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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Gwen Ottinger
BIS 300
Bothell Campus

Interdisciplinary Inquiry

Introduction to advanced work in interdisciplinary studies centered on broadly based questions and problems. Stresses the skills necessary to engage in upper-division research and learning in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program.

Class description

Inquiry is the process of asking questions and finding answers. It includes evaluating and generating evidence—pieces of information that speak to your questions—and, perhaps most importantly, making arguments—claims about how your evidence constitutes answers. Academic disciplines are defined by the kinds of questions they ask, what they consider valid evidence, and how they make arguments. Interdisciplinary inquiry draws on the conventions of multiple disciplines, choosing the questions, methods, and styles of argumentation that are most appropriate to the problems and issues it addresses. In this class, we will study the relationship between questions, evidence, and arguments, in order to prepare you to conduct interdisciplinary inquiry in the IAS program and beyond. You will learn - how to frame a research question in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary terms; - how to assess evidence that is presented as part of an argument—gaining familiarity in the process with common techniques for generating evidence; and - how to make an argument by mobilizing evidence.

To learn these skills, we will consider the things that puzzle us about technology—especially how it shapes and is shaped by social life—as a starting point for inquiry. We will look at how scholars of various sorts have structured arguments about technology and draw on their examples to progressively refine our own questions and develop approaches to answering them.

Student learning goals

To understand the concept of interdisciplinary knowledge production and the ways in which it underwrites all aspects of the IAS Program.

To become a better critical thinker and writer--one who is capable of posing, answering and reposing a variety of critical questions.

To become a better researcher--one who is able to use the resources at UWB and elsewhere both efficiently and effectively.

To become a better speaker--one who is able to communicate clearly and engagingly about complicated topics, arguments and issues.

To learn how to work well collaboratively, as both a learner and a researcher.

General method of instruction

Careful reading of key texts, group discussion, and collaborative research.

Recommended preparation

No formal prerequisites are required, but curiosity about how we know what we know is recommended.

Class assignments and grading

Students will - write and re-write an essay that makes an argument about their best learning experience; - work in a group to pose and iteratively refine a research question about technology and society; and - assemble a learning portfolio that gives evidence of their on progress one or more of the four IAS learning objectives.

Quality of final products and thoughtful, timely completion of intermediate assignments.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Gwen Ottinger
Date: 01/02/2012