs to be paid. More details will be made available when the exam registration form is published. If there are any changes, it will be mentioned then.
Please check the form for more details on the cities where the exams will be held, the conditions you agree to when you fill the form etc.


Average assignment score = 25% of average of best 6 assignments out of the total 8 assignments given in the course.
Exam score = 75% of the proctored certification exam score out of 100

Final score = Average assignment score + Exam score

YOU WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CERTIFICATE ONLY IF AVERAGE ASSIGNMENT SCORE >=10/25 AND EXAM SCORE >= 30/75. If one of the 2 criteria is not met, you will not get the certificate even if the Final score >= 40/100.

Certificate will have your name, photograph and the score in the final exam with the breakup.It will have the logos of NPTEL and IIT Guwahati .It will be e-verifiable at nptel.ac.in/noc.

Only the e-certificate will be made available. Hard copies will not be dispatched.

Once again, thanks for your interest in our online courses and certification. Happy learning.

- NPTEL team

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