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Social Science Switch

This online course enables students trained in the natural or medical sciences to switch to a social science mode of thinking, theorizing, reading and writing. Due to a number of important differences in the point of departure and perspective of the social sciences, people from other disciplinary backgrounds often find it challenging to make 'the switch'. This eight-week online programme will bring together people from a variety of scientific disciplines, giving them the tools and perspectives necessary to approach their study, research and work in a more holistic way by including social science theories and concepts.

  • Dates, tuition, and deadlines
    Mode of instruction Online (8 weeks)
    Academic dates Monday 25 October - Friday 17 December 2021
    Academic fees                                                                                                            

    For students taking this course for entry to a GSSS Master programme (internal participants): €850 read more about what is included.

    For external participants: €1000 read more about what is included.

    Credits 6 European Credits for external candidates. Internal candidates take this course on a pass/fail basis. Read more about credits and credit transfer.
    Admission procedure Admissions will be processed on a rolling basis.
    Final admission deadline                          1 October 2021
  • Who is this programme for?

    This eight-week online programme is designed especially with three groups in mind. However, participants who fall outside of these profiles are also welcome to apply on a case-by-case basis. 

    1. Students planning to enroll in the Masters in Medical Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, or similar medical anthropology/sociology Master programmes at other universities, and have had limited or no training in social sciences. 
    2. Participants who want to embark on a PhD in medical anthropology, medical sociology or global health, but have limited or no training in the social sciences. 
    3. Professional participants working and/or researching in the areas of public health, epidemiology, biomedical sciences, and global health looking to gain an enhanced social sciences perspective.
  • Programme description

    In order to work through and address societal issues in an updated and comprehensive way, emphasis has recently been placed on developing holistic approaches that combine the social and behavioural sciences with the methods and perspectives of the natural and medical sciences.

    This programme is designed to offer participants with a natural/medical sciences background the opportunity to expand their perspective and knowledge, enabling them to tackle complex issues and understand them from multiple perspectives, embracing interdisciplinary and social science mentalities and approaches.

    The primary difference between the social and natural/medical sciences concerns the use of theory. Hence, this programme focuses on building your skills by learning about and using social science theories. We jointly address and work through 'what theory is’ as well as what it 'does', reviewing widely-used anthropological and sociological concepts and theories, such as intersectionality, social navigation, and more.

    By the end of the programme, participants will be able to:

    1. Give working definitions of both theory and concept.
    2. Distinguish different kinds of theory (for example: grand and middle-range).
    3. Explain the additional perspectives that using theory brings with it, as well as what theories and concepts can do for both the social sciences and society at large. 
    4. Understand and describe commonly used social science theories and concepts. 
    5. Apply social science theories and concepts to illuminate real world phenomena, especially those related to health and illness. 
    6. Describe key ontological and epistemological differences between (certain) social science and natural/medical science perspectives.
    7. Read social science papers effectively and critically, and identify why and how theory is used, and to what effects.
  • Format and schedule

    Duration and timing 

    The course will run for eight weeks from 25 October to 17 December 2021, and will meet live once per week. The online live sessions are planned on Thursdays from 15:00 to 17:00. After the course is finished, participants will have until 1 February 2022 to complete the final assignment. 


    In addition to the weekly live sessions hosted via Zoom, this interactive online programme is comprised of pre-recorded mini-lectures; ‘e-tivities’ (small online tasks); reading and reacting to discussions on the course discussion board; completing mandatory readings; and engaging in peer review and receiving tutor feedback. Most of the communication will be asynchronous, and participants will only need to be online at fixed times for the live weekly Zoom sessions. 


    Participants need to complete a variety of small formative assignments throughout the duration of the programme (which need to meet minimum requirements, but will not be marked). After the programme, participants will write a final summative assignment consisting of a 4000-5000 word essay/empirical paper on a topic of your choice, using social science theories and concepts discussed in the programme. You will receive peer feedback and tutor support to help you complete this final assignment.

  • Academic director

    Dr Bregje de Kok is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, and a member of the Health, Care & Body working group. As such, her work straddles the domains of anthropology, sociology, psychology, and public health. Central themes in her research include care and morality in the area of reproductive and maternal health, with a specific interest in normative and moral aspects of sexual, reproductive and maternal health, and how these affect community members' and health professionals' behaviours, as well as the interaction between them. Through ethnography, discourse and conversation analysis, Bregje seeks to illuminate how policies, interventions, and care play out on the ground and contribute to the development of health systems, policies, and interventions tailored to local concerns and realities. 

  • Explore our community

    Want to get to know more about studying short courses at the University of Amsterdam? Follow us on social media and join our digital community. Get a feel for our programmes, city, and academic and social life, as well as upcoming courses. Learn more about studying with us through the eyes of past students and our community of passionate experts. 

    Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter 

    Want to hear more about this programme? Listen to our interview with Bregje de Kok as she explores the meaning behind making the switch, and the spectrum of possibilities that open up for doing our work - whatever that is - more holistically. 


Facts & Figures
Mode Online
Credits 6 ECTS, 8 weeks
Language of instruction English
Starts in October