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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 problem. Throughout the term, they 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 them 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 problem, and how to apply these to deliver real and tangible results.

The degree

Problem Statements

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 problem by producing tangible outputs. These problem statements will constantly evolve to reflect the times, allowing you to work on the challenges that are most pressing. 

Understanding the nature of complex problems 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 three 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 problems. 

While you will learn from multiple disciplines simultaneously, you will also have the opportunity to return to certain disciplines, depending on your interests, to 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 problems 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.

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Problem Examples

Structure

Degree Structure

Year 1
Year 2
Year 3

During year 1 of the BASc degree, you will focus on developing foundational interdisciplinary skills, like learning to analyse problem statements, developing cognitive flexibility, and exploring concepts from diverse academic disciplines.

In terms 1 and 2 you will work on your first problem statements, learning new disciplines and methods, and integrating your learning to start thinking like a polymath. During term 3 you will work on an individual project.

In Year 2, you will work on a new problem statement each term. You will be able to choose three optional modules from a range of quantitative and qualitative methods modules, allowing you to direct your learning towards an area of interest. You will also begin to study mental models and superconcepts, extending your interdisciplinary knowledge.

Please note that the optional methods modules listed for year 2 are simply indicative, to give you a sense of what you might study during your time at LIS.

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

Problem Statements
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These modules will introduce you to the interdisciplinary study of complex, real-world problems. You will study problems in the areas of Inequality and Sustainability. You will examine these problems through interdisciplinary lenses, drawing on knowledge and concepts from diverse fields.

In term 3 you will work on an extended individual project, demonstrating how you would apply some of the tools and techniques you have learnt in Year 1 to tackle a problem of interest to you.

Quantitative Methods
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The Quantitative Methods modules in year 1 present an introduction to quantitative and scientific thinking and the basic techniques of estimation in statistics and probability. A grounding in statistical methods and estimation techniques forms the core of all quantitative methods that involve large volumes of observed and inferred data – which are often found in complex real-world problems.

During the Quantitative Methods modules you will also learn data and coding, as well as foundational material on evolutionary thinking for the natural and human sciences.

Qualitative and Visual Methods
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The qualitative methods modules will introduce you to qualitative ways of seeing the world and conceptualising problems. Through adopting an interdisciplinary approach that spans the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, you will acquire the necessary critical thinking skills to approach those parts of the world which are not (yet!) captured, categorised or measured by numbers.

During this module, you will learn how to apply a range of qualitative tools like interview techniques and survey design, and visual methods videography, systems diagramming and writing.

Coaching
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Coaching will take place weekly in small groups, and will be led by an academic tutor who will support you as you learn to work collaboratively and start to think in an interdisciplinary way.

Problem Statements
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In your second year, a further range of complex problems are tackled.

These problems involve group work and independent work, as well as more advanced concepts from multiple disciplines.

Mental Models and Superconcepts: Interdisciplinary ways to view the world
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This module is designed explicitly to help you to think in new ways across disciplinary boundaries so you can make connections between both existing disciplines and world views, and explore powerful concepts applicable in current research areas that cross disciplinary boundaries.

Quantitative Methods II (optional modules)
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In year 2 you will be able to select optional quantitative methods based on the skills you want to develop and the problems you care about. During these modules you will learn new and more advanced quantitative methods, tools, and techniques.
Some examples of optional quantitative methods can be seen below:

Investigating the physical world - Quantitative Spatial Analysis:
This module is designed to give you the foundation skills to model objects and analyse geographical and spatial phenomena, such as viral spread, trade and climate.
Investigating the human and natural world I - Methods for understanding the evolution of social behaviour
This module aims to future deepen your understanding of Evolution, and explores how understanding human social behaviour through the lens of natural sciences can help us address major societal problems such as anthropogenic climate change, supporting charities, xenophobia, overfishing
Introduction to data engineering
This module is designed to enable you to use programming to handle large amounts of data
Further statistics and probability
On this module you will learn more sophisticated methods to analyse complex data and to model the likelihood of outcomes in relation to real-world problems.
Intermediate functional methods
This module teaches mathematical methods to analyse and make sense of complex systems, to enable you to grapple with real world problems from population growth to the spread of ideas.
Qualitative and Visual Methods II (optional modules)
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In year 2 you will be able to select optional qualitative methods based on the skills you want to develop and the problems you care about. During these modules you will learn new and more advanced qualitative methods, tools, and techniques.
Some examples of optional qualitative methods can be seen below:

Design Thinking
This module provides an introduction to design thinking, from how design influences people’s behaviour, to how to engage in a critical, lean, and iterative design process that focuses on the user and pushes the boundaries of the possible.
Telling the story of a Wicked Problem: from Tyndall to TED
This module focuses on the communication of wicked and interdisciplinary problems, and aims to develop advanced close reading skills of media from print to TED talks.
Thinking through writing
This module aims to improve your ability to write and think in a reasoned way, using critical thinking techniques and avoiding cognitive biases.
Thinking visually: from visual narratives to system thinking
The aim of this module is to allow you to create images and generate significant connections between them as a method to communicate, analyse, imagine, relate, criticize and tell a story. You will explore how images and system diagrams are used to document and comment on society, and the ways in which knowledge can be created and undermined through still and moving images.
Ethics and ethnographies: designing socially engaged research
This module will introduce you to the ethical principles of research with human subjects, and will support you in designing a small-scale project to answer a research question.
Capstone Project
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30 credits

The capstone project is an opportunity for you to work on a real-world problem of your choice either individually or in teams.

You will have the chance to exhibit the sum of your learning in interdisciplinary problem-solving and methods and apply these to a real-world problem of particular interest to you.

Mixed Methods Research and Interdisciplinarity: Theory and Practice
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15 credits

Interdisciplinary research and problem-solving often call for qualitative (QL) and quantitative (QN) methods to be combined within a single study. This is challenging because QL and QN methods tend to be grounded in contrasting, and often unspoken, assumptions about the nature of reality (ontology) and the nature of knowledge (epistemology). You will learn how to mix methods without self- contradiction, to understand disciplinary assumptions and adopt an overarching theoretical position that facilitates a shift from ‘either/or’ to ‘both/and’. This module provides a theoretical foundation for the Capstone project and helps you to contribute at the forefront of interdisciplinary practice.

Quantitative Methods III (optional modules)
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15 credits each

In year 3 you will choose a quantitative method.
Some examples of optional quantitative methods can be seen below:

Complexity and Modelling Systems
This module builds on the Level 5 module, “Thinking visually: from visual narratives to systems thinking”, and aims to enhance your diagramming toolkit so that you can illuminate and communicate complex problems, quantitatively model your understanding, and build simulations.
Full Stack Web Development
This module aims to equip you with the knowledge and methods to create a “Full stack” website, using best practice modern techniques.
Further Data Engineering
This model aims to equip you the foundations of a cutting-edge and best practice set of methods to handle data, and to familiarise you with the journey from small-scale to big data that you will encounter in real-world contexts.
Investigating the physical world II: Dynamic physical systems
This module teaches concepts and methodologies to model and analyse dynamic physical systems. You will apply these concepts and methodologies directly - for example to problems of product innovation, weather and energy distribution - but also as a superconcept to problems of political, economic, social and human systems.
Investigating the natural and human world II: Understanding and measuring human intelligence in context
This module aims to develop your scientific literacy, particularly around the controversial topic of intelligence. It will provide you with an opportunity to apply your previously learned scientific research methods and skills in developing your own quantitative experiment.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
This module covers the core concepts of machine learning, which is fast becoming a standard methodology and approach to solving real world problems that involve large amounts of structured and unstructured data.
Climate Change and Planetary Health
This module examines the impact of social and economic inequalities on our collective sustainable consumption of natural resources on earth, as well as its consequences on human health and the sustainability of our current civilisation.
Qualitative Methods III (optional modules)
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15 credits each

In year 3 you will choose a qualitative method.
Some examples of optional qualitative methods can be seen below:

Stories and Campaigns: communications to shape the world
This module centres on the discourses and practices of multi-media campaigns. While new media brings unprecedented power and possibilities, it also raises problems including "context collapse" - in other words, how can we tell stories in the digital age when we have little control over how it will be received by multiple audiences?
Social Exploration and Excavation – Qualitative research in action
This module aims to develop your practical qualitative research skills, including active listening and communication, through undertaking a detailed qualitative research project in a small team.
Apparatus, Process and Subjective Methodologies in Photography and Videography
This module aims to give you the tools to develop an original personal video project, the technical skills to produce, edit and post-produce it, and the investigative abilities to apply personal research methodologies in photo-video. You will be able to experiment with video and photography as types of media that are dynamic, interdisciplinary and continually evolving.
Global Citizenship
This module aims to prove you with an understanding of the international system and its inherent and burgeoning interconnections, and will encourage you to cultivate a “global” approach to exploring and designing solutions to complex problems.
Podcasting and Power
This is primarily a practical module designed to empower you to make podcasts of a professional quality, both in terms of content and technique. As part of the module, you will learn about important theories and principles concerning free speech, the power of communication, and their limits.
Skills for Sustainability
This module introduces key aspects of learning-for-sustainability from both theoretical and practical perspectives. It aims to support students in developing real-world skills in restoring habitats for native wildlife, reducing food waste, and engaging in intercultural communication and co-creative practice.

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 a Discovery 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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