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BF290: Academic Literacy: Social Sciences

This course is designed to give you the basic skills to understand and critically evaluate research in the social sciences.

At Laurier Brantford, the following programs fall under the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences:

  • Psychology
  • Criminology
  • Health Studies
  • Game Design and Development
  • Leadership
  • Policing

But “social sciences” can also include:

  • sociology
  • economics
  • political science
  • anthropology
  • education
  • some types of geography and history

These areas may seem very diverse, but one thing they have in common is that they all seek to gain a better understanding of who we are, where we came from, and why we do what we do.

This course is important for two main reasons:

  1. It will help you develop proficiency in finding, thinking about, and discussing social science research. These skills will help you throughout your university career, as you write essays, research papers, and critical analyses, and perhaps even conduct your own research.
  2. Whether or not you are studying or majoring in one of the social sciences, you will need to be able to understand and critically evaluate research that has been conducted by social scientists. This will help you, for example, better understand crime statistics, evaluate the results of a health study, or assess the accuracy of the claims of a new self-help program.

Course Objectives

In this course we will cover five foundations of academic literacy in the social sciences:

At the end of this course, you will have had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

  • Generating a researchable question.
  • Using library databases.
  • Using APA style for in-text citations and reference lists.
  • Summarizing and critically assessing sources.
  • Citing and paraphrasing properly.
  • Writing a literature review.
  • Presenting research in front of others.
  • Practicing academic integrity when drawing from the work of others.

Course Structure

This course includes both lectures and tutorials. Each week you will attend lecture(s) totalling 110 minutes and one tutorial totalling 50 minutes. The lectures will provide an overview of the key concepts, while the tutorials will give you the opportunity to actively develop a deeper understanding of these concepts and to practice the five foundations of social science literacy listed in the course description.

  • Two in-class tests worth 10% each will test your understanding of key conceptsmethodologies, and research findings in the social sciences.
  • An online quiz worth 5% will test your understanding of an familiarity with the library, finding information using databases, and narrowing down a research topic.
  • You will summarize and critique five of the sources you found in your literature searches. This annotated bibliography assignment, worth 10%, will be graded on the appropriateness of the sources, correct use of APA style, the clarity of the research summaries, and the assessment of their usefulness for your paper.
  • You will write a six- to eight-page literature review with at least eight scholarly sources, on a topic that they will select and refine from a list of broad topics. Using APA style, students will provide a critical analysis of current research on that topic. This assignment is worth 30% of the final grade, and will be graded on the clarity of the paper, the correct use of APA style, how well academic sources are incorporated, and the critical analysis of the issue.
  • You will give a five-minute presentation of the main findings of your research in your tutorial. The presentation, worth 10%, will be graded on the presentation style, visual materials, and how well the material is presented.
  • An online quiz worth 5% will test your understanding of academic integrity and familiarity with properly citing sources, paraphrasing, and avoiding academic misconduct.
  • Up to 20% of the course grade is based on active participation.

Transferrable Skills

These skills will help you write and research papers in your senior-level courses, and generally become more familiar with the social sciences, but you will learn many other practical things in this couse. If you attend classes and complete all the assignments, you will develop the following types of skills (which are the kinds of things employers will be impressed by when you are looking for a job):

  • critical thinking
  • problem solving
  • decision making
  • creativity
  • verbal communication
  • written communication
  • digital/technological fluency
  • collaboration
  • analytical skills
  • interpersonal skills
  • presentation skills
  • time management
  • research skills
  • numeracy/computation

Course Outlines

For past BF290 course outlines, please email Angela Jadric ( and provide:

  • the course number(s)
  • the year and term the course was offered (e.g. Winter 2015)
  • and your WLU student ID

The outlines will be forwarded to you as a PDF attachment.