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    Frequently Asked Questions about Social Sciences

  • The social sciences encompass a number of related academic disciplines as diverse as economics, sociology, political science, and anthropology. Through all these different lenses, the social sciences help to explain how society works, providing valuable insights for businesses, politicians, journalists, and anyone else who wants to understand the world.

    These insights can be just as important and valuable as any produced by “hard” sciences such as biology, chemistry, or physics, but the objects of study as well as the analytic methods used are different in the social sciences. Unlike the highly quantitative approach typical of laboratory work, social scientists typically rely on a mix of both quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis in studying different aspects of our complex society.

    For instance, if you're trying to understand the homelessness crisis, data on trends in homelessness in different cities may provide an important foundation for analysis, but an urban anthropologist would also use field work and case studies to see how these factors interact in the real world. Similarly, an economist might look at GDP, the stock market, and unemployment data to help predict trends in economic growth, but will also factor in more qualitative analyses of elements such as trade politics, technology development, and more.

    While every branch of social science uses a different mix of analytic tools, they are all united by a common interest in interpreting the world of human beings.