Arts and Sciences (BASc)


BASC0001 Approaches to Knowledge

This module provides an introduction to interdisciplinarity – in particular, its role in breaking down traditional boundaries and creating new kinds of knowledge. We address the issues facing those conducting interdisciplinary work and examine how they play out in practice. We look at the reality of working in new fields and, perhaps most importantly, in new ways.

This course, alongside Interdisciplinary Research Methods and Quantitative Methods, frames the approach that is fostered on the Arts and Sciences degree programme.

What is interdisciplinarity?

In simple terms, interdisciplinarity means combining traditional university subjects in new and relevant ways to solve problems.

This module has two strands, which run in parallel through the term.


This strand of the course examines four common issues facing those conducting interdisciplinary work:

  • disciplinary categories
  • evidence and the disciplines
  • truth and the disciplines
  • imperialism and the disciplining of knowledge

The assessment for this strand is a chapter contributing to a Wikibook, ‘Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2018-19’. The chapter will be jointly written by a group of three or four students and will discuss how one of these issues might play out in an example of interdisciplinary work.


The second strand of the course looks at ‘superconcepts’, ideas that have arisen in one discipline but have come to have fruitful applications in other disciplines, such as:

  • Systems
  • Entropy
  • Complexity
  • Fiction
  • Evolution
  • Structuralism
  • Postmodernism

The assessment for this strand takes the form of an essay in which one of these superconcepts is applied to a discipline. The essay could evaluate the value of a superconcept for a discipline in which it has already been deployed; or, it could demonstrate the value of a superconcept for a discipline in which it has not yet made inroads.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/VKYJVF5qzS4


This course provides students with a framework for conceptualising and conducting interdisciplinary work. At the end of the course, they will have a better understanding of the traditional approaches to knowledge, as well as an experience of the challenges and opportunities of working in an interdisciplinary way.

In particular, students will be familiar with new, online forms of knowledge production and will have worked collaboratively to produce a public-facing piece of research.

This course has two strands running in parallel, with lectures on Tuesdays addressing the ‘Issues’ strand and lectures on Fridays addressing the ‘Superconcepts’ strand.

The exceptions are the lectures on the Fridays of the first and sixth weeks, which focus on the Wikibooks technology used in the assessment for the ‘Issues’ strand.


Lecture 1

Tuesday 1-2pm

Lecture 2

Friday 1-2pm









Information Architecture: In Defence of Disciplining Histories

Introduction to Superconcepts




Evidence and the Disciplines






Truth and the Disciplines





Imperialism and the Disciplining of Knowledge






Interdisciplinary Identities (1): Negotiating Disciplinary Borders in the Humanities





Interdisciplinary Identities (2): Interdisciplinary Engineers





Interdisciplinary Identities (3): Cognitive Neuroscience, Philosophy and Psychology





Interdisciplinary Identities (4):

Hybrid Identities across Arts and Sciences





The Future of the Disciplines



Seminars are likely to focus on one strand one week and the other the following week, although seminar leaders may adapt classes to the needs of the group.


This course has two lectures a week and one seminar a week. The lectures are delivered to the whole cohort; seminar groups are generally 12-15 students.

The course runs in Term 1 of Year 1 as follows:

Lecturer:Dr James Everest and Dr Lauren Bird
Lectures:1-2pm on Tuesdays and 1-2pm on Fridays
Seminars*:3-4pm on Tuesdays or 4-5pm on Tuesdays or 10-11am on Wednesdays or 11am-12pm on Wednesdays or 9-10am on Thursdays or 10-11am on Thursdays or 11am-12pm on Thursdays or 2-3pm on Thursdays or 4-5pm on Thursdays or 10-11am on Fridays or 11am-12pm on Fridays
Module level:Level 4
Credit value:15 credits

 * Students are automatically allocated to a seminar class, so it is not possible to select one. Changes to seminar classes will only be approved if you have a clash with another class.


For the 2018-19 academic year, the assessment breakdown is as follows:

  1. Wikibook chapter on an interdisciplinary issue – 50%
  2. Peer assessment of Wikibook contributions – 10%
  3. Superconcept essay – 40%

Students enrolled on the module can view more information on Moodle.

    These are some examples of student work. In these essays students were asked to examine a Superconcept we had studied on the course and to link this Superconcept to one of their Pathway disciplines.

    All of the examples above will open as PDF documents.