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Northwestern University

Guidelines for Distribution Requirement Approval

Courses meeting distribution requirements in an area can be very broad introductions (as is usually the case in 100- and 200-level courses), or they can illustrate the scope and methodology of an area or the range of problems that a discipline confronts by focusing on a limited number of topics (more characteristic of 300-level courses).

Most courses taught in the College are appropriate for distribution credit.

Courses that should not be proposed:

Determining the appropriate distribution area

Each Weinberg distribution requirement area is described in our online Undergraduate Student Handbook:

In some departments and programs, most courses fall into a particular distribution area. Be alert for exceptions. For example, in some social science departments, most courses will best fit Area III—Social and Behavioral Sciences. However, statistics courses offered by these departments would better fit Area II—Formal Studies.

Interdisciplinary Studies courses

Some interdisciplinary courses are appropriate for more than one distribution area and are designated as "Interdisciplinary Studies" courses. A department or program proposing a course for more than one area should explain in some detail why it is a good fit for each.

A student who takes a course approved for more than one distribution area can choose in which one eligible area to count it.  Keep in mind that students are required to take only two courses in each distribution area. The department or program must therefore make the case that a student counting this course as one of his or her two courses in an area will have sufficient exposure to content, methods, and ways of thinking within that area.

Prerequisites and distribution credit fulfillment

Some courses are rarely taken to fulfill distribution requirements because their prerequisites complete the requirements in that area. However, students without the prerequisites do sometimes take these courses--and students who fulfill course prerequisites with AP credits cannot always use these credits toward distribution requirements.

Courses should not be eliminated from consideration for distribution credit in an area solely because their prerequisites complete the area requirements.

Additional guidelines for foreign language courses

  1. Lower-level courses that are used to fulfill the Weinberg Foreign Language Proficiency requirement are not eligible for distribution credit.
  2. Upper-level courses in which the focus is primarily on language skills (speaking, writing, or grammar, for example) should also not be proposed for distribution credit.
  3. Many upper-level language courses involve reading and analyzing literature in the language. These are generally appropriate for consideration for Area VI—Literature and Fine Arts. However, other courses might be appropriate for other areas. For example, a course focusing on the reading and analysis of philosophical texts might be appropriate for Area V—Values. Some interdisciplinary courses are appropriate for both Area VI and another area (see the section above on Interdisciplinary Studies courses).

Updated May 2015.

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