What is social science?

Social science is, in its broadest sense, the study of society and the manner in which people behave and influence the world around us.

It tells us about the world beyond our immediate experience, and can help explain how our own society works - from the causes of unemployment or what helps economic growth, to how and why people vote, or what makes people happy. It provides vital information for governments and policymakers, local authorities, non-governmental organisations and others.

Social science disciplines

Annual Report

Social science covers a variety of disciplines, ranging from Economics and Psychology to Linguistics and Social Work.

Quantitative research

Filling in form

Quantitative research studies the size or extent of particular issues or trends in society, by collecting data from surveys, censuses and records.

Qualitative research


Qualitative research explores how individuals think, feel or behave in particular situations, using methods such as interviews and observation.

How social science shapes lives

Whiteboard lesson

Evidence from social science research influences policy and practice in areas ranging from tax policies to business innovation and low-carbon economies.

Videos: What is social science?

What is social science, and what is its impact on society? Two videos with viewpoints from social scientists, politicians and the media.