An Introduction to the Social Sciences

How scientific?
The external environment
Information use

"In the beginning, there were seven academic disciplines: logic, mathematics, geometry,
grammar, rhetoric, music, and astrology."
"Objective laws of social behavior may exist, bu there is much room for debate what they are
and whether the ones that are currently known provide much basis for making predictions. As
society changes, often in unforeseen directions, the social sciences find it difficult to keep pace."
~ W.S. Bainbridge
"Benefits from social science research are likely to be even more abstract, elusive, and hard to
measure than those in the natural sciences." Kenneth Brown
"This neither the best nor the worst of times for the social sciences, marked neither by great
optimism nor great pessimism. If current conditions continue, the social science of the next few
decades will have a modest presence on college campuses and the halls of government, but it
will have relatively little influence over society at large." W.S. Bainbridge
"It's gotten to the point where people think if it's not in Google, it doesn't exist." ~ Danny
"American social scientists constructed a special position for themselves in society, distant from
the compromising fray of both politics and the market, yet engaged in what seemed to be
disinterested service on behalf of social progress through science." ~ Lisa Anderson

Which One?
There is no single, authoritative definition, and there is some controversy about whether or not
there is a single Social Science or simply a collection of disciplines that deal with society and
the human condition. The key element is a focus on human behavior and those disciplines that
explore human behavior in some detail. A secondary element is a focus on those institutions

which humans create and the culture related to the various ways that people live. Since the
social sciences should be "scientific," there is considerable emphasis on research that provides
verifiable evidence about human behavior. If research allows prediction, then the social sciences
would allow people to organize and order society for the better. A typical definition of social
science might be: "to identify, investigate, understand, interpret, and predict the phenomena of
social life in a systematic, objective way." Historically, Marxists viewed the humanities as part of
the social sciences because they deal with various aspects of human behavior, much of it social.
Religion and music might be good examples.
There is some question about the degree to which the social sciences can be genuinely scientific
and objective because of the nature of humans observing humans. Too, validity and reliability are
more difficult in measuring human behavior because so often data must be interpreted and
becomes more subjective. It is also true that different research studies on the same problem, for
example, the impact of increasing the minimum wage, may arrive at quite different findings and

Core Social Sciences
There is some disagreement about which disciplines and professions belong under the social
science umbrella. Here is one list:



Political science



Expert opinion argues that psychology and economics are the dominant social science
disciplines. Money and production certainly give economists something to measure in
sophisticated ways.Typically, they use research approaches closer to those popular in the natural
sciences. They also lend to other disciplines much more than they borrow. They usually cite
work from within their discipline. Although ranked lower, sociology also plays an important role
in developing research methodologies and models that are widely used in other social sciences.
Political science is most open to external disciplines and frequently borrows and cites research
from other disciplines. Sociology and geography are also heavy borrowers. Economics borrows
little, although there is some interest in political science topics as they impact economic
There appear to be some natural relationships between social science disciplines:

Here are a few social science examples:  Social psychology  Political sociology  Political anthropology Applied Specialties [a few examples]  Industrial relations . Some will gradually become academic disciplines with their own periodicals and professional associations. For example. where does historical sociology end and social history begin. Anthropology and sociology  Political science and sociology  Business and economics  Economics and political science  History and religion Other Social Sciences These disciplines are often included within the social sciences :  Demography  History  Human geography  Linguistics  Social statistics Hybrid SS Disciplines Hybrids begin as fields on the frontier of two disciplines. Boundaries are often fuzzy.

but remain fuzzy. Traditional political and military history of the United States and Europe plus a focus on the community were the core of these studies. they were developed in the 1920s to improve citizen education via history. these have broken away from larger disciplines and become autonomous. geography. there is some debate about which professions to place here. There was little interest in the more controversial issues studied by social scientists. Such fragmentation inhibits the integration of knowledge. they are more practical in their orientation. At least one author uses the phrase social technologists to refer to these professions since they may apply the findings and conclusions generated by social scientists. especially as it focuses on law enforcement and crime prevention. This is true of criminology. Sometimes. Social studies Social studies are a recent development. and is a notable barrier to the rational flow of ideas. Separate disciplinary communities did not develop until the late 19th century/early 20th century. Social Science Professions Again. City planning  Criminology Like the hybrids above. Often. only communicate with others in their own research and teaching area so there may be little discipline-wide sharing. the boundaries between the several social science disciplines have become firmer. political scientists. the discovery of common problems. Here is a list of notable examples:  Business  Education  Journalism  Law  Public health  Social work Boundaries Over time. Typically. Each discipline is divided into many fields or specialties. criminology was once an important part of sociology. and civics. In recent decades. The purpose was to encourage students to be: . For example. for example. the applied specialties are mission oriented and blend insights from several academic disciplines. there has been a trend toward extreme specialization or twigging .

Most scholars agree that behavioral science began in 1945 with the Social Science Research Council's Committee on Political Behavior. understand. Behavioral scientists are more likely to use jargon difficult for the lay person to understand. This is largely an American and contemporary approach. especially the degree to which it deviates from traditional truths. Better citizens  Patriotic  Respectful of authority  Obedient to the law  Grateful and appreciative for our heritage  Able to participate in the democratic process. Like the natural sciences. especially in economics and sociology. the social sciences should explain. Private property as we know it would be eliminated. By definition. would allow the creation of an advanced society that would be equitable for all. social science questions traditional values and beliefs. remains controversial today. interesting. Socialism Socialists believed that the advancement of the social sciences. Finally. there may be too little appreciation for earlier approaches. Behavioral Sciences Behavioral science can be used as a synonym for the social sciences or as a notably different orientation or focus. strongly held beliefs. There are some negatives. or particularly successful. The content of social studies. Conservatives argue that the social sciences and socialism were related so that social science research and social studies in school were seen as agents of the dominant state and anti-religious. Many social scientists have been associated with liberal causes. and predict. There is general agreement that this movement has had a notable impact on the social sciences. and cumulative. Social science research often produces findings and conclusions that counter traditional. New discoveries on the "biological basis of human behavior" may make behavioral science more visible and important. It wanted social science to be more scientific. Much of the available evidence suggests that social studies were not challenging. Policy Sciences . objective. Here individual behavior is the primary concern while the social sciences are more likely to focus on institutions or people within a group. systematic. too much precision on trivial matters. There may be too much emphasis on what can be measured.

Some social scientists worked diligently to encourage government decision-makers to use objective evidence gathered via social science research to make better decisions. Policy makers may find research findings too radical.Often. and languages. Normally. Instead. policy makers may . The most famous of these cases was Brown v. For example. No. For example. the Federal appeals courts relied heavily on social scientists to define and measure segregation and its impact. Unlike business. Social science research was used to attack racial stereotypes. However. A recent Supreme Court decision seems to lean the other way[Parents Involved in Community Schools v. decisions are often made subjectively and foolishly. most people trust intuition more than research. reward systems. However. Board of Education to support the decision that separate but equal education did not work and could not be equal. and opinion rather than objective evidence. Max Weber told German leaders that unlimited submarine warfare would bring the U. Seattle School Dist. For example. The policy sciences hope to:  Understand societal change  Clarify appropriate goals  Understand a particular social problem and how to solve that problem by identifying most effective alternatives  Aid in effective prediction  Deepen and broaden policy-maker's capacity for judgment  Counter the inadequate data often available to decision-makers Until recently. Policy makers find research findings too qualified and not generalizable enough to apply to large populations. social science research was used in Brown vs. Too. no profit and loss statement. For example. leaders. social scientists and policy-makers live in separate worlds with different and often conflicting values. into World War I and lead to Germany's defeat. Even when such evidence is available. Research reports often use jargon that is difficult for the lay person to understand. and they fear change in the social order. Research findings may be counter-intuitive. Board of Education where social science research convinced the Court that separate could not be equal. it may be ignored because it goes against what people want to believe." that government can provide needed services while reducing taxes and governmental expenditures. and especially those involved in the political environment make decisions based on hearsay. 1]. managers. there is the widely held notion that there is a "free lunch. government has no objective basis for making choices. He was ignored and his prediction came to pass.S. social science research takes too long to answer today's problems (unless begun several years ago). a considerable body of research has found that capital punishment does not reduce violent crime and that stringent penalties for drug use do not lower that use. administrators.

there is considerable variation from discipline to discipline. the group or larger level and can be measured. but vary from culture to culture and time to time  The difficulty of being wholly objective and neutral  The degree to which observing or measuring impacts what is being observed  The poor predictive power of most social science disciplines .encourage or adopt research that agrees with their opinions. Phenomena that repeat themselves allow broader generalizations and predictions. In the past. Natural phenomena can also be complex. The goal of hard science is accurate prediction of what will happen when an independent variable is applied to a dependent variable. economics (large data sets and rigorous analysis) and psychology (experimental method) are the hardest of the social sciences. substantial use of mathematics is seen as a proxy for the hardness of a discipline. some researchers affiliat with a variety of political. especially when research findings counter popular opinion. and social advocacy organizations. Hard disciplines are like the natural science. There is some question about the degree that such phenomena are found in the social sciences. Sometimes. Fraud and cheating indicate that numbers or "evidence" can be fudged. it takes considerable time and effort. For example. Certainly. They point to:  The large number of unique events  The large number of unique variables  Events which are not universal. For the social science to be scientific is to assume that "natural regularities" exist at the individual. hard refers to the degree to which a discipline or a profession uses hypothesis-testing research and precise measurement. objective laws of social behavior exist and can be measured. Soft disciplines are like the humanities. weather forecasts are not always accurate. Hard and soft Here. German mathematicians have rejected "Jewish" theories which were quite valid. Since researchers are rarely wholly objective. Are the social sciences really scientific? Clearly. Thus. Typically. making predictions difficult. economic. Disagreement among expert witnesses in suits involving scientific or technical matters has received considerable media attention. They may also may encourage study in an effort to avoid making a decision. outsiders are doubtful. including think tanks. The harder disciplines have the greatest claim to being scientific. But "real" science has not always been hard. While the accumulation of research probably will influence policy makers. The thoughtful politician can almost always find a researcher to support a particular position.

social scientists are much more likely to use older literature.  Non-periodical information is more important in the social sciences.  Normally.  Social science researchers are much less likely to publish in foreign periodicals . perhaps because there is not agreed upon. it takes longer for social science authors to be published.  Social scientists do not create testable theories so there are few established "answers. Qualitative research is somewhat popular in the social sciences while natural science research is laboratory or field based and usually limited to the measurable. political.  Social scientists use a greater variety of research methods and information resources.30% in the natural sciences).  The social science disciplines are less clearly defined and information on a topic is likely to be scattered among several disciplines.  There is more gray literature in the social sciences.  The social science literature appears to be growing faster.  Replication of research is most difficult because of change in the subject population as well as the researcher. The greatly oversimplified model of the real world Differences between natural and social sciences The list that follows is not universally accepted.  Leading social science periodicals have much higher rejection rates than those in the natural sciences (may be as high as 70 . structured progress on important topics.  Social science terminology is less precise and more unstable  Social science research may not travel well across social.  The relevance of information is harder to assess. accumulated. Typically. but is typically found in the literature.80% in social science versus 25 . and economic boundaries. Social science subject matter is less stable and more complex.  Typically. social science research takes longer.

rather than amateur. the Soviet Union and China. It was not until the 1920s. few American scholars studied counties and cultures outside North America and Europe. As the welfare state expanded in Europe and the U. creating an appropriate culture for the future. this is also true of economics and business in the social sciences. only the social sciences measure human interaction.S. e. envisioned risk. it did poorly in explaining and resolving the problems from urbanization and industrialization.S. Areas where the U. Most research universities added at least one area studies program. There were few area specialists. including some from the humanities. Language. the U. what was happening. represented. Area studies research tended to be descriptive and soft because of the disciplines. If the social sciences are different from the natural sciences. history. newspapers and other popular media. received particular attention. but as three separate disciplines. federal government money was available for Area Studies which brought together scholars from the humanities and the social sciences to study what had happened. This was a new kind of multi-disciplinary research and teaching.g. and what was likely to happen in various regions of the world. Economics was to be the science of development and full employment. Sociology was to be the science of modernization. government gave increased attention to both Communist and developing countries. Social scientists are more likely to use books. The 1940s and 1950s Social science became popular in Europe after the Second World War. that the major social science disciplines were professional. As the European colonies became independent and the Cold War intensified. Brief History Youth Since the social sciences did not emerge in Western Europe until about the 1870s and 1880s. To some degree. what does that mean? Does different mean inferior? Regardless.S. Political science was to be the science of democracy. Most of today's social sciences are based upon political economy which was to be the science of modern (industrialized) society. they are quite young both as academic disciplines and especially as sciences. literature. in the U. Now.S. Limited scientific knowledge is still better than ignorance. Before World War II.. political science and anthropology were the major disciplines involved. They are also more likely to use digital and Net sources. the government required more information to assist in policy and procedure preparation. Natural scientists more likely to be early adopters of information technology. Government hired more professionals to do . However. Franklin Roosevelt's Brain Trust certainly included socialists and economists and were active at the highest level of policy making. and are less likely to use conference proceedings.More information products and services are available for science since scientists are often able to pay for them.

Some social science professions had become professionalized: social welfare.S. Too. A "golden fleece" award in 1975 to the Federal Aviation Administration for a $57. the state. Trends Employment characteristics As you might expect for employment that is largely academic. easily implemented. U. economics. Problems. There appeared to be a decline in public respect for social science research. For example anthropologists were doing cultural research in large cities (once the domain of sociologists). educational requirements are among the highest of all occupations.research in its own agencies and provided more funding for external research. and psychology had become well-established academic disciplines. and education. and Europe. some social science research seemed strange and worthless to the lay person. Psychology is expected to grow the most. The job outlook is problematic because of the budget problems facing higher education. Federal agency research is often in dire financial straits.S. Discipline boundaries weakened and it became less clear what the special role of each social science was. it requires persuasive justification. sociology. or civil society? Characteristics. MS prospects are limited. There are few positions available for those with the BA or BS degree in a social science discipline or profession outside of business or education. Training in statistics and mathematics is essential for most social scientists today. Intellectual curiosity and creativity are fundamental personal traits. Once. management and business. Macro-economic planning received particular attention. urban and regional planning. and politically persuasive solutions to notable problems. including an aging population. The PhD is the minimum requirement for many positions. perhaps because social science research did not deliver clear." The 1970s Resources for social science research and teaching declined in the U. . Social science solutions to problems such as racial segregation were often unpopular.800 study of the body measurements of airline stewardess trainees is a good example. but are better outside academe. theory and methodology "triumphed over applied work. Social science employment outside academe is expected to grow faster than average because of so many social problems. anthropology. it was easy to classify the social sciences by:  Did they study the "civilized world" or the "primitive world?"  Did they study the past or the present?  Did they study the market. While considerable social science research is still funded by government agencies today. In the 1960s. By the 1950s. political science.

" Disinformation. In addition. At present. Changing Environment Some social scientists believe that the public environment for social science is more hostile today than before. The "Golden Fleece" awards. messages. marketing research and urban/regional planning.then economics. In economics. symbols. Politically important groups and organizations do not welcome research that challenges the status quo.D." Everyone Knows About the Social Sciences While most Americans feel that they know little about chemistry or biology. it is more difficult to obtain funding for social science research. typically. over half of all social scientists are psychologists. In psychology and cultural anthropology. they trust their intuition and core beliefs when dealing with the social sciences so that there is less respect for the social scientist. almost every American feels that she "knows a lot" about politics. We "live in a relentless blizzard of ads. the majority of new PhDs are women. most social science positions will be replacement ones with a substantial number of retirements expected soon. business and economics. Controversial Questions Social science deals with a variety of difficult and contentious problems. critical of social science research on Serbian tombstones or why people fall in love. less than 25 percent of the new PhDs are women. individual and social problems. Thus. is the minimum requirement. Some worry that if a "field feminizes too much the consequences could be lowered prestige and lowered earnings. can be overwhelming. the Ph. In general. While the public tends to defer to natural scientists. most people intuitively feel strongly about how these problems should be solved and see little need for social science research. Here. Political leaders are less interested in the social sciences as policy science. There is considerable competition for academic positions. Information and entertainment are increasingly intermixed in the mass media. especially since federal government support has been reduced. stories that skew reality in all directions. Examples might include:  Are certain races genetically inferior?  What is the best way to move people from welfare to employment?  How can drug use be reduced?  Does capital punishment reduce violent crime? . may represent a majority opinion. Half of new PhDs in the social sciences are earned by women. especially on the web.

Many scientists are involved in both to some degree. Twigging or Fragmentation Twigging is the division of larger subjects into smaller ones where each division has a smaller audience. Research may be limited to small samples and a relatively few variables.. Problems related to urban transportation may involve scientific. Carried to an illogical extreme. Mission-oriented research has also had an impact by encouraging a variety of academic disciplines and professions to join together to solve a problem. Periodicals. annual meeting. Often. Pure . and psychology. and periodicals. involve many difficult to measure variables. Affordable information provision. solving problems involving violent crime may involve law. economics. there is a strong. and new disciplines such as criminology (also from sociology) and international relations (from political science). close relationship between pure or basic research [research for research] and applied research [take research and create products/applications. . When disciplines work together to solve interesting problems. and may involve rapid change.Applied Relationships In the natural and physical sciences. interdisciplinary research does not mean that a researcher is an expert in two disciplines. Rather. with few subscribers cost much more than those with a large audience. association. Crime studies and welfare studies are good examples of mission-oriented research. It has led to new professions. technological. What can be done to reduce divorce?  To what degree has information technology increased productivity? Social problems are complex. twigging could result in subjects with an audience of one. for example. Specialization and differentiation have been a notable trend in the social sciences since the beginning. In the social sciences. political science. as when social work split off from sociology. Interdisciplinary The social sciences are intrinsically interdisciplinary. the research report is not easily understood by lay people and may contain few conclusions or recommendations that can easily be implemented by government or other organizations. there is some doubt about what is pure research and there seems to be little linkage between research and development. For example. especially hard copy publication. there is the potential for new hybrid disciplines like political anthropology. Typically. is a function of audience size. and social science disciplines. it means that the researcher is familiar with a topic common to two disciplines and can apply methodologies and insights from both. sociology.

and now the Internet bring large data sets directly to the researcher's desktop. These institutes conduct a wide variety of research. even more organizations conduct research involving social science techniques or topics. social science research is also done elsewhere:  Non-academic non-profit research institutes  Business and industry research units  Professional organizations  Trade unions and political parties  Media Research is important in the political process. Many advocacy organizations have research "institutes" as universities have for several years. often designed to present policy solutions for highly visible problems. First. Data archives are extremely important. UT is a member. floppy disks. Most data archives are independent of research libraries. . interpret. the social sciences have become more like the natural sciences. machine-readable data is made available for further analysis. Often. use and user studies suggest that 90 percent of the social science literature is written by five percent of those in the disciplines and professions. many organizations use social science research techniques. Greater use of numbers Since World War II. Since this research is often combined with substantial political persuasion. While often associated with research universities and Federal government agencies. analyze. consider all those polls. In selling or marketing products of all kinds. then CD-ROMs.Few Authors Although dated. Hypothesistesting research and greater use of larger data sets have become common. This means that the average social scientist is not actively involved in research and publication. If evaluation is included. it can have considerable impact on policy via the creation of laws and regulations. The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) is the leading repository for these digital archives. Social Science Research Where? Many universities and non-profit institutions have research institutes which collect. and share findings and conclusions.

" As more powerful and less expensive computing power becomes available to academics. most social science research is full of jargon and statistics that make reading and understanding difficult for lay people. Today. solutions that threaten a popular notion or the establishment may not receive a fair hearing. Too. Most political leaders are not particularly interested in making research-based decisions. especially in state and local government Ethical problems in research As you might imagine in a research field involving human subjects. especially to subscription-based archives. research training/education has often been inadequate. Still. over-quantify. there is increased interest in modeling social phenomenon via computer simulations to see how society might function. Many social scientists that use quantitative methods extend the borders of knowledge. there are a variety of ethical problems for social science researchers. others are motivated mainly by an interest in technique rather than substance. That may be because the research itself is usually narrowly focused with small samples and may offer few applicable solutions. That has changed in recent years. Examples often mentioned in the literature include:  Monetary and fiscal policy  Psychological testing for employment or job suitability  Public opinion research in the media  Best practice in public administration. and over-model.but libraries could play a more important role in providing intellectual access. That has not always been the case. Critics argue that social phenomenon are too complex to be modeled by computers. Enthusiasts claim that such simulations will do for social science what the laboratory does for the natural sciences. However. "The borrowing of statistical methods and techniques is not always beneficial. Historically. and in politics when the research is related to popular opinion. the opposite is true for those in business. social science research has had little impact on society. government regulations insure that most not-forprofit research is done according to strict guidelines with the fully informed consent of the subjects. They routinely build unverifiable models. Some social science research has been useful and has had considerable impact. When presented. However. not all social scientists are comfortable with the current research environment. especially in statistics and information technology. Social Science Research Often Not Used Often. At least a few earlier social science research projects .

Thus. The sponsor decides what is to be studied. Because of fear of behavior modification . Major problems Below appear a variety of problems faced by the social sciences. and who will know the results. The amount of disinformation on the web is substantial. Bibliographic control is poor. Many items are now available on websites. Limited Resources . how it will be studied. particularly those produced outside the academic environment. including disallowing jurors likely to have certain values or beliefs  Polling research used to create candidate platforms and marketing approaches  Research conducted by "house" researchers to demonstrate that something is not really a problem (wide-spread gun availability is not really a problem or legalizing gambling is a social good) As more academic research is funded by corporations. is scattered and often difficult to identify and retrieve. few have the resources to tangle with a powerful corporation and then wait several years for the outcome. Scatter Social science information such as working papers and reports. With minimal replication . there is still some popular fear of social science research involving psychology. Given the declining governmental funding for research and limited internal funding. the university research agenda may be set my large multi-national corporations. These same corporations may attack research and researchers that they disagree with via law suits. While the researcher is likely to win. Many people are also fearful that data gathered by researchers will be used to invade privacy or to support inappropriate ends.have taken advantage of subjects. There is little synthesis or attempt to integrate and evaluate the body of literature on a particular problem or topic. the researcher may be limited in what can be shared with others. They do not appear in any particular order. but may not be easy to find. The availability of many on-line data bases and web sites have added to the information overload problem. Those who need social science information are often frustrated and many users do not know how to find and evaluate the information they need. A few examples of research that may involve ethical problems:  Market research used to encourage consumers to buy inappropriate products  Jury research used to prepare litigation approaches. researchers may decide not to study corporate behavior. it is difficult to know when research findings and conclusions are generalizable.

To some degree. Social Science Information Use In the Past Historically. Since the 1950s. including basic statistical services. Federal government funding for research. the contemporary social sciences have been dominated by researchers from North America. The move from solitary to team research in the social sciences is most acute in the harder disciplines. Limited Perspective Unlike the natural sciences. Google . There are fewer advocates for social science funding in the Congressional leadership today. English-speaking social science rarely cites foreign language material. By definition. Social scientists in the U. resources. nearly half of the social science research reports now have multiple authors. European scholarship was seen as the model for the social sciences. This may be because social science has not had the funding available to natural science to develop sophisticated information systems. social sciences have developed differently in different countries according to culture. has declined notably during the past few years. historians are least likely to collaborate in their research.There is a continued shortage of research funding. social scientists have been slower to respond to information problems and are often less familiar with information sources and systems than natural scientists. While foundation and corporate founding remains good. Of the social scientists. Most academic social science research is done with little or no funding. a science should be global in its application. information sources and systems in the social sciences are less developed. There are also many critics of almost any kind of governmental research. This is quite a contrast to the natural and physical sciences.. As a consequence. in general. the United States has produced the models and its research universities have been envied throughout the world. appear to have little interest in social science abroad. and then the United Kingdom. many natural scientists and technologists work in environments where there is both enthusiasm for and money for information technology. That is often NOT the case in the social sciences. Funding sources may skew research priorities since researchers are likely to study the problems where the money is. Literature Creation Authorship Following the scientific model. and political imperatives. Until the 1920s. Too. especially on the right. especially for basic research. but seems likely to spread. This means that research is limited and often takes several years to complete.S. A social science research career is much more difficult than that in the natural sciences because of limited external funding.

However. Some informal communication on the Internet is captured. first disclosure on the web creates an opportunity for comment sharing. some scientists have much greater exposure than others. the invisible college has been of particular benefit for the elite. This complicates the identification and retrieval of needed information in a world that has traditionally relied on discipline-based information systems. less experienced researcher is less likely to be involved in the invisible college. Using library collections and services may seem less important. The time lag may also be a problem. Abstracts and indexes These are more likely to be used for current awareness than for comprehensive literature searches. travel and make long distance telephone calls. discuss errors. those at leading institutions still have more and better networking opportunities. anthropology. Informal communication is dramatically faster than formal communication. The younger. Library catalogs may seem stiff and difficult to use in comparison to Google. Scientists are more likely to speculate. web sites. Thus. However. and news groups. Money is required to attend conferences. and share preliminary findings in informal communication. informal communication has been expensive. much informal communication is unstable and temporary with no permanent and public record. Selecting and reselecting websites as well as promoting library collections is a major challenge for reference librarians. . SDI services matched to research interests would be popular. Considerable Borrowing and Lending As mentioned above. Invisible College The invisible college is important for all academic disciplines. and improving the product. While the Internet has the potential to democratize informal communication. visibility. geography and sociology--require literature from other disciplines and professions.Omnipresent and omniscient Google has altered the information-seeking habits of most students and even some faculty. but there are doubts about long term preservation when compared with hard copy records. Historically. most social science disciplines--political science. including the social sciences. Informal communication is especially important for know-how information [methods] which is much less likely to be found in the formal communication system. The Internet has created new opportunities for the isolated and less affluent social scientist to participate (exchange information) via email. Feedback and encouragement make a world of difference. Most scholars are not entirely comfortable with the data base literature search and feel that they are missing something useful. unless doctoral work was done with a leading scientist. Thus. The typical researcher does not have the time or interest to become comfortable with these tools. Historically. It may take more than a year for an article or a book to be published and much longer for it to appear in an index.

Empemera includes:  Advertising circulars . psychology. Obsolescence Obsolescence varies notably by social science discipline. access to conference presentations/proceedings may not be important. Some times the assumption is made that the important literature will be published in English. Thus. Foreign languages About 33 percent of social scientists use foreign language material.Conferences Only about 25 percent of social scientists find these to be of substantial value. but a good general estimate might be 9 years for monographs and 6 years for periodicals. In general. Much research done abroad is published in English. but certainly not all. Some suggest that the average social scientist has less foreign language competency than the average natural scientist. including government statistics  Reports made after an event  Observations  Field data  Interview data  Experimental data  Ephemera can be important. the typical social scientist has poor reading fluency in foreign languages. history. and sociology are more likely to use older material. statistics. and then for the personal contact [networking] rather than the presentations. Popular Formats Social scientists (as a group) use a wide range of material:  Personal documents such as correspondence  Agency records. Geography.

and a wide variety of ephemera. This makes it easier to find. . technical reports. a considerable amount of grey literature appears on the web. Examples include. Gray literature consists of intellectual content that is not commercially published and is often missed by bibliographical control resources. working papers. With inexpensive. but preservation remains an acute problem. Gray Literature Gray [ or grey] literature is often important to social science research. Today. wide-spread computer power most social scientists can manipulate relatively large data sets at their desktop. statistical data in large data sets is especially important. Company reports  Computer programs  Conference presentations  Manifestos  Newsletters  Newspaper cuttings  Obituaries  Photographs  Press releases  Questionnaires  Survey reports  Broadcast transcripts  Annual reports  Broad sheets  Leaflets  Pamphlets  Posters Today.

provide seamless access to collections of reference books via a web portal or gateway.University Presses While periodicals gain in importance for first disclosure. there may be substantial differences in informationseeking behavior between social science disciplines. it should be more reasonable to generalize about information seeking behavior in academic research and across the social sciences. The needs of the producers differs from those of most consumers. These great university presses make a major contribution to research and publication. University presses have some impact. such as those provided by Oxford University Press [Oxford Reference Online]. As social science. Too. There is much less interest today. we may conclude that about 10 percent of the users of the social science information system account for 90 percent of the output. University of Chicago [the largest] 2. becomes more like the natural sciences. Oxford University Press. Only a few both create and consume social science information. Comparisons With the Natural Sciences There seems to be some agreement that information use from non-social science disciplines and professions is not comparable. found that no general conclusions could be drawn from the studies reviewed and evaluated because they were typically restricted to a particular discipline and limited to a small sample of users or source characteristics. The best known studies were done in the U. There may be little basis for applying natural science information use findings to the social sciences. Use and User Studies Until the 1960s. Princeton University 4. Digital Reference Collections Digital reference collections. in its research methods.Maurice Line. Harvard University Press 5. in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of the Information Requirements of the Social Sciences Project. books [both monographs and collections] remain important. Still. Such collections are growing in popularity and provide benefits for users with the single search. These became somewhat popular in the 1960s and 1970s. The leaders are: 1. there were few use and user studies. the PI (principle investigator).K. University of California 3. Current Information .

comfort level.  How much search time can be tolerated?  How does the user normally search and find?  How does the user normally capture found. Some of the most notable include:  Age  Research experience  Literature searching experience  Familiarity with. Chaining or pearl fishing or developing a literature search by following a few recent citations backward is common. There is some question about the utility of much of the literature because it is limited by time and place so that social science research may not cumulate well and does not lead to broad generalizations across cultures. there is relatively little current information on the information needs or information seeking behavior of the social scientist. We do know that many social scientists make minimal use of university libraries and on-line data bases. qualifications  Alone or in team (single authors are decreasing)  Discipline . useful content?  What is the preferred form of search product?  What do we know about the scholar's work habits?  What do we know about the scholar's prior knowledge of the topic literature? Notable Variables Many variables affect information-seeking behavior. User Psychology Knowledge of user psychology was felt to be the most important factor in provision of information services. For example.Although there have been a few notable research studies in the past. and interest in information technology  Background.

Libraries tend to be used as a source of supply for previously identified items. Citation searching is likely to be easier and more productive than subject searching [libraries often do poorly with subject descriptors]. Disciplinary oriented files do not meet the needs of the interdisciplinary or problem centered scholar. anxiety and other variables. effort. The major concern of social science scholars appears to be the identification and location of material created by leading authors. These cites can then be used to identify the important literature in a topic. monographs and periodicals are of equal value. Success? There is little evidence. the citing provides some preliminary evidence of utility and quality [validation]. abstracts and indexes can be very useful for graduate students and scholars working outside their own discipline. Note that cost includes time. Still. there is limited use of on-line sources but growing use of digital databases found in university libraries. Motivation  Independence  Willingness to risk trying the new  Foreign language competency Cost Cost has largely been ignored in studying social science information services. The "harder" the discipline. In general. Finding citations by chance is quite common so browsing is more important in the social sciences. This is a problem because of the price inflation associated with the serial literature. needed access points for the scholar are often missing. It is not merely the delivery cost of a particlar item. The search interface for most files is not comfortable or intuitive for the social scientist. but what is available suggests that the existing information system works for some social scientists most of the time. Backward chaining or following starter citations is the key literature search strategy. frustration. Too. In particular. Information produced by government agencies is especially important in the social sciences. Libraries and Users Popular subjects . How often is research duplicated unintentionally because of a flawed literature search? When the social sciences are placed together. We need to know more about the "total" cost of providing the document or information as well as the cost when the document is not provided or is not provided promptly. the more important that the serial becomes.

Social science 4. Literature 3. Arts 9. Fiction 15. Health/medicine 7. Psychology 5. Political science 14. Computers 11. Performing arts 13. Religion 12. Education 6. A 2001 survey of academic libraries resulted in a list of the top circulating subjects: 1. wellness. Health. Computers and technology 3.A 1996 survey looked at popular information needs. History 2. Here are the top five popular information needs in many public libraries: 1. Science 10. medicine 2. Travel 4. Business 8. Three of these are social science topics. Economics . Personal finance. Business and economics 5.

What is included in H (the primary social science class) and what is not is quite subjective. Many questions can be answered by web sources or the traditional ready reference sources such as an unabridged dictionary. Biography Seven of these are social science subjects. Who Goes There? Libraries are a place where graduate assistants go to retrieve known items. User Types Policy makers The typical policy maker has little interest in social science research except studies from major think tanks. especially those with a political perspective. the local newspaper. especially for late-breaking current awareness. but rural conditions of a place are in HN. Statistical Abstracts local phone books. reference. change has lagged far behind the use of descriptors in academic disciplines [and found in subject specific thesauri]. lack clarity. Secondary publications are much less used. Although the Library of Congress changes its subject headings each year. Philosophy 17. illogical. Some policy makers are beginning to use the web as an information source. Typically.16. if social science developments are of interest. Encyclopedia of Associations. Rural sociology is in HT. Planning cities is in HT. and include poor documentation. History of a presidential election in U. Aged descriptors can be controversial in public libraries. The way libraries organize and provide intellectual access to collections is not intuitive or pleasing to many social science researchers. the policy maker needs information of the executive summary variety--highly distilled and with a few easily understood (and persuasive) policy options. the World Almanac. There are exceptions. economic conditions of individual cities in HC. Social science questions are popular in public libraries and the audience is varied. Classification Schemes Library of Congress subject headings. the economics of a place are in HC but the commerce of a place is in HF.S. Scholars in history often spent hours in the library working with circulating. the World Book encyclopedia. history of cities in D-F. Popular media accounts. There is a persistent lack of precision or clarity. She is often interested in the political implications of recent events/problems. social conditions of cities in HN and governance of individual cities is in JS. reflecting a 19th Century view of knowledge. are often inconsistent. newspapers and news magazines still have much impact. and quick access to Consumer Reports. Social science topics are often scattered. For example. and special collections. There are too few subject added entries for new items. history is in E while the history of a political party is in JK. If the social sciences are .

They want "how to do it good" literature. Their major problem is that there is too much literature and they may need help in identifying the genuinely important new literature. geography. Often. They want solutions to current problems. Sociology is . and social work that are involved in some sort of practice. it should be noted that a majority of those who teach (with the PhD) in colleges and universities are not active researchers. They do not have the time nor the inclination to read widely. but may read summary versions in association periodicals or hear about research in conference presentations. Think About Identify and characterize a [SS of your choice] periodical likely to appeal to a college teacher who needs synthesis and an interesting summary of new developments? Is there such a periodical? K-12 Teachers and Students The key words here are likely to be "social studies" and the focus is more likely to be on whatever is mentioned in the state standards [you need to have access to those] rather than the social sciences as a whole. Think About Identify and characterize a periodical likely to appeal to a professional in a SS profession of interest. use a greater variety of materials. They rarely see the primary literature. but often find it troublesome many items requested turn out to be irrelevant. State of the art review articles. and are interested in current findings/conclusions. History and geography receive some attention. Teachers are more likely to use the library. Psychology and economics receive little attention. Think About Identify three think tanks likely to issue studies of interest to politicians. Government is more popular than political science. Any evidence of research? College and University teachers Here teachers are those who teach but who are not actively involved in research. and bigger picture books are popular. sytheses.ever to become "policy sciences. The leading think tanks have had an impact and they provide a useful model. How would you characterize their point of view? Practitioners Practitioners are professionals in such fields as business. their terminal degree is the BA/BS or MA/AM/MS." much more of an effort will be made to get academic research [translated into policy speak] to policy makers. Briefly discuss the nature of their research. They do use ILL. There is little interest in the scholarly literature because it does not help them on the job. As an aside.

Books and periodicals need to have colorful graphics to attract and summarize key points. polemics. Think About Review two weeks of the New York Times best seller list. H. the World Almanac.W. Which topics seem to be the most popular? Selection problems Unlike the natural sciences or technology where many feel that they know little or nothing. They need material that is reasonably current and accurate while still being interesting and engaging. dogmatism. Again. pre-marital sexual activity. the collections need to be balanced and not so controversial as to attract negative attention from parents and other community members. and the CIA World Factbook plus your favorite encyclopedia will answer many queries. Since the social sciences are often controversial. How much propaganda.largely ignored. Which books. Often. people will need factual information. the lay person feels that he knows as much as the subject specialist or even that the subject is not worth knowing. but many of its topics. including biographies of leaders. The present emphasis on testing reading. consider "research" that argues the Holocaust never happened or . current facts are always in demand. Often. Fact books and WWW sites with accurate. and math leaves little room for social studies. Wilson's Social Sciences Full Text does a good job of providing older students and teachers with access to selected scholarly literature. deal with social science topics. Think About Identify and characterize a social science topic of interest to K12 classroom teachers [select grades]. Some may be interest in learning more about the background of current events. partisanship and personal bias is acceptable? It is very difficult to achieve balance and represent disgusting points of view For example. Others will want to improve the quality of their lives by learning how to do new tasks and adding to their knowledge. What sort of content would be helpful? The Thoughtful Layperson Each of the social sciences will have some appeal to the thoughtful adult. Multi-media items are useful for class viewing and to serve as discussion vehicles. writing. drug use. InfoTrac OneFile or similar full-text data bases are likely to be popular because their coverage is reasonably comprehensive and full-text is much better for most users. if any. The Statistical Abstract. the key is to balance popularity and accessibility with authority and accuracy. in the social sciences everyone is an expert. gangs and violence interest. Many social science topics are controversial and arouse passions.

Five . This means that social science material is more likely to generate complaints or censorship requests. Both jargon and the use of statistics. ephemeral material may be needed in the future. Scholarly work is rarely really readable and interesting for the lay person or the undergraduate student. or a cultural phenomenon. Most experts find popularizations simplistic so this is a difficult task. a movement. Three Support the notion that the social sciences can never be truly scientific. and figures may be troublesome. In selecting authoritative material. it is difficult to establish the difference between what is genuinely authoritative and what is merely established. Add to that a list of academic disciplines and professions that should be included under the social science umbrella. Four Identify and discuss issues or problems in the current news where research findings might find an unwelcome reception. Because the human condition is in a constant state of flux. Popularizations are needed which are readable enough for the lay person but reasonably acceptable to the scholar. Two Support the notion that the social sciences can be scientific. Finding popular treatments that do not oversimplify or distort can be a problem. Trends and fads create popular books with little intellectual content or value. However. There is substantial interest in current awareness information. for the scholar of a period. This is especially true in areas like pop psychology where mediocre "self-help" content is popular. currency is always a problem.that African-Americans are intellectually inferior to other Americans. Discussion One Construct and be able to support a definition of the social sciences. tables. What is authoritative today may be seen as foolish or discredited tomorrow. Popular culture research casts a wide net.

The evidence strongly suggests that most social scientists make minimal use of the research library. What might you suggest to increase library use and to make library collections and services more valuable to the social scientist? .