Why study social science?

Social science is the scientific study of society and the ways in which we relate to one another. It helps explain how society works – from the causes of unemployment or what drives economic growth, to how and why people vote, or what makes people happy.

Social scientists are influential because the work they do helps determine government policy and can change how we interact with the institutions and environments that influence our behaviour, such as the legal system, social services, our neighbourhoods, schools and universities.

A social science subject for everyone

If you are interested in how and why people behave as they do, and enjoy solving problems, then there is a social science subject that is right for you. You don’t need to be studying social science at A level (or equivalent) to apply for a place on a Q-Step degree programme, and opportunities are available across the UK in a range of subjects including: 

  • Area studies
  • Criminology
  • Education
  • Environmental planning
  • Human geography and demography
  • International relations
  • Linguistics
  • Management and business studies
  • Political science
  • Population health
  • Social analytics
  • Social anthropology
  • Socio-legal studies
  • Social policy
  • Social sciences
  • Social work
  • Sociology
The key to making sense of data

"Social science can tackle everyday policy questions – how many children will need a school place in ten years’ time? – or pose more fundamental problems – what drives inequality? What stops societies falling apart? What does ‘freedom’ mean?

"Understanding societies needs data. Information technology means we now have better and more exciting data than ever before. However ‘measuring’ societies is challenging, not just because of their size and complexity, but because many of their most important features are simply invisible. Have you ever seen happiness, democracy or economic growth?

Quantitative methods are the key to making sense of data. We can measure much larger populations by examining small samples. We can reduce a mass of data to the key stories it can tell. ‘Models’ of the present let us make predictions about the future. They empower us to cut through spin, prejudice or lazy thinking to the key evidence underneath.”

Professor John MacInnes, Professor of Sociology, the University of Edinburgh School of Social and Political Science