SHE Level 5
SCQF Credit Points 15.00
ECTS Credit Points 7.50
Module Code MML326670
Module Leader Stephen Sinclair
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject Sociology
  • A (September start)

Summary of Content

This is a foundational module for the MSc. Human Rights programme. The overarching goal is to critically explore the possibilities of research-led social science being used to transform the world for the 'common good'. We will explore why transformative social action/science should be pursued; what theoretical tools are available to help frame this work and guide our action; the range of contributions that social science can make (across an array of social science disciplines/perspectives); and how social science should be practised. Throughout, we will critically appraise the taken-for-granted, problematize casual everyday understanding, and explicate the necessity of theoretical foundations. While valorising theoretical knowledge, our objectives are not limited to the esoteric pursuit of knowledge; we put theory to work - seeking to better understand how theory can frame practical transformative social action.


The module is structured into four blocks, with each designed to demonstrate the utility of research-led social science by providing foundations and presenting opportunities for practical exploration. The following is indicative of what will be presented. Block A - Our World: The Need for Transformative Social Science Foundations: (i) Societal challenges, past and present; global and local; -720 (ii) The role and effect of social science in changing the world - epistemological, ethical, political, practical and professional responsibilities. Applications: (iii) Case Study: The need for social science in action Block B - Theories of Social Justice Foundations: (i) Introduction to theories of social justice -720 (ii) One detailed exploration of how social justice is conceived and approached from within one theoretical framework (which may be either Utilitarianism, Marxism, Feminism, Rawlsian principles, Critical social theory, Feminism or Libertarianism, Capability approach). Applications: (iii) Case Study: Theorising a university for the 'common good' Block C - Approaching Social Justice Foundations: (i) How we know: researching to understand social justice -720 (ii) One detailed exploration of how social justice is approached within one disciplinary area (which may be either History, Geography, Social Policy, Sociology or Criminology) Applications: (iii) Case Study: Transformative social science research Block D - Social Science for Social Justice Foundations: (i) Critical learning and reflective practice; (ii) Changing ourselves to change the world. Applications: (iii) Case Study: Transformative social science to change the world

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of theories of social justice and transformative social science.2. Apply social scientific perspectives to understand and analyse social conditions and problems.3. Demonstrate a critical ability to address ethical dilemmas 4. Critically reflect on, evaluate and analyse the impact on wider society of social science research

Teaching / Learning Strategy

Within each block, foundations will be delivered across two sessions that precede a final exploration session. It will be made clear that one module cannot cover all hues of a transformative social science. The learning strategy aims to demonstrate through case studies what can be achieved and to signpost students to other interesting avenues which they may wish to explore. The module will encourage students to pursue their own particular interests. As befits postgraduate learning, students will be expected to develop their knowledge and learning independently and consolidate their understanding beyond timetabled sessions. Furthermore, although discursive and interactive learning will be encouraged throughout, there will be a shift as we progress within each block from didactic learning to collaborative and participative learning. Students will be expected to engage with directed reading throughout and, in particular, to prepare in advance for the explorations. In these explorations, we will draw on case studies, either familiar to the students or 'critical' in nature. These explorations will be student-led - following directions provided in advance by staff, and with the full support of staff in each session. Module assessment will be summative. However, full debriefing at the end of each block of learning will present an opportunity for 'formative' learning, which will be pertinent to the final assessment.

Indicative Reading

The preferred approach in the module will be to provide a programme of carefully selected readings that are easily and freely accessible to students, and which related specifically to particular sessions. At the same time, students will be directed to key reading that would allow them to explore themes of particular interest to them that were only briefly discussed in the Foundation sessions. The following are indicative of the readings we will use: -360b7 Allport, G.W. (1954;1958;1979) The Nature of Prejudice. Perseus Publishing. b7 Burt, J. (2019). Research for the people, by the people: The political practice of cognitive justice and transformative learning in environmental social movements. Sustainability, 11(20), 5611. b7 Campaign for Social Science. (various dates) Making the Case Series. b7 Campaign for Social Science (2020) Vital Business. The Essential Role of the Social Sciences in the UK Private Sector. London: CSS. b7 Crowley, J. (2012) Making Knowledge Work. From Social Science Research to Socially Reflexive Sustainability. Paris: International Social Science Council. b7 ESRC (2020) The Effect of the ESRC. Swindon: ESRC. b7 ESRC (various) What is Social Science? Swindon: ESRC. b7 Hackman, H. and St Clair, AL. (2012) Transformative Cornerstones. Social Science for Global Change. Paris: International Social Science Council. b7 Said, E. (1996) Representations of the Intellectual: the 1993 Reith Lectures. London: Penguin [available on BBS Sounds] b7 UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2020) UNDESA World Social Report 2020. New York: UN. b7 Weber, M. (1948) 'Science as a Vocation' in Gerth, H. and Mills, C.W (eds) From Max Weber. London: Routledge

Transferrable Skills

1. Critical reflection. 2. Reflexive practice. 3. Communication skills. 4. Making the transition from theory to practice.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Assessment (FT) 30.00
Seminars (FT) 18.00
Independent Learning (FT) 84.00
Lectures (FT) 18.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Course Work 01 n/a 100.00 50% Applied Case study: Application of a discipline/perspective to 'diagnose' and 'prescribe' a transformative social science response to a social problem (4,000 words).