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  • Module Structure

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In the introductory module, students become acquainted with the approaches to the subject of science, which have partially emerged separately from each other in the disciplines of the history, philosophy, and social studies of science. They acquire knowledge of the various theories and methods, but at the same time they learn to productively link them to the multidisciplinary perspective of scientific research. This lays the foundation for the ability to think and work in an interdisciplinary way, which is further developed in the subsequent main modules.

The introductory module consists of three introductory courses in the history of science, the philosophy of science, and to science and society. The course on history of science introduces students to the origins and development of science. The course on philosophy of science addresses epistemic strategies and methodological characteristics of science. The course on science and society focusses on the relationship between science, technology, and their social conditions and repercussions. These three introductory courses are linked in the seminar "science studies". This seminar is an interdisciplinary collaboration and considers texts from the three disciplines in an integrated context. It aims to develop an understanding of interdisciplinary science studies.

The module focusses on the historical changes in the sciences. It makes epochal and disciplinary characteristics visible but also provides opportunities for structural comparison that transcend epochs. In particular, stress is laid on shifts in theories, worldviews, institutions, methods and experimental cultures as well as on the differentiation of research contexts. Students are enabled to the analyze the development of science and in particular, to compare past and present conditions of scientific research. The goal is not to provide a chronological account of the history of science, but to elaborate central concepts of historical studies of science. The module deals with historical patterns of development. On the one hand, this makes epoch-specific and discipline-specific peculiarities visible and, on the other, it unlocks new vistas of comparison across epochs. Students are taught the evolution of science in historical configurations as characterized by theoretical concepts, institutions, forms of political regulation, cultural values, and social expectations or fears. The study of the development of sciences shows the students that modern science has striven toward two objectives since its creation: utilitarian use and knowledge of reality.

The module deals with the embedding of science and technology into a social context. Students are enabled to address and to elaborate interdisciplinary questions on the relationships between science and other areas of society (especially politics, economy, law, media, and religion). On the one hand, interrelations between scientific and technological progress and economic dynamics are highlighted. Students acquire the ability to recognize and analyze the incentive structures for scientists. This includes the importance of scientific publications and of non-monetary and monetary rewards as well as research evaluation and performance measurement. On the other hand, students learn to recognize, understand and critically reflect on the role and change of science in (world) society. Here, emphasis is placed on the relationships between science, politics and civil society, their institutional and cultural integration as well as their historical changes under the conditions of inter- and transnationalization. In particular, students deal with (cross-border) conflicts and constellations of political and epistemic authority, with expertise, epistemic communities and policy advice, and with existing and emerging technologies, forms of governance, communication and participation in relation to the significance of science in society. Students also get to know the connection between gaining scientific knowledge and social inequalities. Science- and knowledge-related concepts and methods of sociology and social anthropology, political science, economics as well as science, technology and society studies (STS) will be taught.

The module consists of advanced courses on the nature of scientific knowledge production. The focus is on methodological characteristics of science, its epistemic strategies of discovery, justification, and application. These are explored with respect to their viability and their dependency on influences from intellectual history or society in the course of their historical change. Students learn to assess the validity of scientific knowledge, to judge the appropriateness of arguments and to identify formal and informal fallacies. They gain an overview of the methods for empirical testing and validation of scientific hypotheses, models and theories as well as systematic approaches to confirmatory theory. Emphasis is placed on the methods used in particular branches of science and their epistemic commitments. The module also conveys an understanding of the interaction between social demands on science and their methodological orientations.

The module is supposed to familiarize students with an empirical science, be it a natural science, a social science or mathematics. This module enables students to understand scientific thinking and scientific methods by taking a closer look into a particular field. Correspondingly, reflecting on science and doing science are intertwined with each other. Due to collaboration agreements with various departments, a broad range of introductory courses in the natural and social sciences is accessible. These are modules of Bachelor's programmes but are accepted in the framework of an interdisciplinary Master's programme. A complementary seminar links the science courses to the programme's objective of reflecting on science. Main module 4 is not graded.

If the BA-degree has been earned in a field that is eligible for an object discipline, only advanced courses in this field can be studied in this module. Students are encouraged to select a different field for their object-discipline module.

International students who are unable to follow classes taught in German need to work out, in cooperation with and assisted by the management of the programme, an individualised schedule of English-language courses in the sciences. However, the range of choice will be considerably smaller as compared to its German-language counterpart. In addition, it is to be expected that classes taught in English in the sciences are for the most part rather advanced so that previous knowledge might be requisite.

International students are strongly recommended to discuss their ideas for HM 4 with the coordinator (presently Niels Neier) or the professor responsible for the module (presently Carsten Reinhardt and Marie Kaiser). Although no grades are necessary for ISoS, “non-graded examinations” are required. At least one such examination must be passed in the module of the scientific field in question (it is not sufficient to exclusively earn Studienleistungen) (10 ECTS), another one comes from the complementary seminar (which is offered each summer term in the ISoS course programme) (2 ECTS). In view of the mentioned difficulty to identify suitable English-language courses, relevant courses from the history, economics and philosophy of science are accepted as courses in HM 4. For instance, a course in psychology could be combined with a course in the history of psychology, even if the latter was offered as part of ISoS, or a course in biology could be supplemented with a course in the philosophy of biology etc. This option is limited to one course. International students are strongly advised to discuss options and constraints with the programme management. Completion of this module is recommended for the first year.

The internship adds practical experience to the knowledge in reflecting science gained in the programme. They acquire knowledge about the organization and working methods in the professional field and test the applicability of the insights gained in the course of study. The practical experience should provide the students orientation for their future career and suggestions for the choice of their Master's thesis. The length of the internship is six weeks or 240 hours. It should be completed during the term breaks and is concluded with a written report focusing on the theoretical reflection on the work carried out during the internship. In finding suitable internships existing contacts of the professors may be of help.

Dr Holger Straßheim is responsible for the module. He decides about the suitability of an internship. Students should inquire with him before starting the internship.

Internship contract: PDF

The Final Module consists in writing a Master's thesis of approximately 70 pages (or some 30,000 words), in participating in the final colloquium and in defending the piece of work. The thesis serves to demonstrate the theoretical and methodical skills acquired in the modules. The students learn to independently formulate research questions and to work on them empirically under the supervision of the professors. Prior to submitting the thesis, students are required participating in the final colloquium, in which conceptions and ideas for the thesis are presented and discussed. After the thesis has been reviewed by two professors, the work is defended. In this oral defence, students prove that they are able to substantiate their research approach and stand up for it in the face of objections.

For examinations and the supervision and review of master theses, students can choose among those professors who have taught in ISoS during their enrollment in the programme.

Registration form for the master thesis: WORD

As a student of Interdisciplinary Studies of Science (ISoS) you are required to take 10 supplementary credits as part of the 120 credits needed to complete your ISoS MA. The purpose of the Individual Supplementary Area is to allow you to deepen your knowledge in two or three areas that are not automatically covered within your introductory and main Modules.

Within the ISoS program you will complete various courses looking at the Philosophy of Science, Sociology of Science, and History of Science, but will not be exposed to the practice of any particular science beyond your chosen object disciplines. The Individual Supplementary Area is the perfect opportunity to take the principles and ideas gathered from philosophical, sociological and historical perspectives and see how they are, or can be, applied in practice.

The Supplementary Area is also useful for students wishing to enrol in language courses. For example, if you are an international student interested in improving your German, or a German student interested in improving your English or another language, enrolment in these courses can contribute toward the 10 credits required.

If you wish, you can also use the Individual Supplementary Area to take additional ISoS courses, should any area be of particular interest to you.

You can find a full list of courses for each semester on your ekvv here.

Specifically, you can find the courses taught only in English here.

In ekvv, once you have identified a course that you think is interesting and suitable as a supplementary course, click on the hyperlinked title to view the course page and related information.

First, check if the course has any prerequisites. Some courses require other courses to be completed first, or ask students to have a specific level of familiarity with the subject. You can usually find this information in the explanatory text or at the bottom of a course page, in the first of the drop-down columns (translated in English as ‘Requirement Concretion’).

If it looks like you meet the requirements for a course, but you still have questions about its content or other matters, you can see the name of the lecturer who is offering the course further up the page; clicking on their name will display their contact details.

Once you are sure that you would like to use a course for your Individual Supplementary Area, add it to your ekvv calendar for the semester, just as you would any other course.

If you have any general questions, please email the ISoS Program Coordinator at

Documents and Courses

The examination and study regulations for Master's programmes (PSO, Prüfungs- und Studienordnung in German) are the guidelines for Master's programs at Bielefeld University. The PSO for the ISoS program are specified by the regulations for the Master's program Interdisciplinary of Science (ISoS) (FsB, Fächerspezifische Bestimmungen in German). The course of study is described in the Handbook of Modules. These resources can be found here: Study Information: ISoS

The currently available courses can be found in the electronic annotated course catalog (ekVV): Current courses (eKVV)

Recommended course of studies

The programme can be entered in both the winter and summer semesters. Yet, it is designed for beginning in the winter term. In the first semester, the introductory module and the main module "object disciplines" should be completed. The second and third semesters should be devoted to the three main modules, the fourth semester to the writing of the MA thesis. If the program is entered in the summer semester, the length of the study is likely to increase.

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