Redefining the Social Sciences: Strategies and Opportunities

Dr Norma J. Burgess
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Whose responsibility and privilege is it to decide what counts as pure science? Who makes the decision? How long ago was it made? Who aspired to it? Who created it, manufactured it, distributed it, and made certain that its position was maintained? What distinguishes a pure discipline from its counterpart, the impure discipline or the contents of interdisciplinary dialogue? What role did, does, will gender play? What were the consequences for the disciplines and for others who were excluded? Further, is there such a thing as a “pure” science that can be so narrowly defined that it was not somehow impacted by or combined with any other matter possible? Even more significant is who determines what constitutes a “social science”. Can it be that persons from the same disciplinary classification and category could make a different determination depending upon the amount of disengagement the discipline is likely to receive from its major components/scholars in the field?

Acknowledgement must be given to the scientific method or the way in which inquiry into social phenomenon is conducted so that the repeatability factor continues if one claims research expertise in this area. It is highly unlikely, however, that even in the beginning that there was just one pure science. Early scholars aptly defined the “queen” of the social sciences as the one most resembling the physical sciences.

Recent evidence suggests that explanations are much more succinct in examining society. New dilemmas warrant new combinations of disciplinary knowledge and research methods to help scholars understand the complexity of recent developments. Similarly, theories are rarely brand new or novel. The majority of new approaches are based on past thinking, new knowledge, more comprehensive definitions and viewing old problems and issues through new lenses. It is an exceptional gift then that scholars do not have to start anew in the quest for understanding how to address society’s problems.

What are the major stumbling blocks to embracing, accepting and supporting interdisciplinary thinking, teaching, research and scholarship?

a) Recognition and valuing research

b) Promotion, tenure and continuous evaluations

c) Culture and tradition

d) Gender implications

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Presentation Type: Plenary Presentation in English
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Dr Norma J. Burgess

Professor and Academic Co-Chair for the Bachelor of Professional Studies Program, Child and Family Studies
College of Human Services and Health Professions, Syracuse University


Dr. Norma J. Burgess lectures and conducts workshops nationally and
internationally on leadership, self-management, success, goal setting, conflict
management, professional image and self-esteem. Her workshops focus on
self-knowledge, integrating and maintaining wholeness in life, family, and
career using basic principles that work. Her methods and techniques are
applicable to academia, corporations, and community organizations. Burgess holds
an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Tennessee-
Martin; a Master of Public Administration and Ph.D. in Sociology from North
Carolina State University. She has also completed advanced leadership seminars
at Bryn Mawr College, Cornell University and Kaleidoscope Leadership Institute:
A National Forum for Diversity and Women of Color. She is Professor of Child
and Family Studies in the College of Human Services and Health Professions at
Syracuse University; Burgess is also Academic Co-Chair for the Bachelor of
Professional Studies Program at University College of Syracuse University. A
successful businesswoman, Burgess has been recognized nationally for her work.
She is also a powerful motivational speaker with a sense of humor committed to
sharing strategies for integrating work, family and success.

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