Social Sciences have developed a variety of entry points to study social phenomena. Established in 2007, the Department of Methods in the Social Sciences reflects this diversity of methodological approaches, ranging from using methods as tools to test specific research questions to pointing out their close entanglement and interrelation with theory building. Our aim is to develop into an international centre of excellence by supporting theoretical and methodological conversations across disciplines and epistemological backgrounds within the faculty and beyond. Bringing scholars of different disciplinary backgrounds together in one department paves the way for innovative theoretical thinking as well as the improvement of applied methods. This feeds back into our own research agendas within the fields of Communication Science, Political Science and Social Anthropology. Finally, the specific organisational structure allows students to become aware of the variety of ways to think about and work with methods in the Social Sciences. To date the department has three methodological pillars each of which contributes to the joint agenda while also pursuing substantive research activities:
Ethnography is not a uniform method, but consists of a bundle of various methodological techniques. As a relational mode of research, ethnographic practice is usually characterised by context sensitivity, and reflexivity as well as flexibility. As such ethnographers respond and adapt to research situations, which makes ethnography a mode of inquiry most suited to grasp unpredictable outcomes, as well as complex emerging social formations. Within the Department the substantive research most closely connected to this methodological approach concentrates on two main fields of interest: care, kinship and local states; and globalisation and identity.
Surveys are widely used research tools to gather empirical data points to answer a broad range of social science research questions. To map empirical phenomena accurately, researchers need to invest in the continuous development of survey design (e.g. sampling and question wording). To analyse these empirical data points researchers apply a wide range of multivariate statistics. The challenge is to apply the best suited statistical model based on the research interest and the data structure. Researchers in the Department following in particular this methodological approach engage in two substantive research areas: public opinion and electoral behaviour; and party politics and democratic representation.
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Our departmental activities aim to strengthen methodological excellence within the faculty and to encourage theoretical debates. The primary types of activities are research, training and services provisions: