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Howsocial sciences differ from humanities


Whereassocial sciences and humanities seem to be covering similar content orsubject matter, it is apparent to note that there exist significantdifferences between the two subjects. For over a century,universities, colleges and other institutions of higher learning haveused academic disciplines as a means to impart knowledge to thestudents. However, some of these disciplines have created confusionamongst the students on what they entail or whether there exists adifference between them (Martin, 236). Such disciplines include thesocial sciences and the humanities. Social sciences and humanitiesare two disciplines, which a majority of students do not know theirdistinction. It is noteworthy for students and the school managementto understand that there are disparities between the two disciplinesof study.

Itis clear that the two disciplines cover different subjects, whichhave slightly varying content. The methodology that is used in thestudy of the two disciplines is also different and this creates adisparity between the two disciplines. It is also apparent that thetwo discipline’s subjects will present varying career opportunitiesto the people who pursue them. This a clear indication that there isa disparity between the two disciplines of study. This research paperalso highlights differences in terms of descriptive and experimentalresearch that the two disciplines approach their study on. Socialsciences approach their studies in an experimental manner while thehumanities take a descriptive approach in the study of its subjects.This research paper seeks to find the out the main differences thatexist between social sciences and humanities.


Itis vital to point out that social sciences differ from humanities invarious ways. It is critical to start with the definition of the twodisciplines or areas of study. Social sciences has largely beendefined as an area of study or a branch of science that deals withthe institutions of human society, as well as the social interactionsbetween humans. Social sciences include the studies of subjects suchas law, communication and anthropology, political sciences,economics, sociology, criminology, as well as linguistics (Yow,145).On the other hand, Humanities is a discipline that deals with humanculture (Bishop,54).The 1965 National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Actstates that the areas covered in humanities include philosophy,religion, arts, literature and ancient and modern language(Kockelmans, 147). It is evident that there exists a thin line ordistinction between social sciences and humanities. It is vital topoint out that there are some studies such Law that is sometimescategorized under humanities, as well as under social sciences.

Itis imperative to start by pointing out to the fact that the twodisciplines seek to understand and appreciate the human condition.However, the two disciplines rely on totally different and distinctmethods of seeking that understanding and appreciation of the humancondition. It is clear that the distinction between social sciencesand the humanities is not much of the subject matter, but it is themethodology applied in seeking to answer certain questions, as wellas the conclusion, findings or analysis made. For instance, ahistorian, playwright or behavioral psychologist might be addressinga single topic on gender identity, but are using differentmethodologies to arrive at the analysis or the interpretation oftheir findings (Salunke and Bagad, 89). Therefore, social sciencesdiffer from the humanities mostly due to the methods used in tryingto seek answers regarding humanity and human condition.

Socialsciences differ from humanities in that humanities are argued to beanalytical and critical, whereas social sciences are said to bescientific in their approach. Humanities are said to be dealinglargely with heritage, as well as trying to explain what makes peoplehuman. This is a form of study that demands extreme analysis andcritical interpretation hence the approach that the humanities take.This is indicated through the subjects that are covered in humanitiessuch as history, ancient and modern language and history. The socialsciences are argued to be a discipline of study that comes betweenthe humanities and the natural sciences. Subjects such economics,political science and law are said to be taking a scientific approachin their study hence the distinction from humanities. It cantherefore be asserted that the humanities are more philosophical innature than the social sciences.

Sincethe social sciences are said to take a scientific approach in theirstudies, it is therefore apparent to point out that they rely onquantitative study to arrive at their interpretations. The socialsciences are concerned with how many of what is being studied. Inother words, it can be said that social sciences deal with countingand coming up with findings based on numbers. On the other hand,humanities tend to rely on the qualitative forms of study, whichwould end up with arguments such as observations and conclusions(Martin, 241). The humanities use descriptive form of study due tothe enormous amount of text that is analyzed. It is vital to notethat some of the subjects under humanities can be classified underthe social sciences. For instance, history was largely viewed as aHumanity subject in earlier times, but it has changed to being partof social science. This is an indication that the line that cutsbetween the two disciplines is thin. It is also apparent thatanthropology has some aspects of science, which at times places itunder social sciences.

Thesocial sciences are more into calculations and experiments while thehumanities are a matter of extensive text and descriptive study. Thisis a key difference between the two areas of study. As mentionedearlier, the social sciences subjects are studied through ascientific approach, which more often than not deduces its findingsfrom the experiments and calculation of data. It is also argued thatthe social sciences use real data to carry out studies (UNESCO, 32).On the other hand, the humanities take a descriptive research, whichexplains the extensive text that is involved in the humanities. It iscritical to point out that any person willing to undertake a coursein humanities must be prepared to read texts extensively in order toachieve the goals set for the subjects (Salunke and Bagad, 96).

Anotherdifference between the two disciplines of study can be their origins.The humanities were originally practiced in Greece. The Roman Empirein Greece practiced and developed arts such as astronomy, geometry,grammar and music. The humanities were, however, just being practicedand not studied until the 15thcentury. It was during the 15thcentury that the humanities were introduced as disciplines to bestudied rather than being practiced (Kockelmans, 101). On the otherhand, the social sciences were given a proper definition asdisciplines of study by Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber.However, it is imperative to note that the social sciences werelargely influenced by the French revolution and industrialization.Practices that were aimed at improving a group’s social interactionand cooperation were critical in the development of social sciencesto its present state.

Thesocial sciences cannot be given a definitive date as to when theybegan, but they can be traced back to the mid18thcentury, when positivism was given much attention. The completeevolvement of the social sciences as a discipline of study occurredin the 19thcentury.

Itis evident that there are some colleges and universities that havecreated a department of humanities and social sciences together. Thisbecomes confusing to the students, since they believe that the twodisciplines of study are the same. However, it is vital to point outthat Humanities is an area of study that deals with human life andaspects. On the contrary, social sciences deal with human society andthe interaction that exists between humans. This shows that the twodisciplines deal with matters regarding humanity. Although the twoareas of study seem to be the same, it is imperative to note thatthey are distinct.

Thesocial sciences also differ from humanities in terms of the careeropportunities that the two disciplines present. The Humanitiespresents the career opportunities of becoming a research analyst.However, it is critical to note that humanity subjects also produceprofessionals who can work as teachers or lecturers in institutionsand universities. The opportunities presented by humanity subjects orcourses are available both in the private and the public sector. Thesocial sciences on the other hand also present career opportunitiesboth in the private and the public sector. Social Sciences havenumerous branches such as economics, criminology, and politicalscience and so on, which ensure that there are numerous careeropportunities in the social sciences. Social science presentsprofessional who are research scientists. The career opportunities inthe Social Sciences depend on the subject or area of study that aparticular person takes. For instance, a course in economics willpresent opportunities in businesses and finance, economic andconsultancy management agencies or the multinational companies(Martin, 223). The career opportunities present a distinction of thetwo disciplines of study, which seem to be the same.

Thesocial sciences and the humanities also differ in their functions.The social sciences have a function of analyzing, explaining andprediction human behavior. Social scientists seek to measure orobserve human behavior and come up with conclusion in regard to thereasons why people behave the way they behave in their interactions(Bishop,77).On the other hand, the humanities seek to understand the meaning andthe objective of human experience. Humanities’ function tounderstand human experience occurs at the human condition level, aswell as at individual levels. The humanities also seek in earn wisdomin their study. Such wisdom is described as deeper understanding,which can be used to solve the challenges facing humanity. Thiswisdom can be applied in the everyday civil life to deal with the bigquestions regarding human life (Jörg, 116). It is pointed out thathumanities enable people to reflect upon their lives and seek answersto the questions of value meaning and purpose of life in a rationaland systematic way.

Thesocial sciences differ from the humanities in the sense that thesocial sciences seek to generate and produce new knowledge. In otherwords, the social sciences present factual information in regard tocertain matters pertaining to humanity. Since the study in the socialsciences takes a scientific approach, the findings or the conclusionsmade are largely composed of new knowledge, which is backed by facts.On the other hand, the humanities reveal exiting wisdom, which isapplied in various situations to solve challenges facing humancondition. In other words, the humanities seek to explore an alreadyexisting pool of knowledge and wisdom in order to answer variousquestions in regard to human condition (Jörg, 107). Such wisdom isrevealed through the descriptive research, which covers enormousamounts of text. Some authors have argued that there are nocontemporary differences between the humanities and the socialsciences. However, they cite differences such as the direction oranalysis that the disciplines take rather than the subject matter orthe methodology. They argue that the social sciences are moreinclined into unity, uniformity and simplicity in their explanationor analysis. On the other hand, the humanities are inclined towardscreativity, originality and uniqueness in their analysis andexplanations. Researchers argue that the humanities are study aspectsof human that cannot easily be associated with natural forces or withstructures developed by science (Bishop,45).Research has also indicated that the humanities do not deal withfacts and the truth, but seeks to evoke admiration and wonder. Thisis contrary to the social sciences, whose explanations are based onfacts and the truth.

Althoughthe two areas or disciplines of study seem to differ, it is evidentthat there are areas in which they seem to be similar. This is thereason as to why a majority of colleges and universities have groupedthem under one department. The two disciplines deal with humanity.This has made majority people to think that the two disciplines arethe same and that the only difference is that humanities deal withhuman culture while the social sciences deal with the institutions ofhuman society and the relationships or interactions betweenindividuals in the society (Jörg, 215). The social sciences havebeen described as the soft sciences, which brings it closer to thehumanities. The two disciplines are similar in sense that thesubjects under the social sciences such law and political sciencetend to be connected directly to human culture and the society. Onthe other hand, humanities deal with human culture and therefore thetwo seem to be similar. In addition, the two disciplines seek to findsolutions to the challenges that affect humanity hence they areclassified as one area of study (Kockelmans, 156). This research hasalso indicated that the content or the subject matter of these twodisciplines might be the same, but the only difference is theapproach that is used in handling the question at hand.

In conclusion, it is evident form the research that the socialsciences and the humanities are two distinct and different in avariety of ways. Whereas the subject matter of the two disciplines ismore or less the same and subjects such as history have shifted fromthe humanities to the social sciences, it is imperative to note thatthe two use different methodologies or approaches in their study. Thesubjects covered under the two disciplines are also different withsocial sciences covering a wider range of subjects than thehumanities. It is also apparent from the research that the twodisciplines present varying career opportunities. It is, however,clear that the social sciences present more career opportunities thanthe humanities due to the wide range of subjects it covers. Theresearch has also indicated that the social sciences and thehumanities are placed under one department in majority of colleges,universities and high institutions of learning. This has createdconfusion amongst the students, who tend to think that the twodisciplines represent the same thing. It can also be argued that suchinstitutions of learning have no knowledge of the difference thatexists between the two areas of study. This research has indicatedclearly that the two areas of study are distinct in their own waysand they should not be confused. For instance, Columbia Universityhas a department of social sciences and humanities, which are tiedtogether. Students must choose their subjects and courses clearly andeffectively in order to follow their career paths.


Martin,Michael. Readingsin the Philosophy of Social Science.Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006. Print.

Kockelmans,J. Interdisciplinarityand Higher Education.New York: Penn State Press, 2010. Print

UNESCO.World Social Science Report 2010: Knowledge Divides. Paris: 2010.Internet resource

Jörg,Ton. NewThinking in Complexity for the Social Sciences and Humanities: A Transdisciplinary Approach. Dordrecht.London: Springer, 2011. Print.

Salunke,B. and Bagad, A. Humanitiesand Social Sciences.London: Technical Publications, 2009. Print

Bishop,Philip E.&nbspABeginner`s Guide to the Humanities.Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.

Yow,Valerie R.&nbspRecordingOral History: A Guide for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2005. Print.