Introduction to the Disciplines of Applied Social Sciences

Applied social science is the application of social science theories, concepts, methods, and findings to problems identified in the wider society (D. Jary & J. Jary 2000). Using this understanding in the segmentation of social science into distinct disciplines gives rise to the concepts of applied social sciences that include counseling, social work, and communication.

In this typology, theories, concepts, methods, and findings of counseling define the counseling practice. The same is true for social work and communication disciplines. However, this description of applied social science minimizes or even omits the interdisciplinary aspect that is implicit to social science when it is applied. There can be no social issue that is purely one-dimensional. Different disciplines within the field of social science bring some unique dimensions to a better understanding of social phenomena. This means that applied social sciences cannot afford to be fragmented. Essentially, it has to unify and cut across.

Definition of Social Sciences

Social sciences are disciplines concerned with the systematic study of social phenomena. Basically, the term ‘social sciences’ is defined as the study of human society; that particular area of study that relates to human behavior and society. In a broader sense, it is a branch of science that deals with the institutions, the functioning of human society, and with the interpersonal relationships of individuals as members of society. There are distinct disciplines or branches dealing with a particular phase or aspect of human society such as socio-cultural aspects of human behavior.

An Overview: Disciplines of Social Sciences

The disciplines of social sciences generally include: anthropology, economics, sociology, political science, history, criminology, psychology, geography, and communication studies. The goal of these disciplines is to explain human behavior in its many cultural forms including the past and the present, individually or in groups, national and international geopolitical contexts, and to empower them as democratic participants in a rapidly changing world. The disciplines of social science taken together provide a substantive insight to the understanding of society and of the relationship of individual members and groups within the society. 

The disciplines also study all areas related to human behavior and society, the institutions and functioning of human society, and the interpersonal relationships of individuals as members of society as well as dealing with a particular phase or aspect of human society. To put this in context, the enumerated disciplines above give the sense of complexity and specificity to the disciplines involved.

Definition of Applied Social Science

Applied social science is an integrated science cutting across ard transcending various social science disciplines in addressing a wide range of issues in a contemporary, innovative, and dynamic way. It aims at presenting a well-developed understanding of social systems, social theory, and social policy It integrates theory, social research, skills and professional experience, and critical thinking skills necessary to fully address social phenomena. Applied social science, therefore, is a broad field that draws on different social theories and perspectives and combines theory and practice drawn from different social disciplines that highlight the complexity of social issues. 

Historically, social science knowledge has been compartmentalized into different disciplines, which until the 1990s and 2000s became apparent to many social critics as fragmenting rather than promoting the holistic view and complexity of social reality. This view has advanced the position that it is best that these different social science disciplines work together to produce a more effective and coherent insights on social issues under one umbrella of applied science. In this sense, applied social science essentially reflects an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary view and approach to social issues, policy, and response. 

The focus of applied social science is less fixed and allows for specialisms in other areas to provide perspectives. It is very important to understand that applied social science is not an aggregation of various specialized social science disciplines. It transcends individual specialized social science and finds its true essence through active engagement with the larger society in action. It is praxis. In this worktext, three of the applied social sciences are emphasized to demonstrate how theories and concepts drawn from other disciplines can be brought together to bear upon one discipline in applied sense: counseling, social work, and communication.

Relationship between Social Sciences and Applied Social Sciences

As discussed above, social sciences are more specific and focused on a distinct facet of a social phenomenon while applied social science attempts to focus on a distinct issue but use insights arising from various social science disciplines. While social science may explore broadly their distinct disciplines, some of their input may easily become applied while others may remain theoretical. When social science theories, concepts, methods, and findings gain application to problems identified in the wider society, then applied social science is achieved.

Functions and Effects of Applied Social Sciences

Social sciences are described as generators of knowledge about the sodal world to cause understanding. Applied social sciences transcend this leVel though remain essentially providers of focus. They cede their passive stage to embrace the active mode when they migrate into the applied space. Therefore, the following may be considered functions and effects of applied social sciences. 

  • They generate knowledge in an drganic wav for evidence-based actions and solutions to social problems and issues. They provide learning feedback by simultaneously engaging the experts and the stakeholders that form a social world.
  • They cause social sciences to do things rather than just remain a source of factual knowledge with little or no utility at all. 
  • They generate practical solutions to complex social problems. 
  • The provision of knowledge by social science becomes the moral basis for applied science to address the issues m problems of society.
  • Communication provides accessibility to information and thereby serves the rights of an individual and the public to be informed and to he heard by their elders and communities. 
  • Counseling provides healing, courage, and strength for an individual to face his/her issues and take up the best possible option in moments of life crises. 
  • The social work promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships, and the eMpowerment and liberation of people to enhance their holistic well-being.

Public Perception of Social Sciences and Applied Social Science

Practitioners In the post-democratic era, social sciences are the myths of our time and applied science practitioners have become the mythmakers. This perception is generally based on facts such as how, through media communication and research, social sciences create phenomena that result to an emergence of the sense of new ways of describing and acting that have ended up producing all sorts of effects including such political renewals as Arab spring, EDSA, Green Revolution, and so forth. Candidates in political processes understand too well how polls, opinion columns, and even debates can make or unmake a candidate and his/her chances of winning. The candidates’ performance in polls generally affects how undecided voters come to a decision or frame candidates. Using various tools, the social sciences are capable and do create their phenomena through the procedures that are established to discover such phenomena. In general, the social sciences have played a key role in the creation of opinionated persons and an opinionated society on almost all issues of public interest.

In some areas, however, the public has developed a skeptical attitude toward social sciences and applied social sciences practitioners largely due to their inability to provide formidable solutions to social problems. Other perceptions tend to be discipline-specific as how people view counselors, social workers, and media. In some societies like the Philippines, people rarely present themselv a counselor unless they are heavily compelled to do so, while in some counts. it is very much part of a professional service that people would voluntarily seek for their own health. Media tend to be perceived as biased and in certain moments, confusing and therefore unreliable, Social work has been perceived as purely distributors of goods during calamities and social welfare. Rarely do people perceive social work as: 

The social work profession promotes social change: problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilizing theories of human behavior and social systems, social work. intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments, Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work. – (International Federation of Social Workers)

Therefore, both positive and negative perceptions do exist. Public perception also changes sometimes depending on the issues and sometimes on the outcomes.