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Course Information

Instructor Info:Kimberly Chang
Office Extension x5668
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 107
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 107

This course is designed for students transitioning from Division I to II to introduce the diverse methodologies employed in the social sciences, while critically considering the implications of method for the production of knowledge. What philosophical assumptions underlie our methodological choices? How does choice of method shape what we can know? Why are some methodologies privileged as more legitimate ways of knowing than others? When do methodological conventions work for or against other goals, such as community empowerment and social change? How can we make more intentional and creative methodological choices that recognize both the limits and the possibilities of knowing through engagement with others? Each week, a faculty guest speaker will share a recent research project, focusing on the "behind the scenes" stories of the methodological assumptions, dilemmas, and decisions that drove his/her research. Subsequent discussions will relate this work to the larger questions and themes of the course.

Course Objectives:


1.     To introduce students to the faculty in the School of Critical Social Inquiry, the kinds of questions we ask, research methodologies we use, writing we produce.

2.     To demystify the social research process by going “behind the scenes” to reveal the methodological dilemmas and choices that drive the research and the knowledge produced through it.

3.     To learn to read and think critically regarding the epistemological assumptions behind methodology, the power of method to produce knowledge, and the ethics of socially-engaged scholarship.

4.     To understand what it means to take an interpretive approach to social research and how to be more intentional, creative, and ethical in our own research and writing choices.

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, I will be on time and present at every class and expect you to do the same.  If you are unable to attend class due to illness or emergency, please let me know same day via e-mail or phone.  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 discuss them.  As you are reading, try to get in the habit of writing down quotations along with questions or comments through which you can contribute to class discussions.  If you tend to be quiet in class, experiment with writing out your thoughts in advance and/or formulating one question/comment per class.  If you are talkative, be mindful of your own participation in relation to others.  Let’s all be respectful of the different kinds of experiences and knowledge we each bring to the classroom, listening and responding to one another in ways that deepen the learning for all.

(3) Writing Assignments—There will be three writing assignments due over the course of the semester (5-7 pages each, see syllabus below for due dates).   Each paper is an opportunity to take class discussions further and dialogue in more depth with the speakers, readings, and ideas of the course.  The papers will build successively on one another, starting with an exploration of your Division II academic interests and questions, the different ways of knowing you might engage, and culminating in a fully developed research proposal.

(4) Research and Imagination ProposalThe final product of the course will be a proposal (approx. 10-12 pages) for a research project that you might actually undertake in the near future (e.g., Div II or III).  The proposal has two parts.  The first part follows a conventional research proposal format: i.e., purpose of the study, rationale (including literature review), proposed methodologies, and expected outcomes and limitations.  You will need to do library research for this, seeking out secondary sources and compiling an annotated bibliography to help you hone your research questions and develop your methodology.  The second part of your proposal asks you to imagine what might happen if you were to actually carry out this project.  Picking up on some piece of your proposal, you will write a fictive account of a critical encounter or moment in the research process that was unexpected or challenging, a turning point or even crisis that shaped what you were ultimately able to “know.”  Thus, this proposal requires both research and imagination.  During the last week of the semester, students will present/perform the “imagination” sections of their proposals in class.

(5) Course Portfolio—At the end of the semester, each student will submit a portfolio of all work completed for the course, including original papers with my comments (you should get into the habit of saving all original coursework for your Div II portfolios) and a self-evaluation of your own learning.


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.

In addition to the above texts, there will be a number of required readings posted on the Moodle course website.  Go to and log in using your e-mail username and password.  Be sure to check the website regularly for class announcements or any changes to the syllabus.  Important: Please come to class with the readings in hand to discuss, either hard copy or you may use your computer to view them.

Note on use of computers in the classroom: In order to create an environment in which we are fully engaged with one another, I ask that you keep your computers closed except when consulting the readings.