Understanding Social Science

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This course currently has no scheduled dates. To express interest in this course or to discuss bespoke options for yourself or your organisation, please submit an expression of interest or contact the Professional Education Team on +61 2 5114 5573 or profedcourses@adfa.edu.au



Delivery mode

Face-to-face | online



Standard price

$200.00 - $1,900.00 per person (duration dependent)

Defence price

$200.00 - $1,710.00 per person (duration dependent)

  • Accelerate your career, learn new skills, and expand your knowledge.

  • First in Australia for research excellence and impact.

  • Top 50 in the world. 2020 QS World University Rankings.


Every single piece of research that is undertaken is underpinned by philosophical principles and theoretical assumptions. Engaging with and interpreting social science research requires a basic understanding of these principles and assumptions of the discipline. This short course will provide an interactive, practice-based exploration of commonly used social science philosophies and methodologies and their implications for practice.

Course content

The course comprises at least three main streams (adaptations can be made).

Stream 1: Presentation

This presentation will walk participants through the major ontologies and epistemologies, explaining what they are and how they influence discipline-specific research and practice. The presentation will also cover theoretical perspectives that influence the nature of research that is undertaken. The various assumptions about reality and the generation of knowledge associated with these philosophical positions will be discussed.

Stream 2: Case studies

Discipline-specific case studies will be used to demonstrate how philosophy influences the:

  • types of questions that researchers and practitioners ask
  • nature of data that is collected (quantitative and/or qualitative)
  • assumptions that are made about the nature of the research and its outputs
  • instruments used to collect data and associated analysis options
  • recruitment of people and/or organisations
  • findings that are generated, including their interpretation, application and transfer to other contexts

Stream 3: Research design

Participants will be invited to explore their own philosophy, and apply it to a discipline-relevant problem, sharing their ideas and approach within a small group setting. Where relevant, participants will be invited to develop a research question and program, carefully considering the underpinning philosophical assumptions.

Learning outcomes

Skills/competencies/knowledge that would be gained through this course:
  • recognise how changing the philosophy of a research program can change research outcomes
  • interpret the quality and meaning of social science
  • learn when and how findings can be applied to problems across contexts
  • discover their own philosophy that they bring to their research or practice and the associated assumptions.

Who should attend

This short course is designed for people who are keen to learn how to identify underlying philosophies of research and understand their implications for research and practice. This knowledge is particularly useful for people who work in multi- or inter-disciplinary teams.

Participants in this short course will learn about dominant philosophical elements underpinning conservation social science, including:

  • ontologies: what exists in the human world that we can acquire knowledge about
  • epistemologies: how knowledge is created
  • philosophical perspectives: the orientation of the researcher that guides their action.


Dr Katie Moon: BSc(Env). Hons, MEnvMan (Sust. Devt), PhD.

Dr Moon has worked in the environmental policy arena for over 20 years within Australia and Europe, in government, the private sector and academia. Her research focuses on the interactions between people and nature, examining how people make decisions and why. She applies different and novel combinations of methods to increase understanding of socio-ecological systems, seeking different types of knowledge, experiences, perceptions and interpretations. She has experiences across different ecosystems and topics, including freshwater, agriculture, fisheries, invasive species and coral reefs in temperate and tropical systems. Dr Moon is a Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, where she focuses on areas of policy implementation and stewardship. She is also affiliated with the Centre for Ecosystem Science.

Cancellation policy

Courses will be held subject to sufficient registrations. UNSW Canberra reserves the right to cancel a course up to five working days prior to commencement of the course. If a course is cancelled, you will have the opportunity to transfer your registration or be issued a full refund. If registrant cancels within 10 days of course commencement, a 50% registration fee will apply. UNSW Canberra is a registered ACT provider under ESOS Act 2000-CRICOS provider Code 00098G.