Sin Boldly! Dr. Dave's Guide to Writing the College Paper

By David R. Williams | Go to book overview

11
The Social Sciences

What's the Dif?

Not that any huge difference exists between a paper for anthropology and one for English, but students often exaggerate the differences that do exist and cause themselves and their teachers unnecessary grief. The social sciences, by their very use of that word "science," like to imagine themselves as somehow more objective and disciplined than those wackos in the English department. The word "science" comes from the Latin scio, which means "I know." Science takes its claims to knowledge seriously and has little patience with the kind of relativistic solipsism that runs rampant in English departments. There is a truth and they know it. They did build that bomb, didn't they? But the hard sciences look down on the soft social sciences as much as the social sciences look down on the literary types. We thus have a continuum with the hard sciences like biology and physics on one end, the relativists in the English department on the other end, and the many branches of the social sciences defensively in the middle.

"Real" Marxists from the sociology or economics department can barely break bread with their literary cousins across the hall. And all of the social sciences believe their work to be based in strict adherence to certain methodological principles and their precise terminology. Partly because of this sneer, the professors in the English department adopted French postmodern theory so that they too could have certain methodological principles and an incomprehensible vocabulary to go with them. In the

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