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HSS8007 : An Introduction to the Nature of Explanation and Enquiry

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Adam Potts
  • Lecturer: Dr Emily Clough, Mrs Rosalind Beaumont, Professor David Rose, Miss Lydia Wysocki, Dr Michael Barr
  • Owning School: HASS Faculty Office
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


To introduce students to some of the key epistemological traditions that inspire research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, as well some contemporary debates about research and knowledge.

To familiarise students with key terms such as positivism, realism, hermeneutics, constructivism, relativism, and post-structuralism.

Outline Of Syllabus

Introductory session: Overview and Introduction to HSS8007
Topic 1: Introduction: Scientific Approaches to the Production of Knowledge
Topic 2: Laws, Predictions and Explanations
Topic 3: Positivism
Topic 4: Social-scientific Approaches to the Production of Knowledge
Topic 5: Marxism
Topic 6: Critical Realism
Topic 7: Postmodernism
Topic 8: Concluding Thoughts: Philosophy and the Foundations of Knowledge

There will be two roundtables scheduled, in which the module contributors will participate.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading91:3013:30Topic pre-work available on Canvas and published in advance of live workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:00Students will be able to choose from present in person or synchronous live webinars for each week
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study175:3075:30Students will be asked to contribute to online discussion boards and respond to tasks after webinars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time21:002:00Live online roundtables with the participation of module contributors
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module uses a flipped online approach, providing directed online reading and activities (via Canvas) which are subsequently explored through structured interactions via peer-led discussions and the online discussion board.

The module is delivered with a combination of blended on-line resources, present-in person sessions and on-line synchronous opportunities. All relevant sessions are recorded and made available on Canvas allowing each student to design an approach that better suits their needs and commitments. Students are asked to choose whether they will attend present-in-person small group work sessions, or whether they would prefer to attend synchronous on-line webinars, and will be asked to continue with their chosen approach throughout the module.

On the basis of previous years' numbers, we foresee running 3 present-in person groups and two synchronous on-line ones. Each week the lecturer delivering the topic will be available for a scheduled synchronous on-line Q&A session.

The module begins with an introductory session, with the aim of allowing students to familiarise themselves with the module content and teaching and learning approach taken.

The reading and activities will provide opportunities for students to become familiar with the subject matter and to identify issues/ prepare responses for later discussion. Making a variety of content accessible online for students ahead of webinars is important, given the diversity of the student body in terms of disciplinary background and familiarity with terms & concepts. Using this delivery mode, with selected content to appeal to those both new to or familiar with topics, provides students with a personalised learning experience to suit their needs and interests.

At appropriate points in the module students will engage in moderated online discussion based on their responses to the online reading and activities. These discussions would occur over the course of a topic and asynchronously, allowing students/ staff to have flexible and meaningful engagement ahead of/ after webinars.

During peer-led small group work, students undertake further discussion and tasks to clarify and/ or develop their knowledge, and ability to apply module content to their research contexts. A summary will be provided by the topic leads for those who are unable to attend the discussions.

Students are also provided with further reading suggestions to support their own independent study and assignment preparation.

This approach combines the advantage of an accessible mode of knowledge delivery, which allows students to learn at their own pace, with opportunities for interdisciplinary and interpersonal communication and group discussions.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M1002,000 word assignment
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay enables students to demonstrate their knowledge of the taught content and ability to apply it to their research project.

Reading Lists