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Berlin Summer School in Social Sciences, 16-27 July 2017, Germany


March 31, 2017

Opportunity Cover Image - Berlin Summer School in Social Sciences, 16-27 July 2017, Germany

Berlin Summer School in Social Sciences

Linking Theory and Empirical Research

Summer School

The "Berlin Summer School in Social Sciences – Linking Theory and Empirical Research" seeks to promote young researchers by strengthening their methodological understanding in linking theory and empirical research.

What role does theory play in empirical research? The importance of theoretical reflection for the guidance of empirical inquiry and for scientific innovation is widely acknowledged in the social sciences. But how can we systematically describe the dynamic relationship between theory and data? While it is common sense in the social sciences that theory plays a crucial role in shaping our perspectives on and our interpretations of the empirical reality, the concrete application of theories in new research projects is a task which is far from trivial. It involves not only an intimate acquaintance with the diverse theories of relevance for a certain field of study, but it also requires competence and creativity for their adjustment to specific empirical contexts and sensitivity for the methodological implications, theoretical choices and decisions for the analysis of empirical data. A research methodology which links theories and empirical analysis has to take into account these challenges.

“Clearing the underbrush” (Bevir) of research methodology and explicitly tackling the linking of empirical data to the wide range of theories is the main focus of the Berlin Summer School.


The Berlin Summer School is a joint endeavor of two of Germany’s leading social science institutions, the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences (BGSS) at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center.

The Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences (BGSS) serves as the platform for international graduate training at  the Humboldt University’s Institute of Social Sciences. Since its foundation in 2002, it has become a prime address for the professional education of young social scientists in Europe. It has been generously funded by the German Excellence Initiative of the federal and state governments since 2007.

The internationally renowned WZB Berlin Social Science Center conducts research with a focus on modern societies. While it attracts scholars from all over the world, it also closely collaborates with the Berlin-based universities and is committed to the promotion of young social scientists.

The curriculum has been developed in close cooperation between junior and senior scholars.

Program Overview

The Berlin Summer School in Social Sciences connects to a growing field of study which has developed over the past few years demonstrating a renewed interest in basic theoretical and methodological questions in the social sciences. Newly emerging approaches try to transcend traditional conflicts of social science methodologies by debating the specific methodological criteria and values of different research strategies.

The summer school uses these recent innovative efforts as a starting point for its endeavor to sensitize the participants to the underlying epistemological, ontological and methodological commitments which theoretical perspectives transport into empirical research. By focusing on the link between theory and empirical data it takes up questions concerning the nature of explanation in social sciences, the use and construction of theoretical concepts and their role in the research process, and the respective values of micro and macro perspectives on social reality including the potentials and pitfalls of their combination.

In addition, the summer school aims at applying these reflections to exemplary empirical fields in political science and sociology in order to transfer the general methodological considerations into the concrete research practices of the participants. Thereby, special emphasis is giving to the advancement of the research designs of the current projects of the participants. 

The course of the program

The summer school consists of a two-week program with varied teaching and learning formats. While in the first week we tackle the key methodological challenges that arise in almost all research efforts, the second week is devoted to their consideration within concrete fields of social research. The modules of the first and second week follow a certain didactical course respectively.

Each module of the first week starts with a double lecture reflecting different or complementary methodological positions on the issue under consideration - represented by two international experts in each case who will also briefly comment on each others approach. In the next step participants work on assignments in four smaller groups and discuss the lectures. This is followed by two workshops in two groups with the respective lecturers that focus on the implications for research designs. Here, the lectures and assignments can be discussed with the lecturers more deeply. Each module ends with an offer for short one-to-one consultations with the respective lecturers. Each participant can have at least one consultation within the first week.

The modules of the second week are taking two steps within each thematic group of participants. In the first step the Berlin-based experts give an introduction that relates the considerations of the first week to the respective substantial field of research. In the second, all participants have the opportunity to present and discuss their current research project in depth and to receive feedback and hands-on advice for the methodological challenges arising in their research.

The course is supplemented by the offer of an attractive supportive program containing public events, cultural excursions and social activities.

ECTS Credit Points

Upon successful completion of a project presentation addressing a key methodological challenge in one's own work, participants will be granted 6 ECTS credit points.

Tuition fees

The costs for the program are partly covered by tuition fees. The fee for the two-week program is 740 EUR.

Living costs (accomodation, food, etc.) during the summer school are not included in the fee. Fees have to be paid by selected candidates before the start of the summer school. Details on due dates will be informed after the selection process. 


Due to generous funding by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) the Summer School is able to offer a certain amount of travel grants for non-German international participants.

The travel grants are payed as fixed sums based on DAAD guidelines for the specific countries.

Who can apply?

The Berlin Summer School is open to about fifty international PhD candidates as well as advanced master students and researchers in their early postdoc phase in political science, sociology or neighboring disciplines. The summer school is designed for young researchers who have already begun planning their research projects in detail or are currently working on them. 

Selection Criteria

We will select the international participants based on academic achievement, potential and motivation as reflected in the application.

In addition, we will seek a balance between the thematic areas covered in week 2, countries of origin, and gender. 

How to apply?

Please fill out the application form online on the official website (including short CV, motivation statement, and abstract of the research project). After successful submission of the application you should receive an automatic confirmation by email.

Application deadline: 31 March 2017

The decision of the selection committee will be communicated to the applicants at the beginning of April.

For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.

Eligible Countries
Host Country
Publish Date
February 17, 2017


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