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Course Information

Instructor Info:Kimberly Chang
Office Extension x5668
Omar Dahi
Office Extension x5392
Term: 2012F
Meeting Info: Wednesday Friday
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 108
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 108

This course is designed for students transitioning from Division I to II to introduce them to the diverse methodologies employed in the social sciences, while critically considering the implications of method for the production of knowledge.  Questions we will explore include: Why do we choose certain methodologies over others?  What kinds of philosophical assumptions underlie our choices?  How does choice of method enable or limit what we can know, or even preclude certain forms of knowledge?  Are some methods more viable for studying particular subjects or questions?  Why are some methodologies privileged as more valid or legitimate ways of knowing than others?  What is the relationship between method and form?  When do methodological conventions work for or against other goals, such as social justice and community empowerment?  How can we make more intentional and creative methodological choices that recognize the limits and the possibilities of knowing, while enabling us to set more realistic and ethical research goals?

Each week a faculty guest speaker will share with the class a current or recent research project, focusing on the “behind the scenes” stories of the methodological and ethical assumptions, dilemmas, and decisions that drove his/her research and the knowledge produced through it.  Parallel discussions will focus on this work in relation to the larger questions and themes of the course. 

Course Objectives:

Through this course, students will learn to think critically about the epistemological assumptions behind method, the power and ethics of different methodologies to produce certain forms of knowledge, and ultimately to be more intentional, creative, and ethical in their own research and writing.

Evaluation Criteria:

(1) Attendance—A class is a community of learners.  Attendance is a measure of your commitment to this community and to your own learning.  With the exception of serious illness or family emergency, every student is expected to be present at every class.  If you are unable to attend class due to illness or emergency, please let me know via e-mail.  Students with more than three unexcused absences will not receive an evaluation.

(2) Readings/Discussion—This course is designed as a seminar in which your preparation for and participation in class is essential to the learning experience.  Please come to class having read the assigned readings for that day and prepared to raise questions and engage in discussion with both our faculty guest speakers and your peers.  As you read, try to get in the habit of writing down questions, comments, and/or interesting or provocative passages through which you can contribute to class discussions.  If you tend to be quiet in class, experiment with formulating one comment or question per class.  If you are talkative, be mindful of your own participation in relation to others.  Let’s all try to be respectful of the different kinds of experience and knowledge we each bring into the classroom, listening and responding to one another in ways that will deepen the learning experience for all!

(3) Response Papers—There will be three response papers (approx. 5 pages each) due over the course of the semester (see syllabus below for due dates).  Each paper is an opportunity to take class discussions further, to dialogue in more depth with the speakers, readings, and ideas of the course, and to begin to develop your own research questions and, ultimately, a research proposal.  A good response paper should strike a balance between demonstrating an effort to understand a speaker’s and/or author’s argument, drawing on both their presentation and their writings, while reflecting on your own response to and questions about the ideas presented.  Since this course focuses on the ways that social scientists come to know and represent the worlds they study and write about, try to use these papers to begin to critically question and explore the different methodologies that underlie the production of knowledge in the social sciences, particularly those that you may choose to employ in your on Division II and III research.

(4) Research and Imagination Proposal/PresentationThe course will culminate in a proposal (approx. 10-12 pages) for a research project that you can imagine yourself undertaking in the near future (e.g., Div II or III?).  In your proposal, you should clearly lay out your research questions, why they matter, and the “ways of knowing” you intend to employ to carry out this project.   In addition, your proposal should include a creative account of the kinds of dilemmas and choices you expect to face if you were to actually carry out this project and how you imagine these may limit and/or enable what you are able know.  Thus, this proposal requires both research and imagination, i.e., you will need to first seek out secondary sources related to your specific research questions and the particular methodologies you’ve chosen (including an annotated bibliography), and then try to creatively imagine the process and outcomes of your proposed project.  During the last week of the semester, students will present the “imagination” sections of their proposals in class.

Additional Info:

Required Texts and Readings

The following required text is available for purchase at the Hampshire College Bookstore as well as on reserve at the library:

Wallerstein, Immanuel. (1996). Open the Social Sciences: Report of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences. Stanford University Press.

All other required readings will be posted on the Moodle course website.  Go to and log in using your e-mail username and password.  Important: Please check the course website regularly for an updated list of assigned readings, changes to the syllabus, and other important announcements.  Also, please bring copies of all assigned readings to class with you for discussion.