- Sudhakar Kumar Mishra
Social sciences study all aspects of society—from past events and achievements to human behavior and relationships among groups. Their research provides insights that help us understand different ways in which individuals and groups make decisions, exercise power, and respond to change. Through their studies and analyses, social scientists suggest solutions to social, business, personal, governmental, and environmental problems.
Research is a major activity of many social scientists, who use a variety of methods to assemble facts and construct theories. Applied Research is designed to produce information that will enable people to make better decisions or manage their affairs more effectively. Collecting information takes many forms, including interviews and questionnaires to gather demographic and opinion data; living and working among the population being studied; performing field investigations; analysing historical records and documents; and preparing and interpreting maps and computer graphics. The work of specialists in social science varies greatly, although specialists in one field may find that their research overlaps work being conducted in another discipline.
Nature of the Work
The major social science occupations include political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, geographers, and historians. The scope of work of each of these professions is dealt with in detail below.
Political Scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems and public policy. They conduct research on a wide range of subjects, such as relations between India and other countries, the institutions and political life of nations, the politics of small towns or a major metropolis, and the decisions of the Court. Studying topics such as public opinion, political decision making, ideology, and public policy, they analyse the structure and operations of governments, as well as various political entities. A political scientist might conduct a public-opinion survey, analyse election results or public documents, or interview public officials.
Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups and social institutions people form, as well as various social, religious, political, and business organizations. They also study the behavior of, and interaction among, groups, trace their origin and growth, and analyze the influence of group activities on individual members. Sociologists are concerned with the characteristics of social groups, organizations, and institutions, the ways individuals are affected by each other and by the groups to which they belong and the effect of social traits such as gender, age, or race on a person’s daily life. The results of sociological research aid educators, lawmakers, administrators, and others who are interested in resolving social problems and formulating public policy.
Most sociologists work in one or more specialties, such as social organization,education,the family, social psychology, urban, rural, political and comparative sociology; gender relations, criminology and sociological practice.
Anthropologists study the origin and the physical, social, and cultural development and behavior of humans. They may examine the way of life, archaeological remains, language, or physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world. Some compare the customs, values, and social patterns of different cultures. Anthropologists usually concentrate on sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, or biophysical anthropology. Sociocultural anthropologists study the customs, cultures, and social lives of groups in settings that range from unindustrialized societies to modern urban centers. Linguistic anthropologists investigate the role of, and changes to, language over time in various cultures. Biophysical anthropologists research the evolution of the human body, look for the earliest evidences of human life, and analyze how culture and biology influence one another. Physical anthropologists examine human remains found at archaeological sites in order to understand population demographics and factors that affected these populations, such as nutrition and disease.
Archaeologists examine and recover material evidence, such as the ruins of buildings, tools, pottery, and other objects remaining from past human cultures in order to determine the chronology, history, customs, and living habits of earlier civilizations.
Geographers analyze distributions of physical and cultural phenomena on local, regional, continental, and global scales. Economic geographers study the distribution of resources and economic activities. Political geographers are concerned with the relationship of geography to political phenomena, whereas cultural geographers study the geography of cultural phenomena. Physical geographers examine variations in climate, vegetation, soil, and landforms and their implications for human activity. Urban and transportation geographers study cities and metropolitan areas, while regional geographers study the physical, economic, political, and cultural characteristics of regions ranging in size from a district to entire continents. Medical geographers investigate health care delivery systems, epidemiology and the effect of the environment on health. Most geographers use geographic information systems (GIS) technology to assist with their work.
Historians’ research, analyses, and interprets the past. They use many sources of additional information in their research, including government and institutional records, newspapers and other periodicals, photographs, interviews, films, and unpublished manuscripts such as personal diaries and letters. Historians usually specialize in a country or region, a particular period, or a particular field, such as social, intellectual, cultural, political, or diplomatic history. Historians help study and preserve archival materials, artifacts, and historic buildings and sites.
Social scientists often work as an integral part of research team, among whose members good communication skills are important. Social scientists on foreign assignment must adjust to unfamiliar cultures, climates, and languages. Some social scientists do field work. Social scientists employed by colleges and universities usually have flexible work schedules, often dividing their time among teaching, research, writing, consulting, and administrative responsibilities.
Social Scientists work as researchers, administrators, and counselors for a wide range of employers. Other employers included scientific research and development services; management, scientific and technical consulting services; business, professional, labour, political, and similar organizations; and architectural, engineering, and related firms. Many individuals with training in a social science discipline teach in colleges and universities and in secondary and elementary schools.
The educational attainment of social scientists is among the highest of all occupations. The Ph.D. or an equivalent degree is a minimum requirement for most positions in colleges and universities and is important for advancement to many top-level non academic research and administrative posts. Graduates with master’s degrees in applied specialties usually have better opportunities outside of colleges and universities. Graduates with a master's degree in a social science may qualify for teaching position. Bachelor’s degree holders have limited opportunities and, in most social science occupations, do not qualify for “professional” positions. The bachelor’s degree does, however, provide a suitable background for many different kinds of entry-level jobs, such as research assistant, administrative aide, or management or sales trainee. With the addition of sufficient education courses, social science graduates also can qualify for teaching positions in schools.
Training in statistics and mathematics is essential for many social scientists. Mathematical and quantitative research methods are being increasingly used in geography, political science, and other fields. The ability to utilize computers for research purposes is mandatory in most disciplines. Numerous museums, historical societies, government agencies, and other organization offer internship and research opportunities.
Depending on their jobs, social scientists may need a wide range of personal characteristics. Intellectual curiosity and creativity are fundamental personal traits, because social scientists constantly seek new information about people, things, and ideas. The ability to think logically and methodically is important to a political scientist comparing, for example, the merits of various forms of government. Objectivity, having an open mind, and systematic work habits are important in all kinds of social science research. Excellent written and oral communication skills also are necessary for all these professionals.
(The author is a Junior Research Fellow in the Department of Political Science, University of Lucknow, Lucknow)
(The author is Associate Professor (Management), Central University of Haryana, Mahendergargh