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Using Social Theory - SIMP56


The student will learn to use theories in two ways. First, they will learn to understand and review the structures of theories themselves (meta-theory), and second, they will learn how theory is connected to the gathering and analysis of empirical data (applied theory).


About the course

In contrast to courses that teach theory only from the perspective of given scholars, themes, and content, this course aims to demystify theory-driven research by making the practical knowledge of both meta-theory and applied theory explicit. The student will thereby acquire the practical tools to understand, evaluate, and use theories in general in terms of both the structure (Part 1) and application of theory (Part 2).

In Part 1, the student will learn how to understand and critique theory. The ‘Structure of Social Theory’ part highlights (a) concepts and their relationships as the buildingblocks of theory and teaches students how to identify these as well as (b) the levels of analysis (e.g. micro, meso, or macro) and (c) functions and their corresponding levels of abstraction (e.g. ‘middle-range,’ ‘critical,’ or ‘grand’ theories) of theories. Each week will introduce one of these ‘building blocks’ of theory structure and illustrate how these blocks work in the context of an example topic area of social theorizing. Students will then learn to directly apply these in understanding and critiquing a specified body of theoretical content. Part 1 will culminate with students simultaneously using all of these ‘building blocks’ within their critical reviews of selected theories.

In Part 2, ‘Applying Theory within Research,’ the student will apply the same body of social theories used as examples in Part 1 ( e.g. theories of identity) to concrete research projects. Students will adapt the theoretical content introduced in Part 1 and design their own research questions. Students will proceed by operationalizing these research questions and gathering relevant data. They will then complete an analysis task, focusing on the relevance of their findings for the original theory.


The teaching consists of lectures, compulsory seminars, and workshops. The course is split into two subcourses, ‘The Structure of Social Theory’ (7.5 credits) and ‘Applying Theory within Research,’ (7.5 credits).

Online course platform

This course uses Canvas as the online course platform. The course platform will be opened one week before the course begins to all students who were accepted. Here you will be able to access literature, assignments, announcements, as well as participate in discussions and communicate with teachers. 


The course schedule can be found under the course information on the right. Please note that the final version of the schedule will be made available four weeks before the course begins, and changes may occur until that point. A more detailed schedule will be available on the course platform on Canvas.

About the course

Next course period: 
2023-01-16 to 2023-03-21

Course schedule:
List view | Calendar view

Course syllabus

Course literature