The social sciences are one of the two major branches of academic study, contrasted with the hard sciences (chemistry, biology, etc.). The major disciplines of the social sciences include history, economics, political science, geography, and sociology. One of the distinguishing features of the social sciences is the use of social research, often predicated on the use of surveys, which can be either qualitative or quantitative.
Training in the social sciences occurs at the university level, where Bachelor of Arts degrees are conferred. Most students, however, are introduced to the social sciences at the primary school level, where subjects such as history are standard. History is the survey of the human past, an attempt to understand not just the events but the causes and effects of those events in shaping human civilization. Economics is the study of the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth, and can be divided into microeconomics or macroeconomics. Geography is the examination of the physical environment and how it is managed by humans.
The social sciences have been advanced by a number of different theories. Dialectical materialism, for example, was expounded by Karl Marx, and has led to a whole range of Marxist theories, such as the economic interpretation of history. Social constructionism looks at the development of social phenomena; the idea that meaning is the product of coordinated human behavior.