Social science is the branch of science devoted to the study of societies and the relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociology, the original "science of society", established in the 19th century. In addition to sociology, it now encompasses a wide array of academic disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, economics, human geography, linguistics, management science, political science, psychology, and history. (For a more detailed list of sub-disciplines within the social sciences see: Outline of social science.)
Positivist social scientists use methods resembling those of the natural sciences as tools for understanding society, and so define science in its stricter modern sense. Interpretivist social scientists, by contrast, may use social critique or symbolic interpretation rather than constructing empirically falsifiable theories, and thus treat science in its broader sense. In modern academic practice, researchers are often eclectic, using multiple methodologies (for instance, by combining both quantitative and qualitative research). The term "social research" has also acquired a degree of autonomy as practitioners from various disciplines share the same aims and methods.
Additional fields of study
Additional applied or interdisciplinary fields related to the social sciences include:
- Archaeology is the science that studies human cultures through the recovery, documentation, analysis, and interpretation of material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, features, biofacts, and landscapes.
- Area studies are interdisciplinary fields of research and scholarship pertaining to particular geographical, national/federal, or cultural regions.
- Behavioural science is a term that encompasses all the disciplines that explore the activities of and interactions among organisms in the natural world.
- Computational social science is an umbrella field encompassing computational approaches within the social sciences.
- Demography is the statistical study of all human populations.
- Development studies a multidisciplinary branch of social science that addresses issues of concern to developing countries.
- Environmental social science is the broad, transdisciplinary study of interrelations between humans and the natural environment.
- Environmental studies integrate social, humanistic, and natural science perspectives on the relation between humans and the natural environment.
- Gender studies integrates several social and natural sciences to study gender identity, masculinity, femininity, transgender issues, and sexuality.
- Information science is an interdisciplinary science primarily concerned with the collection, classification, manipulation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information.
- International studies covers both International relations (the study of foreign affairs and global issues among states within the international system) and International education (the comprehensive approach that intentionally prepares people to be active and engaged participants in an interconnected world).
- Legal management is a social sciences discipline that is designed for students interested in the study of state and legal elements.
- Library science is an interdisciplinary field that applies the practices, perspectives, and tools of management, information technology, education, and other areas to libraries; the collection, organization, preservation and dissemination of information resources; and the political economy of information.
- Management consists of various levels of leadership and administration of an organization in all business and human organizations. It is the effective execution of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives through adequate planning, executing and controlling activities.
- Marketing the identification of human needs and wants, defines and measures their magnitude for demand and understanding the process of consumer buying behaviour to formulate products and services, pricing, promotion and distribution to satisfy these needs and wants through exchange processes and building long-term relationships.
- Political economy is the study of production, buying and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government.
- Public administration is one of the main branches of political science, and can be broadly described as the development, implementation and study of branches of government policy. The pursuit of the public good by enhancing civil society and social justice is the ultimate goal of the field. Though public administration has been historically referred to as government management, it increasingly encompasses non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that also operate with a similar, primary dedication to the betterment of humanity.
- Religious studies and Western esoteric studies incorporate and inform social-scientific research on phenomena broadly deemed religious. Religious studies, Western esoteric studies, and the social sciences developed in dialogue with one another.