Social Science vs. Social Studies

What's the Difference?

Social Science and Social Studies are two distinct fields of study that focus on understanding human behavior and society. Social Science is a broader term that encompasses various disciplines such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, and political science. It involves the scientific study of human society and social relationships, aiming to explain social phenomena through empirical research and data analysis. On the other hand, Social Studies is an interdisciplinary subject taught in schools, which integrates elements from various social science disciplines, including history, geography, civics, and economics. It provides a more comprehensive understanding of society, culture, and the world, emphasizing the development of critical thinking, citizenship, and global awareness among students.


AttributeSocial ScienceSocial Studies
DefinitionThe scientific study of human society and social relationships.An interdisciplinary field that encompasses various social sciences and humanities to understand society and its interactions.
SubjectsAnthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Economics, Political Science, etc.History, Geography, Anthropology, Sociology, Economics, Political Science, etc.
FocusPrimarily on understanding human behavior, society, and social structures.Emphasizes the integration of different social sciences to explore broader social issues and global perspectives.
ApproachEmpirical research, data analysis, and theoretical frameworks.Interdisciplinary approach, incorporating multiple perspectives and methodologies.
ScopeSpecifically focuses on the scientific study of social phenomena.Explores social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of societies.
CurriculumVaries depending on the specific social science discipline.Includes a broader range of subjects from various social sciences and humanities.
Research MethodsQuantitative and qualitative research methods, surveys, experiments, observations, etc.Varies depending on the specific social science discipline being studied.
ApplicationUsed to understand and address social issues, inform policies, and contribute to social development.Provides a comprehensive understanding of societies, cultures, and global issues to promote informed citizenship.

Further Detail


Social Science and Social Studies are two disciplines that focus on understanding human society and its various aspects. While they share similarities in their subject matter, there are distinct differences in their approaches, methodologies, and areas of emphasis. In this article, we will explore the attributes of both Social Science and Social Studies, highlighting their unique characteristics and contributions to our understanding of society.

Social Science

Social Science is an academic discipline that encompasses a broad range of subjects, including sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political science, and geography. It aims to study human behavior, social interactions, and societal structures through systematic observation, experimentation, and analysis. Social Science employs rigorous scientific methods to generate empirical evidence and test hypotheses, often relying on quantitative data and statistical analysis.

One of the key attributes of Social Science is its emphasis on objectivity and the use of the scientific method. Researchers in Social Science strive to minimize bias and subjectivity in their studies, ensuring that their findings are based on reliable evidence. This commitment to objectivity allows for the replication and verification of research, contributing to the cumulative knowledge in the field.

Another attribute of Social Science is its interdisciplinary nature. It draws upon various disciplines to provide a comprehensive understanding of human society. For example, sociologists may collaborate with economists to study the impact of economic policies on social inequality, or psychologists may work with anthropologists to explore the cultural factors influencing individual behavior. This interdisciplinary approach enriches the analysis and provides a holistic perspective on complex social phenomena.

Furthermore, Social Science often focuses on generalizable theories and patterns that can be applied across different contexts. By identifying and explaining social regularities, Social Science aims to develop theories that can be used to understand and predict human behavior. For instance, sociologists may develop theories on social stratification that can be applied to various societies, while psychologists may propose theories on cognitive development that are applicable to individuals across cultures.

Lastly, Social Science plays a crucial role in informing public policy and decision-making. The evidence-based research conducted in Social Science disciplines provides valuable insights into social issues, helping policymakers develop effective strategies and interventions. For example, economists may analyze the impact of minimum wage policies on employment rates, or political scientists may study the effects of electoral systems on democratic governance.

Social Studies

Social Studies, on the other hand, is an educational field that encompasses a broader range of subjects, including history, geography, civics, economics, and sociology. It is primarily taught in schools to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of society, culture, and the world around them. Unlike Social Science, Social Studies is not limited to the scientific method and empirical research. Instead, it incorporates a broader range of approaches, including qualitative analysis, critical thinking, and experiential learning.

One of the key attributes of Social Studies is its focus on developing students' civic literacy and engagement. It aims to cultivate active and informed citizens who can participate effectively in democratic societies. Social Studies curriculum often includes topics such as government structures, citizenship rights and responsibilities, and social justice issues. By exploring these subjects, students develop a deeper understanding of their roles as members of society and are encouraged to critically analyze social issues.

Another attribute of Social Studies is its emphasis on interdisciplinary learning. It integrates various social science disciplines, as well as humanities and other subjects, to provide a comprehensive understanding of society. For example, students may study historical events to understand their social, political, and economic contexts, or they may analyze geographical factors that influence human settlement patterns. This interdisciplinary approach helps students make connections between different subjects and develop a holistic understanding of the world.

Furthermore, Social Studies often incorporates experiential learning methods, such as field trips, simulations, and community service projects. These hands-on activities allow students to apply their knowledge in real-world contexts, fostering active engagement and critical thinking skills. For instance, students may visit a local government office to understand the functioning of democracy or participate in a community service project to address social issues. This experiential learning approach enhances students' understanding of social concepts and encourages them to become active participants in their communities.

Lastly, Social Studies aims to promote cultural understanding and global awareness. It explores diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives, fostering empathy and respect for different societies. By studying different societies and their histories, students develop a broader worldview and become more tolerant and inclusive individuals. Social Studies also encourages students to analyze global issues, such as climate change, migration, and human rights, fostering a sense of global citizenship and responsibility.


In conclusion, while both Social Science and Social Studies focus on understanding human society, they differ in their approaches, methodologies, and areas of emphasis. Social Science employs rigorous scientific methods, interdisciplinary collaboration, and generalizable theories to generate empirical evidence and inform public policy. On the other hand, Social Studies takes a broader educational approach, incorporating interdisciplinary learning, experiential methods, and a focus on civic literacy and global awareness. Both disciplines play crucial roles in advancing our understanding of society and preparing individuals to be active and informed members of their communities.

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