About the Sciences
No matter who or where you are, science has likely had a massive impact on your life. It may be in straightforward ways, such as medicine, you take at your doctor’s office or technology in your home. But it also may be less direct, such as the food you eat that comes from increasingly efficient farming methods which allow humans to live in new places and with higher populations. This breadth of science is what makes it so relevant to modern life and advancement. But, you should know that this broad scope is the result of significant variations in the field of sciences, which includes a few main branches. Reading articles on these topics can help you gain a better understanding of the definitions and meanings behind science in the modern world.
The Three Main Branches
Within the sciences as a whole are three main branches: the formal sciences, natural sciences, and social sciences. Each of these varies from the others in its methods and subject matter. For example, the formal sciences consist of the topics of computer science, mathematics, statistics, and system sciences. And the technique in this area focuses less on the scientific method aimed at making discoveries. Instead, it uses science to help organize and communicate information. The natural sciences, on the other hand, include biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, and space science, usually using classic scientific methods. And finally, the social sciences look at anthropology, economics, education, geography, psychology, and sociology. The techniques in these subjects may be a mix of experimental science and social observation.
Below I will go over each of these three main branches and discuss in more detail the individual definitions and meanings of the sciences within them. In each section, I will outline the main definitions of the branch of science as well as provide links to some useful articles for you. As you read this information and look into articles, I hope that you will discover the meaning that science has for modern society as well as your personal life.
What are the Formal Sciences?
The formal sciences can help you classify an otherwise chaotic universe by applying organization and language to complex systems of information. There is so much information in the world, and I would venture to say even just in our daily lives. But how do we organize it and find meaning in science? For example, how am I creating this web page on the internet for you to read it? And how did you find it when there are so many choices? The formal sciences provide the means of working in these areas of complex systems of information.
The formal sciences consist of computer science, mathematics, statistics, and systems science. They provide languages that organize and characterize the systems, allowing us to communicate better with each other and with machines. Such formal languages make it easier to understand and work with complex information. This clarity is especially true in systems involving math and logic, including computers, statistics, and even linguistics.
Knowing the formal sciences allows you to describe your findings of the world accurately and derive meaning from discoveries. You can then develop inferences about the results, further test them, communicate them to others, or implement them in various fields. For instance, I use them to write web pages and determine factors that attract readers to the pages.
The formal sciences information I provide below will help you further understand the branches and meaning of the field. There are various types and definitions of sciences, and it’s essential to know their differences. Before getting into the areas within this main branch, I first want to emphasize the differences between pure science and formal science.
Science vs. Formal Science
I would venture to guess that pure science is the most familiar to most readers. It’s what we think of when we think about physics, biology, or chemistry. Pure science encompasses a method of observing and testing the natural world to discover truths about it.
A formal science, on the other hand, looks at symbolic systems or those systems founded in logic.
Unlike natural sciences wherein scholars study things to understand them better, scientists in the formal sciences design systems to categorize understanding, which means that the field does not rely on empirical testing or evidence. Instead, people base this on definitions and axioms that deduce statements. Thus, statements in formal sciences are inherently accurate, also known as being analytic. This truth makes the formal sciences applicable to and useful in all other fields of science.
The formal sciences develop formal languages for logical, mathematical, and theoretical systems. As such, they exhibit key traits as tools that aid other fields of scholarship, such as the natural and social sciences, through the provision of structure. This structure allows scientists to describe their findings of the world better and develop inferences about them.
What Subjects Do the Formal Sciences Include?
Within this category, I go over several disciplines of formal sciences and their definitions. These include mathematics, theoretical computer science, programming, accounting, and actuarial science. These schools of thought rely on the formation of language and systems to categorize their elements for study.
I split the formal sciences articles, definitions, and other information that is detailed here into five categories. They are accounting, actuarial science, computer science, math, and programming. There is one common trait joining these categories: Each studies formal language that describes symbolic systems. Math, statistics, general logic, and other similar fields all need such a system for us to work in and understand them. The formal sciences give us those languages, and I believe the formal sciences articles here help you master their meaning and applications in the real world.
What Does a Degree in the Formal Sciences Entail?
If you are thinking about getting a degree in the formal sciences, I think you should know that you will undoubtedly run into very particular classes. Like any degree, you will start with a group of core classes that include various subjects. These will introduce you to the underlying meanings of the larger main branches and definitions in the sciences.
These subjects will be both related and unrelated to the formal sciences. But the most important ones for the formal sciences are math and logic. So if you have the opportunity to select specific classes in these areas, I suggest you do some research by reading science articles to help you choose wisely.
You will then start to take classes that focus more on a specific area of formal sciences with narrow definitions. Because the formal sciences help to classify information, you will need to learn about the information with which you are working. For example, if you focus on accounting or actuarial sciences, expect to take business and finance classes. If you focus on computer science or programming, you will be learning a lot about computers and technology.
The Importance of Computer Science in the Formal Sciences
Due to the extraordinary pace at which computers evolve, there are several fields and definitions within this branch of science. In many ways, computers have become a lifeline for formalizing processes used to observe and study all kinds of phenomena.
I indeed rely on them for my work, as do many others. They have also made life in the 20th and 21st centuries much easier. With them, complicated calculations and data tracking can now take place automatically. In this way, computers are an intrinsic part of the study of natural sciences and the field of applied sciences.
However, what goes into making computers and their programs are themselves formal sciences. The formal sciences articles I recommend here will help you understand the meaning of this process and how to get involved in it yourself.
As it is relatively modern in terms of its development of formal languages and systems, computer science is a quickly growing field. I link to articles on the history of this applied science here to help you get a better idea of the definitions and how it all started. Put simply; the field develops programs that represent how processes and data interact through the use of algorithms. These algorithms are capable of manipulating, storing, and showing digital material. As such, the computations required to develop these algorithms are reliant on computers and computer-based programs.
Degrees, Careers, and More
I want to note that computer science is a readily available field in many nations across hundreds of universities. Additionally, I think you might appreciate that a career in the domain is also quite lucrative. You can take a look at what it’s like to work in the field by reading formal sciences articles on outstanding computer scientists.
You’ll see that all types of industries rely on computers and people who understand how they work. Moreover, numerous sectors are contingent on the use and development of programs to make them more lucrative. As such, I think it is safe to predict the 21st century will see a boom in training computer science professionals.
Mathematics as a Formal Science
Believed to have emerged in several ancient cultures simultaneously, the study of mathematics is broad and foundational in numerous societies. In short, this formal science devised several formalized languages in systems to identify and utilize patterns that can resolve conjectures.
Through discussion of and discovery within topics and definitions like change, quantity, space, and structure, mathematicians model concrete phenomena meaning that they can offer insight into “why” and “how”. This data also enables predictions about said phenomena, meaning the science highly applicable in other fields like natural science.
In the applied sciences articles I provide here, you will learn about history, such as how calculation, counting, and measurement emerged from contemplative topics in mathematics. In using abstraction and logic, the field provided the foundation for numerous scientific discoveries. I will also cover how mathematics is essential to topics within several other areas, principally engineering, finance, medicine, and the natural and social sciences. For any field using quantifying studies, mathematics is necessary.
Divisions of Math
Of note, this field contains two critical areas of study: applied and pure mathematics. Applied math is more recent in its evolution as an application of mathematical principles. Statistics and game theory are examples of this category.
Pure mathematics, on the other hand, engages simply in performing math to further the discipline. Those who participate in this field simply wish to discover more about math concepts themselves without necessarily feeling complied to use it elsewhere. If applied mathematics is more your speed, I recommend checking out articles in the applied sciences category as well as those in the formal sciences.
Using the Formal Science of Math in the Field
While mathematics is a type of formal science in its own right, its subtopics contain various meanings, definitions, and applications. They create symbolic systems relying on the language of math, at least initially, to explain other phenomena. Particularly within economics, finance, business, and insurance, math plays a significant role in developing different topics.
Potentially the most fundamental formal science, math, plays a crucial role in giving meaning to all of the others listed here. It has been around for millennia in many cultures, modern and ancient. Some of the math we use today comes from these ancient cultures. But much of the math we used today have come from excellent refinement over time, especially in the past few centuries.
Math gives us various formal languages and definitions in the sciences that help us identify and use patterns. The language it uses contains numbers and symbols. These numbers and symbols allow for representing abstract concepts and logic itself. But getting to such abstract ideas can be tough if you don’t understand the language. Like any language, it can be tough to learn and require a substantial time commitment. But the formal sciences materials and articles I recommend here are designed to help students struggling with the sometimes complicated concepts. They focus on some tricky areas and reinforce the ideas with practice problems, diagrams, and examples.
When you have an abundant source of data and information in science, it can be hard to determine the meaning of it all. Statistics helps collect, organize, analyze, interpret, and present data such that you can understand how it all works together. Managing these tasks might involve taking millions of data points and plotting them on a graph to see the pattern they create. Or it might mean applying mathematical functions to the data points to show properties such as average, median, deviation, or other relationships.
In terms of utility, statistics is applicable in uncovering meaning in all of the main branches of science. Any area that works with large amounts of data will benefit from statistical analysis as well as mathematical models.
In terms of data analysis, there are two main definitions for methods used in this sub-branch of the formal sciences. The first is descriptive statistics, and the second is inferential statistics. The former has to do with summarizing data using indexes. The latter, on the other hand, uses data that may have substantial influence from random variation.
In the science of descriptive statistics, the goal is to summarize data to make the meaning more clear. Such summarization might include data about a sample such as the overall size, subgroup sample sizes, demographics, and proportions with specific characteristics such as age, gender, or religion in a sample of people. The handiest measures for these types of descriptions are measures of variability and central tendency. These include the mean, median, mode, standard deviation, minimums, maximums, and skewness.
In inferential statistics, there is less emphasis on summarizing the sample and more on learning about the population from which the data comes. For example, if you already have a distribution of probability, then you can use this method to infer the underlying causes. This method involves some assumptions in the form of various statistical models. Selecting which of them you should use will depend on the particular situation.
Applications of Statistics
While theoretical statistics look at the underlying logical arguments and justification of statistical inference, applied statistics look at what statistics can do for you in the real world. You can find many articles on definitions and how the field applies in other areas and main branches of science.
Some of the most vital areas are in computers and programming, such as data mining and machine learning. Statistics are also useful in a wide range of academic disciplines where they give meaning to the mountains of data in social sciences. All of these areas can help experts in different fields to continue research, validate findings, make reliable business decisions, and further public initiatives.
When you take a look at everything around you, I want you to try to think of it as a group of systems. By that, I mean that you should attempt to see how the different parts work together in individual groups.
This mode of thinking is accessible in modern problem-solving, particularly in all main branches of the sciences. After all, the modern world is continuously becoming denser with increasingly complex and interlinked parts. The internet, globalization, world trade, and quickly developing technology all push this field to the forefront.
System sciences involve recognizing and studying the systems that surround us. These systems include nature, society, technology, and even systematic areas within our brains and minds.
Because there are systems within systems, this way of thinking allows you to narrow down on both small and large groups. You might look at the order of workers within a company or the more extensive system of the company as a whole. Furthermore, the company is part of an even more extensive network of the national and global economy.
As this area of science only came into being in the mid-twentieth century, it is still in the process of finding an inner meaning and sorting out definitions. Like other sciences, finding meaning and definition still hinges on distinguishing between three main parts of the field. These three segments are the domain of inquiry, the body of knowledge, and the method.
There are several frameworks and definitions for different approaches centering around the various purposes and meanings of systems science. For example, the theory of analysis considers how the field can analyze the structure, arrangement, and interactions of a system.
Design in the area, on the other hand, focuses on creating the structure and interactions that lead to the most effective outcome. The field of dynamics then takes a look at how complex interactions behave and change over time.
Theories from other parts of mathematics also come into play in many of those within systems science. Some important ones include chaos theory and control theory.
While the idea behind systems science is to observe systems, the application of the field is to enhance human-made systems. One of the most compelling examples for almost any company out there these days is that of information technology (IT), making it a great place to end up in this field. Within IT, you can become an expert in any number of vital areas. Positions might include data analyst, data scientist, IT consultant, software engineer, or cybersecurity analyst.
Because the applications in IT often concern computers, you will likely benefit significantly from courses or even a degree in computers. I recommend considering programs centering on programming, computer science, and mathematics.
You can find both articles and even books that delve further into the definition and meaning of this area of science in the modern world. Areas in which you might find this study most useful are other formal sciences such as information theory, cybernetics, and linguistics. But it also has applications in the other two main branches of natural and social sciences. For example, systems biology, ecology, engineering, and psychology are prominent fields.
What are the Natural Sciences?
The natural sciences are branches of science that explore the complexity of the natural world. Some of the most significant discoveries and fascinating research that you read about in the news from scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson or the late Stephen Hawking are in the natural sciences.
The natural sciences aim to understand, describe, and predict naturally occurring phenomena that people consider to be part of the natural world, i.e., the life sciences and the physical sciences. Areas within these two branches include biology, chemistry, Earth sciences, physics, and space sciences. The methods used to study these areas focus on gathering empirical evidence from experiments and observation.
Studying these science topics helps us find meaning in the world around us. This understanding then allows us to adapt and improve our way of life. The natural sciences materials and articles that I suggest to you here will help you understand the definitions, meaning, goals, and trends in the field. I hope you can use them to satisfy your curiosity or to move up in a natural science career.
Modern Natural Sciences
You probably saw the first image of a black hole floating all over the internet. Or maybe you like to keep up with the constant discoveries about dinosaurs and the fossil record. You might also be keeping up with the news on climate change science—I know I am!
Thus, the natural sciences are becoming a big part of modern life, as I am sure you know. Not only are they part of much of the technology, medicine, and other modern marvels of the world, but they also play into our everyday lives. Many people need natural sciences for their jobs. Many go to school to get degrees in natural sciences. Scientists can even be celebrities and role models on social media. Figures like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, and Bill Nye are often household names, even for those who aren’t big into science. And natural science books are read both for education and out of pure curiosity by the public. That’s the whole reason you and I are both here—to get more involved!
Of course, this is excellent news, showing that taking a close look at the world around us is “cool“. And more importantly than being in style, it’s also possible for more people. By that, I mean, you don’t need to attend advanced science classes in biology to learn about definitions in evolution. And I don’t need to work in a science lab to know about the meaning of climate change. Natural sciences books and other materials such as the ones I show you in this article make learning about these topics a possibility for everyone.
Science vs. Natural Science
Science itself is more of a method than a body of knowledge or a list of definitions. It consists of data collection based on both observation and experimentation. This method lets scientists collect empirical evidence to identify consistent patterns and verify theories as truths.
This process is called the scientific method, and I am going to emphasize its crucial role in science as a whole. It’s one of the first things students learn as young as elementary school, and one of the foundations of the field. I cover natural sciences topics here that reinforce the ideas of the scientific method as well as guide you through actually using it.
But within science as a whole, there exist various areas of focus. The natural sciences are one of these areas. Others include the formals sciences and social sciences. But generally speaking, the natural sciences comprise one area in which people use science to study the natural physical world.
What is the Difference Between Natural and Formal Science?
One of the other branches of science that I mention above is formal science. I know that many people are not familiar with the specific definitions in the field, so this gives an excellent example of the differences between various kinds of science.
Whereas natural sciences observe natural phenomena and gather data, formal science helps to categorize and communicate that data. They provide languages like math, logic, and even computer programs that deal with the data. Once someone has collected a set of data, an observer will be able to understand and analyze it for deeper meaning.
Which Subjects Do the Natural Sciences Include?
Overall, the natural sciences fall into one of two central branches: the life sciences and the physical sciences. The life sciences revolve around biological studies, and the physical sciences contain astronomy, chemistry, Earth science, and physics.
Thus, I cover five main categories of material here, suggesting articles and other materials for each. The five groups include biology, chemistry, Earth sciences, physics, and space sciences. Some of the science articles I suggest have a focus on technical details for students and professionals. These usually start with basics and include ways to practice knowledge in the form of example problems. Other articles provide reading material for anyone, aiming to educate on specific science topics without getting too technical. Take a look to see what piques your interest. I recommend books and articles for extensive material on particular subjects, and online courses for active learning that helps you participate as you learn.
What Does a Degree in the Natural Sciences Entail?
Degrees in natural science often share some key characteristics. They are typically interdisciplinary, at least to some degree. So this means they will cover multiple sciences at the same time due to their overlapping definitions and meanings. For example, biology has a lot to do with the chemistry of molecules within living things. And how objects behave in space has a lot to do with the physics of matter. So be prepared to take a variety of classes and read many articles in multiple natural sciences topics, even if you only majored in one.
I also think it’s important to consider that all of these classes will require large amounts of math and science skills. These include being very comfortable with mathematical equations, solid logic, the scientific method, and technical reading. And many of these skills will be put to the test in hands-on scenarios. Lab work and field projects are common and very important in the field, so being comfortable working in various environments is crucial. And towards the end of a degree, you will likely conduct a capstone or research project that synthesizes everything you have learned.
Life After Getting a Natural Sciences Degree
Because of the dramatic rise of science and technology in the last couple of centuries, degrees in the natural sciences are highly useful. The most common application is in the research of any given field. But degrees in natural sciences can also be used as springboards for careers in other areas. For example, a bachelor’s in physics can easily lead to work in engineering, especially if students combine this with a minor or higher degree in an engineering field.
Other highly accessible occupations with a natural sciences degree include doctor, teacher or professor, surveyor, chemist, material scientist, biologist, physicist, geologist, and more. Due to the highly demanding nature of most of these positions, they usually pay quite well. If we take a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median professors make a median pay of 78,470 dollars per year. And engineers make a median of 91,010 dollars, while geoscientists make a median of 91,1300 dollars per year. Each of these fields is also growing steadily, so now is the time to join their ranks.
Natural Sciences of Living Organisms
As a branch, life science is biological science. These terms are interchangeable; however, the various subdivisions within the branch of science include focuses and definitions of different living organisms. Fields, definitions, and articles that I introduce in this science category tend to focus on specific creatures, their functions, their compositions, and their interaction with the world around them. For example, botany focuses on plants, and ecology focuses on ecosystems. Moreover, studies in this area often enhance the quality of life for animals, plants, ecosystems, and humans alike.
Natural Sciences of Non-living Organisms
Physical sciences are those that seek to explain physical phenomena through experimentation and confirmation of hypotheses. Moreover, this field aims to predict how and when events will occur based on analyzing trends in empirical data. It includes physics, chemistry, and Earth and space science, each of which I will cover in detail during the remainder of the article.
In summary, people think of physics as the fundamental study of matter and atoms. Then, chemistry expands on it by focusing on specific qualities and interactions of particles. The Earth and space sciences zoom out further until you notice particles less and materials more. At this point, you can sometimes forget that the vastness of the planet and space come from such small origins! But as you read articles I provide here, you will continuously see the connections between the definitions and meanings of these various natural sciences.
Biology and the Living World
Animals, plants, microorganisms, and humans are all types of living things studied within biological sciences. Work in this area seeks to describe and understand living organisms from their physical structure, chemical processes, and molecular interactions to their development, evolution, and ecological interactions.
The science articles I link to on this subject include a wide range of topics. You can read a rundown of a number of them here, or check out individual articles that go more in-depth for particular issues. As a natural science, the branch of biology has broad definitions as well as applications. Studies within the field frequently inform the industries of agriculture, food science, medicine, pharmaceutical sciences, and veterinary sciences.
While I am sure you will find that there is a lot of complexity within this branch of natural science, I also hope to show that it is a unified approach to interpreting the world of living organisms. Firstly, biology identifies cells as the most basic unit of life. All things comprised of cells, therefore, are living organisms. Secondly, people know that genes as the source of heredity. Lastly, evolution is the premise for both the creation and extinction of all species. It is through the ability to adapt and transform a species either thrives or becomes extinct.
Of note, biology contains two central fields: theoretical and experimental. In the former area of research, biologists use mathematical means to create abstract, quantitative models of living organisms. This modeling allows researchers to identify and quantify governing structures of living organisms, as well as the behavior and development of those systems. Experimental biology, on the other hand, conducts physical experiments designed to prove theories.
Chemistry and Reactions of Matter
Chemistry is ultimately the science of matter, meaning it is contingent on atomic particles coming together to form various bonds. This area of natural science takes an interest in the definitions of chemical behavior, composition, properties, structure, and reactions. More so, the field looks at how these elements change concerning chemical reactions.
Chemists primarily focus on how atoms interact with one another to create chemical bonds. These bonds form chemical compounds that can be further tested and analyzed. As such, analysis of these elements and their microscopic components make the field broadly applicable to other areas and within applied sciences.
As a broad base of knowledge for numerous fields within the life sciences, other physical sciences, and applied sciences, I think of chemistry as the glue holding together much of our meaning of the world. The processes analyzed and the discoveries made through chemical experimentation have made it generally invaluable to a well-rounded education in science.
Earth Sciences and the Planet
Planet Earth is the foundation for all studies and interests as humans work to understand their home better. Earth sciences, or geosciences, literally study the planet through several fields focused on unique aspects of it.
As a branch of natural science within the physical sciences, I will further break down Earth science articles into several fields for discussion. These fields are atmospheric sciences, geology, geography, oceanography, and planetary science. Within each of these fields are specific areas and articles of scientific study that focus on unique natural phenomena.
The Four Main Sub-Fields
Atmospheric sciences investigate the properties and processes of the atmosphere. Climate studies are essential within this field and include investigating the basic principles and chemical properties of the outermost layer of the Earth’s ecosystem.
Geology studies Earth’s components. Some geological studies also study the history of these components to understand their development better. From the study of prehistoric life (paleontology) to the study of modern environmental problems (environmental geology), geology encompasses a large body of knowledge to discern numerous aspects about Earth itself.
Geography is the study of the terrestrial surface, including how it forms, what landscapes exist, and how animals and humans populate and use it. Within this field are numerous forms of applied science and social science, making it highly interdisciplinary. Due to this multidisciplinary nature, you may want to broaden your scope by reading articles outside of the natural sciences. For example, you could check out the humanities material that I cover in another definitive guide.
Next, oceanography is the study of the ocean’s physical and biological properties. Some oceanographers map the ocean floor while others study the sea from a biological perspective. They all join in contributing to this field.
Planetary science investigates planetary systems, including planets themselves and their moons. This field continues to grow with space exploration and the frequent discovery of new space elements.
Physics and Matter
Matter, motion, space, time, energy, force—these components create the foundation for the field of physics. This branch of natural science aims to understand how the universe behaves through an extensive analysis of nature.
In the natural sciences articles and other material I provide here, you will see how physicists can identify the rules and definitions of nature through the use of the scientific method. They can investigate the elements that interact to create and change energy and force. Moreover, the field consistently updates our understanding of non-living organisms through experimentation and analysis.
Interestingly, physics is a highly applicable science informing engineering and applied mathematics. Without a strong understanding of the principles and meanings within this discipline, innovations in science would be far more limited.
I would argue that physics is the mother of all physical sciences since it looks at all things relating to matter. This investigation includes motion, time, space, force, and energy. It studies everything from tiny subatomic particles to entire galaxies and the universe itself. This science involves plenty of calculations that many people find challenging, but the materials and articles I cover here go to great effort to provide extra assistance.
Space Sciences Beyond Our Planet
Although people typically refer to space science only as astronomy, it is an enormous discipline involving space exploration, the study of natural phenomena in space, the study of planets and other physical bodies, and more. Ultimately, this natural science focuses on understanding the universe and breaking down the unknown into more familiar concepts.
Within the space sciences, there are many subtopics of astronomy such as aerospace engineering, astrobiology, cosmology, planetary science, forensic astronomy, space archaeology, space medicine, space architecture, and so many more. Of these, astronomy and aerospace engineering are perhaps the most famous.
Briefly, astronomy aims to understand celestial entities through various means, including observation and mathematical modeling. Beyond those “basics,” there is a large amount of theorizing about the universe. Aerospace engineering, however, involves the movement of humans and objects into space. Namely, within this discipline, astronauts and engineers are seeking to understand the universe through more physical encounters.
What are the Social Sciences?
The complexities of human relationships and social interactions lead to a field of science unlike most others. If you study the social sciences, you will notice that societies around the globe have formed in various ways that are sometimes very distinct, yet often share many characteristics. You might start to wonder how it all led to where you are today. I sometimes think back to powerful ancient societies and wonder how different—and how similar—they were to what I live today. The social sciences can help us answer these questions and more.
The social sciences consist of anthropology, economics, education, geography, psychology, and sociology. These sciences aim to understand how human society functions through analysis of various facets from culture and communication to individual psychology and the meaning of sociological relationships. It uses tools from the natural sciences; as well as definitions of social critique and symbolic interpretations. This process means the results can vary and lead to some fascinating discussion.
Two of the things that make humans unique include our brain and our relationships with one another. Our minds give us incredible capabilities (at least compared to most of the animal kingdom) to communicate and to study the world around us. And this includes studying ourselves! In the social sciences, the brain primarily considers itself to understand how people work and how societies function through complex human interactions. We examine that magnificent brain, the way we use it to communicate, and the things we create with it. Doing so is quite essential for creating a better living environment. For that reason, the field of study has a long history, and today it forms a vital part of our culture and progress.
What Subjects Do Social Sciences Include?
This particular area of study encompasses a broad array of fields, including anthropology, economics, education, geography, psychology, and sociology. They discuss human behavior, financial interactions, learning, spatial distribution, thought, and social interactions, respectively. I will review and suggest additional articles for each of these branches of the social sciences in greater detail below.
Articles that I propose here on the various branches of the social sciences will cover everything from the definitions and history of these topics to their recent changes and advancements. Through them, I aim to help you get a firm foothold in the subject, or climb further up a path you have already started.
Science vs. Social Science
Social science is a branch of scientific study that includes the same methods as other branches. However, pure science is the overarching field that also includes additional (i.e., all) scientific topics not covered in social sciences. Pure science is the method of observing and experimenting with gathering data, which people use to analyze hypotheses and draw conclusions. In addition to the social sciences, people use this method in the applied, natural, and formal sciences.
In the branch of science known as social sciences, there is not as much focus on math, physical phenomena, experimentation, and technical analysis. But I don’t mean to say that they don’t exist at all in the social sciences. Instead, you will see a wide range of methods and techniques used, depending on the specific sub-field in question. Fields like economics or archaeology use more scientific methods and statistics. Others use more critical analysis and interpretation of observations, including include both quantitative and qualitative research.
What Does a Degree in the Social Sciences Entail?
A degree in this field can help you gain many transferable skills and engage with new concepts in new situations. You will become very familiar with reading, writing, critical thinking, communication, and professional interaction. And with the developments happening today, you will also likely learn how to apply other sciences to the field.
For instance, experimental psychology and the mathematics of language allow us to understand these topics at a much more profound level than in previous centuries. Once you find your niche, you will probably write a thorough dissertation on it or conduct your final project.
Foundations of Social Science
If you are new to the social sciences, you may want to start with articles that cover the branches of anthropology, psychology, and sociology. These are fundamental in social science theories and methodology. The next three sections I cover will give you a rundown of each of these fields. I will also include various materials and links for further learning.
Modern Applications of Social Science
The concept of economics and education has been in existence for hundreds of years. They form part of social science that applies various parts of the field to real-world events and metrics. However, formalized areas of study are somewhat recent. And globalization has made economics a hugely complicated matter.
People can’t treat the world as one giant economy as the interactions between all of the sub-economies lead to many unforeseeable changes. But this is precisely why research in the area continues. Below I will detail some of the recent topics of study that may interest you.
As humans try to understand themselves, they first look to the past. Anthropology looks at the origin of the species with both physical and cultural perspectives. Professionals in the field study physical remains and written texts from the past to determine why humans like you, and I turned out the way we did. Topics of study include evolution, language, culture, and similar overlapping areas.
Anthropology, thus, is the pinnacle study of man. I will highlight how the field pulls not only from the social sciences but also from the humanities and natural sciences to build and prove theories. Thus, I think it might be helpful for you to look at articles outside of the social sciences to supplement your learning. Below are some sub-fields of anthropology that you may be interested in:
You will find that money and economics go hand and hand because the latter is the science used to describe and analyze how wealth circulates. Studies in this branch of social science look at how wealth is produced, distributed, and consumed within different social parameters.
Within economics, the concepts of scarcity and alternatives are primarily at play. Shortages mean that resources are limited, which causes us to need to think carefully about how to use them. This scarcity can cause prices to go up for those with higher demand. It can also cause people to divert their choice to an alternative that is cheaper due to more available resources. Because these two dynamics are continually interacting and dictating patterns and trends, they are fundamental to the field. You will see these concepts come up in many of the materials I provide here.
Economics has two main areas of study: micro- and macroeconomics. In microeconomics, the individual delegate (i.e., household, company, person) is the analyzed unit. Macroeconomics, on the other hand, looks at economies as a whole for analysis.
These fields break into positive and normative distinctions. The first, positive economics, aims to explain and predict phenomena within economic structures. The latter, normative economics, uses somewhat subjective criteria to categorize actions and choices. These are topics that people typically find in the more advanced social sciences materials that I detail here.
From teaching to counseling to curriculum development and more, this field embodies the art and science of learning. As a social science, education branches across several areas of applied and theoretical research concerning how people learn, how people teach, and the spread of knowledge and cultural wisdom. You will find that disciplines, including anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and sociology, feed into this area of expertise.
Studies in education are often broken apart by age. In this manner, as a student, you may be grouped with peers that are not of the same level as you. This grouping could benefit you if you can learn from the many more advanced students surrounding you but may hinder you if you are significantly ahead of other students. Other areas within the field consider what to teach and how to prepare, looking more at curriculum development, or how to enforce standards through education policy.
Furthermore, within education research, the impact of various individuals and sociological elements is essential. When children begin to learn about the world and how that view is sculpted, it is critical to understand not only the learning process but other cultural elements. Moreover, the impact of a child’s place and time of birth, or where they were born and when in history, will have an effect on their ultimate educational success. Educators strive to develop standards of equity in consideration of these factors to provide all students equal learning environments and opportunities.
Geography as a Social Science
Geography often falls within the realm of Earth science, a natural science. However, you will find that the branch has many fields with more critical (or social) perspectives. Human geography is the primary form of geography within social science. It looks at how humans impact their environment, including how they build their societies, how they view the world, and how they manage their physical environment. Interestingly, human geography draws on its sister science, physical geography, in considering the central tenant of the relationship between physical markers and our understanding of space.
Within this field, there are several elements I want you to consider. The physical environment is perhaps the most primary component impacting humans. For example, where they live dictates what resources are available, which in turn determines the emergence of cities and culture. The interaction of these features then gives rise to political workings, public health, military considerations, etc.
Beyond physical geographic elements, geographers consider social aspects. This consideration may include looking at how culture dictates the movement of peoples or the spread of languages. Social geography considers societal tendencies and interactions.
Geography also contributes to applied fields. For example, it is a significant component of urban planning and design. Moreover, geography borrows from formal sciences like statistics and computer science to enhance data informing theories and analytics within the field. For this reason, I also suggest looking into materials on these areas outside of the social sciences.
Library scientists invest in many elements of managing not only libraries but knowledge in general. The field of library science is inherently multidisciplinary as a field in the humanities. I will show you how it takes into consideration numerous perspectives, including how and where to disseminate information.
Before getting to modern library science, I would like to start with a brief history. Studies in library science began around the mid-17th century. At that time, it was impressive just to establish a library to collect written works. In the 19th century, scholarship had expanded dramatically with numerous written works circling the western hemisphere in particular. Melvil Dewey designed the famous decimal system, forging a new reason for library management and scholarship on information management. As technology continued to boom through the 20th century into the 21st century, data management became the apparent issue for library scientists.
Modern Library Science
Today, there is an enormous amount of focus on access to information and working toward equity of dissemination. And this is because of a rise in misinformation where people (often purposefully) spread untrue facts. Usually, this is done out of malice and towards an end of misguiding people. Other times, out of ignorance. The articles I present in this category of the humanities will show you current events and trends such as these in library science that are important to know if you are looking to get into the field.
On the topic of modern developments, library science has stood its ground over time. This exciting field is about more than just libraries. Instead, it encompasses the essence of learning and making knowledge accessible to all. Thus, as times change, so do the methods of libraries and librarians.
Although it sometimes goes by the name politology, you have probably heard of it as political science. This definition of this science is that which looks at systems of governance and analyses political activities, thoughts, meaning, organizations, and behavior. It’s the science that searches for the meaning in politics and governance such that people can ensure these areas work towards the benefit of society.
To fully understand this branch of science, you should first know the definition of politics. Politics are the activities within a government where people make decisions that apply to the larger group of members. Of course, this particular definition doesn’t only apply to countries or states. Governance exists in pretty much any organization.
For example, the governance of a company includes managers and CEOs. The management of a sports team includes coaches and team owners. However, in this branch of social science, the primary meaning of the definition is the governance of countries, states, communities, and economies.
Subfields and Research
The subfields included under political science include comparative politics, international relations, public policy, political theory, and general political methodology. Many of these areas, and political science as a whole, also draw from the topics of law, economics, history, sociology, and more.
The reason it is so interdisciplinary is that the politics of any organization are composed of many people. Even in narrower groups of people in a small community, everyone has their lifestyle and individual actions that differ from the masses.
To account for this variation, research in the field has a range of methods incorporating many fields of study that impact human behavior. These methods come from all the main branches of the sciences and blend into this unique social science.
Some areas of the field look at topics that relate primarily to human behavior. These include psychology and cognitive neuroscience, meaning the methods used can be qualitative and quantitative. Other areas take a look at the money side of things, thus giving math, statistics, and data analysis a spot in the front row. Similarly, studies into areas involving policies and changes over time have a greater focus on history and long-term observation.
Careers and Applications
A degree in political science may guide you to many fulfilling careers that give meaning to professionals around the world. Many of them are directly in politics, but you will find that quite a few of them are actually in entirely different fields. This variety occurs because the skills gained from studying political sciences transcend the main branches of science and contribute in many ways.
For example, some political positions include legislative assistant, policy analyst, political consultant, or attorney. Other spots outside of politics include public relations specialist, marketing researcher, or social media manager. Regardless of the area of expertise, all of these positions require a sharp mind with knowledge of the way people in large groups work.
Studying the mind requires numerous approaches. As such, the social sciences materials that I cover here encompass several psychology fields. I intend to use them to help you understand behavioral and mental processes.
I will outline how these fields draw from different perspectives and methods to understand these areas and use analysis to enhance people’s lives. Because of this attribution, many perceive psychology as a field to treat mental illness; but people sometimes classify that particular field as clinical psychology. However, as a branch of the social sciences, psychology contributes to a broader realm of knowledge.
Although psychology aims to explain the impact of the brain on individual behaviors, it does relate to other fields. When paired with neuroscience and biological studies, psychology becomes neuropsychology. This sub-field considers physical neural activities concerning their mental effects and individual behaviors. Other examples of psychology beyond the clinical setting include the following:
- Behavioral studies and therapy
- Cognitive psychology
- Developmental psychology
- Educational psychology
- Industrial-organizational psychology
- Mathematical psychology
“Soci” is a derivative of the Latin term socious, which loosely translates to society. When paired with the “ology” suffix, we achieve “the study of society”. Sociology, thus, studies individual relationships, interactions in the larger world, the differences within communities, social action, and social interaction.
In the articles I detail here, you will find that studies in this field rely on observation and analysis. Because there are numerous approaches, the subject hosts a variety of epistemological perspectives, frames of inquiry, and methods for analysis. Moreover, these approaches change and modernize based on current cultural, political, and generational persuasions. New thinkers emerge and question “old” theories through new lenses. As such, sociology tends to engage frequently in critical methods and scholarship.
I also want to show how sociological research pulls from diverse methods spanning quantitative and qualitative data capturing as well as empirical processes. Various scientists rely on elements of observation, survey research, direct interviews, focus group interviews, and model construction. Thus, the applicability of findings in this field and its sub-divisions is quite broad. Politicians, educators, medical professionals, and others draw upon sociologists’ work to enhance work in their areas.
Frequency Asked Questions About the Sciences
For your most pressing questions, I have included this list of go-to answers that get straight to the point.
What are the primary branches of science?
The three main branches of science discussed here are the formal, natural, and social sciences. The formal sciences look at the organization and characterization of symbolic systems such as math and logic. But the natural and social sciences, on the other hand, characterize physical and social networks, respectively. The latter two use empirical methods, whereas the formal sciences use description and language tools.
What subjects do the formal sciences include?
The formal sciences help us work with and understand complex information, especially in systems that involve mathematics and logic. Thus, formal sciences are most important in areas that apply math and reasoning, including computers, statistics, and even linguistics. The main areas I cover in greater detail here are accounting, actuarial science, computer science, programming, and mathematics.
What does a degree in the formal sciences entail?
A base in math and logic is essential for a degree in the field of formal sciences. Core classes will center on math and logic, while other courses will narrow in on specific subtopics within these or related fields. These topics will then extend into higher levels and start relating to other areas of application, such as business, finance, and technology.
What difference is there between formal science and science?
Pure science is a method of studying and understanding the world around us. It builds knowledge through testing phenomena. Formal science, on the other hand, is a way of organizing and understanding systems of knowledge and information. It uses patterns and languages to characterize data in fields like mathematics, statistics, and computer science.
What jobs can you get using a degree in formal science?
Because managing large amounts of information is a big part of the modern world, formal scientists are in high demand. Popular jobs include accountant, actuarial scientist, mathematician, professor, programmer, and computer scientist. Many of these jobs are particularly important for the current and future information economy that focuses less on physical human labor.
What subjects do the natural sciences include?
The natural sciences look at all parts of the natural world and its physical phenomena. Thus, the primary subjects are biology, chemistry, physics, Earth science, and space science. Within each of these subjects are narrower, but often interdisciplinary, fields of specialization.
What does a degree in the natural sciences entail?
Degree programs in the natural sciences will be rigorous in math and science. Core classes will include classes in the natural sciences as well as courses in the other main branches of the sciences and outside of the sciences all-together. Classes later in the degree, gain a more narrow focus and may start to focus more on research field projects.
What difference is there between natural science and formal science?
Natural science uses the scientific method to make observations and gather evidence about phenomena in the natural world. Repeatability of discoveries and subsequent peer review ensure the validity of the findings. The formal sciences use math and logic to convert this collected information into measurements and statements about nature.
What jobs can you get using a degree in natural science?
The career paths in the natural sciences are varied and attractive while usually providing high pay. Some examples include biologists, chemists, physicists, or geologist. Some standard job titles that someone with a degree in these fields can hold are technician, teacher, researcher, consultant, or engineer.
What are the subjects included in the social sciences?
The social sciences study how humans interact and form societies. Thus, the main topics covered here are anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics, education, and geography. These topics can focus on the individuals in societies, or the broader relationships and interconnections between many individuals.
What does a degree in the social sciences entail?
Degrees in the social sciences may be narrow or interdisciplinary. All will include core classes on a range of topics, and will later focus more heavily on issues specific to social sciences. You should expect to do quite a bit of writing, reading, and interaction with peers.
What is the difference between social science and formal science?
Social science is the study of people and their interactions in society. Its primary methods include observation, social critique, symbolic interpretation, as well as empirical methods. Formal science, on the other hand, involves the application of logic, math, and language to data to organize and communicate information.
What jobs can you get using a degree in social science?
A degree in one of the social sciences can lead to many jobs and careers. A few examples include market analyst, research assistant, therapist, social worker, and event coordinator. The social sciences are useful in any field that requires creativity, critical thinking, empathy, and organization.
As you have seen above, these three main branches of science cover a vast amount of knowledge. But each section contributes a unique function and meaning to the sciences as a whole.
I am sure it’s now clear that the formals sciences form a cornerstone of quantitative science. They are a unique way of applying math and logic to a wide variety of critical modern fields like computer science, business, and more.
The formal sciences information, articles, and books that I provided in this article aim to help you get involved in these topics in the way that’s best for you. The online format allows easy access anytime, anywhere. And I am sure the practice problems and examples found in many of the books give you the chance to put your knowledge to the test, but at your pace.
If you’re unsure where to begin, I suggest starting with something small. Read one of the linked articles here, or even watch a summary video on YouTube. Then you can decide if you want to go deeper with a book or even an academic course.
I hope the above information has made it clear how diverse and vibrant the field of natural science is. There’s so much to cover in this domain that I couldn’t get close to exploring it in detail. But it is my goal that you will have found something that encourages you to dig deeper into the fascinating wealth of information on the subject. If there is something you haven’t tried before, give it a go. Maybe you’re familiar biology, but have never worked and online course on it. Or perhaps physics interests you, but you always found the math too intimidating to give it it a try.
Well, now is your chance! By getting involved in one of the natural sciences, you will open the door to a myriad of opportunities. Degrees in the field lead to fascinating jobs that put you on track to make a difference in society. And if you already have a degree, there is always room to hone your skills further. You can use these materials to move up the ladder or even make a change in the direction you want to go in your career.
The social sciences dig deep into a wide range of topics on human behavior and interaction. Society is hugely complex, especially when you take into account the thousands of years that it has been forming and changing. If you take the advice and read the material I discussed above, I am sure that you can understand, appreciate, and even contribute to this vibrant field.
If you’re a curious reader or someone trying to figure out a college major, try one of the introductory books or an interactive online course. And if you already have more experience in the field, take a look at one of the items that go into a narrow subject in your area of specialization to help you gain more skills. On the other hand, you could intentionally aim for material outside of your comfort zone to help widen your breadth. However, if you decide to do it, the first step is just to do it!
What articles have you read about the sciences recently? Let us know your favorite topics in the comments!