Ways of Knowing in the Social Sciences

Course Description

This course will introduce students to the diverse methodologies employed in the social sciences, while critically considering the implications of methodology (and their underlying epistemology) for the production of knowledge. Questions we will explore include: Why do we choose certain methodologies over others? What assumptions about knowing and knowledge underlie the methods we choose? How does choice of method enable or limit what we can know, or even preclude certain forms of knowledge? Are some methods more viable for studying particular subjects or questions? Why are some methodologies privileged as more valid or legitimate ways of knowing than others? When do methodological conventions work for or against other goals, such as community empowerment and social change? How can we make more intentional and creative methodological choices that recognize the limits and the possibilities of knowing, while enabling us to set more realistic and ethical research goals? Each week, a faculty guest speaker will share with the class a recent research project, focusing on the ‘behind the scenes’ stories of the methodological assumptions, dilemmas, and decisions that drove the research, the questions asked, and the knowledge produced through it. Alternate class sessions will be devoted to a discussion of this work in relation to the larger questions and themes of the course.