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MMO5001 Philosophy of Science, Research Design and Methods

Course description for academic year 2020/2021

Contents and structure

General presentation of:

  • How to design a qualitative and a quantitative research project.
  • The strengts and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative methods. Factors that undermine the credibility of the knowledge that can be generated by using different types of methods 
  • Common concepts, problems and theories of philosophy of science, particularly related to epistemology and ontology and how different philosophical assumptions contribute to the above mentioned strengths and weaknesses.
  • A variety of theoretical positions within philosophy of science, i.e. different solutions to the most common problems of epistemology and ontology, and a discussion of the pros and cons of these solutions.
  • How different solutions to epistemological and ontological problems provide different resources for building different kinds of scientific disciplines  -  within both natural and social sciences.

In-depth presentation of:

  • Knowledge about the relationship between philosophy of science and research design, i.e. how epistemological and ontological assumptions provide possibilities and restrictions for how specific research ought to be designed.
  • Methodological challenges that arise when designing research projects based on different epistemological and ontological assumptions. 

Learning Outcome

At completion of course the student will have solid knowledge of: 

- How to design a research project. 

- What the concepts ontology and epistemology refer to, and the relationships between them.

- The more important problems with different epistemological and ontological theories, particularly the distinction between objectivist and relativist theories.  

- The most common advantages and disadvantages of the different common solutions to epistemological and ontological problems, e.g. the distinction between "to explain" and "to understand".

- The fundamental epistemological and ontological differences between natural and social sciences.

- The common ontological and epistemological theories employed within different types of sciences.

- How specific epistemological and ontological assumptions allow for some types of research designs and not other, i.e. allow for certain kinds of research questions and therefore necessitate certain kinds of methods.

- The difference between qualitative and quantitative methods and the different problems of validity associated with both types of methods    

- Kuhn's theory about how sciences develop

- Popper's rule about falsification.


At completion of course the student will have the following skills:

- Ability to design a research project.

- Ability to analyse research based knowledge claims and evaluate their philosophical strengths and weaknesses, including methodological validity.

- Ability to independently use relevant research methods.

- Ability to design a coherent research project where epistemology, ontology, subject matter theories and methods are consistent and appropriate for answering the research question.


At completion of course the student will have the following general Qualifications:

- Ability to analyse all kinds of knowledge claims with regards to their philosophical status.

- Ability to critically assess the types of knowledge produced by different kinds of research.

- Ability to critically assess the validity of knowledge claims presented in scientific literature

- Ability to employ insights from philosophy of science to identify and appreciate (evaluate on all possible parameters) the weaknesses and strengths of knowledge claims.

Entry requirements


Recommended previous knowledge

Basic knowledge of scientific methods as commonly acquired trough completing a bachelor thesis.

No previous knowledge in philosophy is necessary, but is an advantage.

As all of the litterature is in English, and some of it uses a relatively complicated language and terminology,  we recommend that the students have a fairly good command of the english language.

Teaching methods

Independent studies, lectures/seminars, group work.

Compulsory learning activities

Two assignments to be handed in shortly after the first session. Both assignments must be approved. Dates will be specified in the semester plan.


Portfolio with 4 separate assignments graded according to the A-F scale.

All 4 assignments must be completed and handed in to pass the exam. The total portfolio is evaluated as one entity, meaning that individual assignments are not given individual grades.

Students who fail the exam, or who wish to improve their grade, will not be given the opportunity to redo the exam until next time the course is offered. As all the portfolio tasks are intimately connected, and may change from one year to the next, students will not have the opportunity to only redo individual portfolio assignments. 

Examination support material

All and any

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