Social Science / Humanities Theme
Social Science and Humanities Theme Requirement - Frequently Asked Questions

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Theme Basics

Why is there a humanities theme requirement?

McCormick created the Social Science and Humanities Theme Requirement to provide engineering students with a well-rounded educational experience and to encourage them to develop an area of competency related to the study of the human condition.

Is there a way to see how the courses I've already taken could be used towards my theme?

Yes. Use the McCormick Advising System (MAS) to plan out and submit your theme.

What are some examples of theme titles?

  • World Religions
  • European Art History
  • Economics and Society
  • Russian Language and Literature
  • Theater Studies
  • International Politics
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Spanish Language and History

My theme was denied, but I think it should have been approved. Is there anything I can do?

If you disagree with the decision that was made on your initial theme form submission, you can submit a curriculum petition for review by the McCormick Curriculum Committee, which convenes on a quarterly basis. The committee's decisions are final.

Can I be excused from the theme requirement for any reason?

No. The theme is part of the McCormick degree program and cannot be waived or excused.

What is meant by “the humanities?”

Merriam-Webster defines humanities as:

"[T]he branches of learning (as philosophy, arts, or languages) that investigate human constructs and concerns as opposed to natural processes (as in physics or chemistry) and social relations (as in anthropology or economics)."

What is meant by “the social sciences?”

Merriam-Webster defines the social sciences as:

"[A] branch of science that deals with the institutions and functioning of human society and with the interpersonal relationships of individuals as members of society."

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Creating Your Theme

Do my related theme courses all have to come from the same area (social & behavioral sciences/humanities)?

You may include up to five courses in one area.

I took language courses in French, Spanish, and Chinese. Can I use these courses as my theme?

Yes. Multiple languages can be used together as a "Language Studies" theme.

Why can't I use my research methods and econometrics classes towards the theme requirement? What about McCormick classes?

Research methods, statistics, accounting, and/or econometrics courses cannot be used towards the theme requirement because they draw too heavily on math and science. For the same reason, engineering courses are not considered social sciences/humanities classes.

What am I supposed to title my theme?

Your theme title should describe the related courses you have designated as your theme courses.

How many 100-level classes may I can use towards my theme?

Three. However, you may use up to four if three are foreign language courses.

Can I double-count courses towards both my theme and another McCormick requirement?

No. Each class can only fulfill one of the 48 degree requirements for a McCormick degree.

I am a co-op student. Am I excused from the theme requirement?

No. Co-op students are expected to fulfill the same McCormick degree requirements as students who do not participate in Co-op.

I’m double-majoring in another subject through another school at Northwestern. Does that mean my theme requirement is waived?

No, but many double-majors do apply the coursework from their non-engineering major towards the theme. For instance, an Economics/Industrial Engineering student could use his or her approved Economics classes towards the theme.

Can theme courses be taken P/N?

Yes. For the theme, the P/N (pass/no credit) option can be used for any 300-level course and a maximum of four 100 or 200-level courses. You should review the additional P/N rules for McCormick to make sure that taking theme courses P/N would not interfere with the rest of your McCormick degree. Please also be aware that if you are using theme courses as part of another major for another school (i.e., Weinberg), that school or department may have separate rules that prevent taking a class P/N, so it is best to check with the respective department as well.

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Using Outside Credit Towards Your Theme

Can I use study abroad credits toward the theme requirement?

Yes. To use study abroad credits toward any McCormick requirement, the Curriculum Petition Form must be submitted with a transcript from the host institution.

Can I use AP or transfer credits towards my theme?

Yes, AP and transfer credits will show up in your online theme form.

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Other Questions or Concerns

May I fill out the online theme form if I haven't taken all the courses for my theme yet?

Yes. Your theme will be approved pending satisfactory completion of your courses. If you change your mind about taking a course or a class isn't offered, you may modify your theme using the online portal.

I still have questions about the theme requirement. Who should I contact?

Contact the Undergraduate Engineering Office in Tech L269.