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BASc in Interdisciplinary Problems and Methods

BASc in Interdisciplinary Problems and Methods

Course overview

Problem-based learning (PBL) is at the core of the LIS philosophy to educate students to tackle complex, real-world problems.

You will start each term with a clear, important question relating to a complex challenge. Throughout the term, you will study various disciplines, and learn methods in multiple cycles, with each term ending in an assessment. In year 2, you will be able to select optional methods modules that will allow you to delve deeper into specific areas of interest. During year 3, you will also work on an individual Capstone Project.

Through building an interdisciplinary toolkit, you will develop cognitive flexibility; learning how to integrate new and existing knowledge, select the theories and concepts most appropriate to a challenge, and how to apply these to deliver real and tangible results.

The degree

Problem-based learning

During each term, you will be introduced to a specific problem through a range of perspectives, including stakeholders, businesses and organisations involved in tackling the problem today.  

You will be presented with a clear problem statement, which will guide your approach to tackling the challenge by producing tangible outputs. These statements will constantly evolve to reflect the times, allowing you to work on the challenges that are most pressing. 

Understanding the nature of complex challenges and how to tackle them is a foundational skill you will build early in their degree, and will be transferrable to your future work.

Watch this video about problems to find out more

Disciplinary Perspectives

In two-weekly cycles, you will study different disciplinary perspectives from across arts and science fields, which will serve as an exploration of foundational disciplinary concepts and critical pillars of knowledge as they apply to specific challenges. 

While you will learn from multiple disciplines simultaneously, you will also have the opportunity gain further knowledge in your areas of choice as you advance through your degree.

You will graduate with an understanding of theories and concepts from multiple fields of study, which will allow you to understand challenges through different disciplinary perspectives.

Watch this video about disciplinary perspectives to find out more

Methods

Methods are ways of doing things that will enable you to apply what you know. They are tools and techniques, literacies and competencies, designed to improve your learning by doing, and to help you take action in the world.

Throughout the degree, you will develop qualitative and quantitative skills. You will learn to play with words and numbers, to code and to narrate, to experiment and to interpret. You will learn how to identify the right tools for each challenge, and to combine your knowledge with tangible skills, beyond boundaries of discipline or field.

The research methods and skills you will learn at LIS are foundational and transferable. They will help you to navigate the challenges addressed throughout your degree and will prepare you to tackle challenges in the professional world, where problems do not respect subject silos and require inventive solutions.

Watch this video about methods to find out more

Coaching

Our approach to coaching is designed to support synthesis and encourage metacognition; it is an opportunity for you and other students to come together in small groups, with the support of an academic tutor, to reflect on the learnings from different modules, and develop ideas about how to apply those learnings to tackling the problem.

Coaching creates a supportive environment where you can share the challenges of rigorous interdisciplinary learning with other students and faculty, while learning to think peripherally and laterally. It is through coaching that you will learn how to become a true interdisciplinarian.

Coaching will take place weekly in students’ Problems groups, and will be led by an academic tutor who’ll support students as they learn to work collaboratively and start to think in an interdisciplinary way.

Challenge Examples

Structure

Degree Structure

Year 1
Year 2
Year 3

During Year 1 of the BASc degree, you will develop foundational interdisciplinary skills such as learning to analyse challenges, developing cognitive flexibility, and exploring concepts from diverse range of academic disciplines.

Please note that the problems, methods, and disciplinary perspectives listed below are indicative and may be subject to change in future years.

In year 2, you’ll have the opportunity to tackle a broader range of complex challenges, such as Technology and Ethics or Urban Design, involving group work and independent work, as well as more advanced concepts from multiple disciplines. You will also begin to study mental models and superconcepts, extending your interdisciplinary knowledge. 

Please note that the problems, methods, and disciplinary perspectives listed below are indicative and may be subject to change in future years.

Year 3 is an opportunity for you to exhibit the sum of your learning in interdisciplinary problem-solving and methods, by working independently to tackle a problem you care about.

Please note that the problems, methods, and disciplinary perspectives listed below are indicative and may be subject to change in future years.

Problems 1a
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(18 credits) 

Problems 1a is the first of the problem modules. During this module you will be introduced to collaborative working, interdisciplinary thinking, and the nature of complex challenges. Problems 1a provides the foundation for all subsequent Problem modules at LIS. 

In two-weekly cycles, you’ll learn from different disciplinary perspectives and how they relate to a social challenge such as inequality or poverty.  To do this, you will need to choose from several disciplines, ensuring that you select one discipline from each of the following:  

  • Humanities/Art  
  • Social science  
  • Science 
Qualitative Methods 1a
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(15 credits)

This module will introduce you to qualitative ways of examining forms of life through written communication and social inquiry.  

You will study foundational qualitative methods, which can be used in a wide range of social contexts and explore how academic models of narrative from cognitive science and cultural theory can aid in both interpreting and producing informative narratives. 

Quantitative methods 1a
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(15 credits)

This first Quantitative Methods module presents an introduction to quantitative and scientific thinking and the basic techniques of estimation in statistics and probability.  

You will learn about key elements of scientific literacy, including the capacity to formulate questions which can be tested experimentally, the ability to source and comprehend published peer-review scientific articles, and the skills to conduct and interpret statistical analyses. 

Problems 1b
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(18 credits)

This module, which is based on a challenge related to climate change, builds on and extends the working methodologies introduced in Problems 1a, and provides an essential foundation for the individual problems- based learning projects you will work on the following term and during Year 2 of your degree.  

As an explicitly interdisciplinary (ID) module, the Problems 1b module helps to deepen your understanding of key ID concepts introduced in Problems 1a and explore new ID concepts. 

In two-weekly cycles, you will learn from different disciplinary perspectives and how they relate to the challenge.  

Qualitative Methods 1b
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(15 credits)

This module provides the skills for exploring forms of thinking that emphasise the visual.   
 
This module will introduce you to the methods of visual and historical inquiry. You will develop skills for producing and interpreting pictures and moving images, whilst focusing on one of many historical methods 
 
You will also familiarise yourself with analyses, tools and practices of systems thinking, with the goal to appreciate the scope and significance of complexity. Through design thinking, combining systems thinking with the visual, you will learn to tease out and use data to help you make informed decisions about what products, or services, will meet the actual needs of the end user. 

Quantitative Methods 1b
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(15 credits)

This module offers a foundational understanding for quantitative analysis of problems, specifically when handling data. 

Understanding how we can model complex patterns in data, and how we can transform qualitative concepts into quantitative variables is relevant for tackling complex issues from climate change to financial markets. Coding and computational methods to treat data are an essential part of most modern research and industry methodologies, and are becoming increasingly central to the social sciences and multiple areas of research in politics, economics, law etc. 

Problems 1c: Independent Work
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(24 credits)

In Term 3you will be able to choose from a range of problem statements constructed by faculty, or propose a problem statement of your own, to be approved by a faculty mentor. You will then work individually on the specific complex problem of your own choosing, broadly referred to as Problems 1c. 

The course starts with a workshop on Mixed Methods, which will serve as an essential tool during your individual projects, and will provide the scaffolding you will need to draw together quantitative and qualitative methods. You will also draw on the knowledge, tools and methods you have studied in terms 1 and 2 to investigate your chosen problem.

This module provides a modified approach to the team-based problems modules in past termsand is key preparation for the capstone experience in Year 3.

Problems 2a
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(18 credits)

In Year 2, you will move on from problem representation to consider how to develop and test hypotheses about how to tackle a problem. You will also learn how to integrate new knowledge with existing knowledge, and to select the theories and concepts most appropriate to develop and test hypotheses about the problem.
 

You will use the now-familiar 2-week problem cycles to study four new Threshold Concepts from four disciplines. To do this, you will need to choose from several disciplines, ensuring that you select one discipline from each of the following: 

  • Humanities/Art 
  • Social science 
  • Science 
Elective Methods Modules
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(15 credits)

During each termyou will be able to select 3 methods from across the qualitative and quantitative methods options, of which one must be quantitative, and one must be qualitative. These electives will allow you to shape the direction of your learning by allowing you to build on existing skills or explore completely new methods. 

Qualitative Methods 2 (15 credits per term)
You’ll select optional quantitative methods based on the methods
you want to develop. During these modules you’ll learn new and
more advanced quantitative methods, tools, and techniques.
Examples of optional quantitative methods:

- Investigating The Physical World – Intermediate Quantitative
Analysis
- Data Science
- An Introduction to Natural Language Processing
- Further Statistics and Probability
Quantitative Methods 2 (15 credits per term)
You’ll select optional qualitative methods based on the methods
you want to develop. During these modules you will learn new and
more advanced qualitative methods, tools, and techniques.

Examples of optional qualitative methods:
- Design Thinking
- Telling The Story of a Wicked Problem
- Thinking Through Writing
- Thinking Visually: From Documentation to Transformation
- Social Sciences Research Methods
Problems 2b
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(18 credits)

In problems 2b, special attention will be paid to the ethical issues which arise in a specific problem.  

In this module, you will move on from developing hypotheses to focusing on the design of interventions. You will extend your ability to use different disciplinary lenses to approach a problem, further develop key skills in project management and team-working, and practice methodological techniques learnt from Year 1. 

You will use the now-familiar 2-week problem cycles to study four new Threshold Concepts from four disciplines. To do this, you will need to choose from several disciplines, ensuring that you select one discipline from each of the following: 

  • Humanities/Art 
  • Social science 
  • Science 
Mental Models and Superconcepts
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(15 credits)

This compulsory module introduces you to a range of inter- and post-disciplinary mental models and superconcepts which facilitate cross-disciplinary working and practice. It connects particularly with the Problem modules and is a pre-requisite for the compulsory Level 6 module, Mixed Methods.  

You will be introduced to mental models as helpful heuristics or short cuts for way of thinking about complex problems. You will also be introduced to a range of superconcepts . These are concepts that have their origin in one – usually quite narrowly defined – (disciplinary) area of thought or exploration and go on to have fruitful impact far outside this original area. 

  • Explore powerful concepts that cross disciplinary boundaries and are applicable in current research areas
  • Examples of superconcepts include complexity, entropy, narrative, postmodernism
  • Practice a range of mental models across a range of contexts in order to improve your critical and creative thinking
  • Examples of mental models include heuristics biases, and legibility
Problems 2c: Individual Project
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(24 credits)

This six-week module will provide you with the scaffolding to draw together key knowledge and skills that you will have learned in your first two years, to work on an individual project.  

The course builds directly on the problem-based classes in Years 1 and 2, while developing key skills like independent working, communication, and project management.  

This module provides a balance to the longer, team-based problems modules, and prepares you for your capstone experience in Year 3, by giving you a further opportunity to focus on an area you will have chosen and to develop your skills individually. 

Capstone Project
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30 credits

This module builds on other modules on the course, depending on the project in question and the knowledge and skills in quantitative and qualitative methods acquired up to the point of starting the capstone project. The primary mode of teaching is through supervision, and therefore this module also provides an experience of an extended supervision process.   
 
Through this module, you will practice how to initiate and carry out an extended interdisciplinary research project and (where appropriate) how to undertake original research. You will consolidate your interdisciplinary research and problem-solving skills through the evidencing of sophisticated and correct research practice, academic conventions (such as sourcing, referencing etc) and communication. You will also consolidate a sophisticated understanding of the ethical issues that may underlie any extended research or other project. 

Elective Methods Modules
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(15 credits)

In year 3, you’ll choose 5 options from a selection of modules, with at least 1x quantitative and 1x qualitative method included in your curriculum. You’ll also explore mixed methods in more depth. These final modules will help shape your Capstone Project.

Qualitative Methods (15 credits)
The qualitative methods in Year 3 will directly support your research for your capstone project by providing advanced and immersive training in qualitative research strategies and techniques.

You’ll choose at least one quantitative methods module.
Example modules:
- Complexity and Modelling Systems
- Further Data Engineering
- Investigating The Physical World II: Dynamic Physical Systems
- Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
- Climate Change and Planetary Health
Quantitative Methods (15 credits)
The quantitative methods in Year 3 will directly support your research for your capstone project by providing advanced and immersive training in quantitative research strategies and techniques.

You’ll choose at least one qualitative and visual methods module.
Example modules:
- Stories and Campaigns: Communications To Shape The World
- Social Exploration and Excavation – Qualitative Research in
Action
- Apparatus, Process and Subjective Methodologies in
Photography and Videography
- Global Citizenship
- Skills for Sustainability
Mixed Methods
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(15 credits)

Bringing together your work in different methods in both Year 1 and 2, this module extends your understanding of what it means to select and implement a range of methods for tackling a challenge. This module prepares you well for many master’s degree programme, as well as research in business, the public sector, and more.

To gain a degree in the UK you must pass a certain number of credits in each year of the degree. Each module is given a credit, which you are awarded when you pass each module at assessment.

Credits are accumulated towards the total credit required for the degree. To get a BASc (Honours), you need to get a total of 360 credits over three years. Our degree is structured so that you complete 120 credits in Year 1, up to 135 in Year 2, and at least 105 credits in Year 3.

Attend an Open Day

During these half-day taster events you will meet members of the faculty and wider LIS team as well as other potential applicants. You will get greater insight into the course content, we’ll explore a real-world problem such as plastic pollution or the impact of social media on mental health, and consider different ways to tackle it.

Visit our events page to register for an upcoming Discovery Day.

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