IKOS PhD seminar: How to do social science as a humanities scholar

- A theoretical and methodological toolbox

In this course, we will highlight three ways of understanding and using language to make sense of social and political phenomena. The aim is to provide humanities scholars interested in social and political phenomena a toolbox to analyze such phenomena that is solidly based in the humanities. First, we need to take seriously the fact that we understand the world around us in and through language. Second, talking and writing constitute political and social acts. Third language is social, and it is impossible to interact in groups without using language to some extent. Hence, language is key to understanding social interaction.

Humanities research concerns itself with many of the same types of questions as social sciences. To over-simplify, humanities research is primarily concerned with what is specific to a group, set of events, genre, or work, and social science is primarily concerned with generalisation. The humanities has self-evident importance to research into social and political questions, and many humanities scholars are trying to understand similar issues as those of social science research. The toolbox is to some extent also shared, but where nomothetic generalisation – the search for law-like co-variation between variables – plays a major part of social science methodologies, humanities scholars seldom consider such generalisation equally worthwhile. This means that when humanities scholars ‘borrow’ from social science methods, it is important to remember that methods often come with a strong methodological anchoring in specific epistemological wagers. It is therefore important that humanities scholars who use social science tools maintain a discerning attitude to their goals and uses. It is typically easier for humanities researchers to maintain their research programmes if they use the social science tools that are closest to their own, pre-existing concerns. One such tool is social science approaches to language.

Who can apply?  Open for all

Conveners: Einar Wigen, Alp Eren Topal, Jacob Høigilt,


Tuesday 12 May

1000-1015 Introductions

1015-1030 Einar Wigen: The general and the specific

1030-1115 Olav Elgvin: How (not) to do humanities research as a social scientist

1115-1145 Break

1145-1200 Jacob Høigilt: Studying culture

1200-1245 Lu Chen: Gender in Local Environmental Governance

Wednesday 13 May

1000-1015 Alp Eren Topal: Concepts, history and rhetorical action

1015-1100 Ketil Raknes: Can qualitative methods and rhetorical theory help us understand what lobbyists do?

1100-1115 Break

1115-1200 Olivia Liu: How to do social science as a humanities scholar

1200-1245 Wei Wu: Social Science Theories in the Economic History of Chinese Diaspora


Please send an email to kari.andersen@ikos.uio.no by 1 May and specify whether you want to present something at the seminar or not.

Deadline for paper is 5 May 2020.

About the paper:

The final paper should be no longer than a minimum 5-pages, maximum 10 pages, with text reflecting on the theme of the seminar and how this plays out in your own research. The texts will be pre-circulated among the participants ahead of the seminar.

ECTS Points:

Generally, you will get 1 ECTS point for attending the seminar, 2 ECTS points for a presentation or a comment. 


Published Feb. 17, 2020 2:40 PM - Last modified May 11, 2020 12:34 PM