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PHD900: Theory of Science - Humanities and Social Sciences

Time schedule | PDF-version for print

General information | Course requirements | Final assessment | Course objective and content | Comments on the literature list 

Person responsible for the course:Geir Sigmund Afdal (
Credit points (ECTS):5
Start of studies:Autumn

General information

The course focuses on 'religion' and 'values' as fields of research and how these fields may relate to each other and / or interact. The course takes selected cases, topics, questions, etc. as its starting point, and seeks to relate such issues to PhD projects of the participants.
Basic topics
  • Values, Religion, Religious Studies, and Theology
  • The relationship between Religious Studies and Theology
  • Contemporary developments in religion and theology
  • Normativity
  • Normative features inherent in research paradigms
  • The role of experience in normative positions
  • Issues related to power/authority
  • Value theory
Topics and question relevant to the courses
  • What is 'Religion' in your PhD project?
  • What is 'Values' in your PhD project?
  • What are common working procedures, theories, and methods in the fields of Religion and Values?
  • Where are the current research frontiers? Which developments do we see?
  • In the study 'religion', and 'values': Does one analyze the topic from the outside (ethic), from the inside (emic), or from both sides? What is your own position as a PhD researcher in this?
  • What is the approach and method of Theology as related to the approach and method of Religious Studies? What do they have in common? What is your own position as a researcher in the one or the other or both areas?
  • How are strategies of 'conceptualization' and the use of 'theory' present in your project, and what interests and values do they convey? How is 'description' and 'empirical' approaches normative; can one deduce from an 'is' to an 'ought'? Is 'essentialism' necessarily a negative thing? Etc.
  • Lectures
  • Discussion
  • Panels/Work groups
The course is normally offered every second fall term, with seminars of three days' length, approximately 6 hours per day.

Course requirements

The student will
  • Submit a draft (1000-1500 words) for a course paper before the course
  • Submit min. four questions on the background of the work with the course paper
  • Respond to the paper and questions of one fellow PhD student
  • Submit a final version of the course paper (2000-2500 words) within three weeks after the course

Final assessment

The final assessment for this course is based on the fulfillment of all course requirements. The course is graded 'passed'/'not passed'.

Course objective and content

The aim of this course is to enable the PhD student to reason and argue a position in the above-mentioned areas of Religion and Values and in the disciplines of Theology and Religious Studies. The course will provide resources for reflexion on the following topics:
  • What are the distinctive scholarly features of Theology and/or Religious Studies? How do they interplay with other areas of social science and the humanities?
  • How do the various disciplines within Theology and Religious Studies relate to each other and the tasks they are intended to solve? Is there a unity within the fields of Theology and Religious Studies respectively? And are there connections between the two?
  • What role does my own doctoral thesis play within my own academic discipline and for the academic fields of Theology and/or Religious Studies as such?
  • What does my project and Theology and/or Religious Studies as such contribute historically, empirically, practically or dogmatically to society, values, churches and/or the education system?
The PhD students will acquire the following skills:
  • Can demonstrate good general knowledge of 'Religion' and 'Values' as fields of research, and as related to each other.
  • Have knowledge of definitions and research frontiers within the two areas.
  • Can understand and demonstrate how one's own project is located, functions and is C within the areas /disciplines.
  • Can describe and discuss how a selection of literature functions within the fields.
  • Have the ability to evaluate aspects of phenomenology and phenomenological research.

Comments on the literature list

A selection of literature on approximately 400 pages will be set up prior to each course, at least two months before. The literature is to be read before the start of the course.

> PDF version for printing