Coherent Coursework and Clusters
Total Units Requirement and Cluster Requirement
To fulfill the Coherent Coursework requirement for all Distribution Areas, you must complete at least 8-9 total units in each Area. At least 6 of these units must be part of a Cluster.
A Cluster is a group of related courses that are closely linked by a focus on a subject or by a method of anaysis. Your exploration of a subject through a cluster of courses is intended to broaden and to deepen your understanding, and possibly to present the subject through the perspectives of different disciplines. You must complete one Cluster within each of four Distribution Areas:
- Natural Sciences & Mathematics (NS)
- Social Sciences (SS)
- Language & the Arts (LA)
- Textual & Historical Studies (TH)
Each Cluster carries one or more of these Distribution Area attributes (NS, SS, LA, or TH).
There are two kinds of Clusters:
- Single-Attribute Clusters: Most courses within a Cluster carry the same Area attribute as their Cluster. For example, an NS Cluster often contains only NS courses. By completing such a Cluster, you may fulfill both the total units requirement and the Cluster requirement for the Area.
- Multi-Attribute Clusters: Some Clusters carry more than one Area attribute because the courses in the Cluster belong to different Areas. For example, a Cluster containing six courses—two NS, two SS, and two TH—could be used to fulfill the Cluster requirement in any of those Areas depending on (1) which courses you choose to take, and (2) which area you designate the Cluster to fulfill.
To count a Cluster toward a particular Area, at least one of the courses taken must carry that Area's attribute. For example, let's say a Cluster contains six courses—two NS, two SS, and two TH—and requires you complete two of the six. If you elect to take the two SS courses, you may use the Cluster for the Cluster requirement only in the SS Area; however, if you take one SS and one NS course, the Cluster may fulfill the Cluster requirement for either the SS Area or the NS Area, but not both.
A Special Property of Multi-Attribute Clusters
Multi-Attribute Clusters can help you complete the Total Units requirement in an Area. A Multi-Attribute Cluster, i.e. a Cluster that can count toward any of several Areas, has a special property called the Shared Attribute Principle: whichever Area you assign to the Cluster may also be assigned to one of the courses it contains. It can be a great way to complete both the Cluster requirement and the Total Units requirement in an Area.
For example, you complete a 9-unit Cluster containing two TH courses (6 units) and an SS course (3 units). You designate the Cluster as TH. You can then assign the TH attribute to the SS course, giving you 9 units in TH instead of 6, which now fulfills both the Cluster and the Total Units requirements in TH.
Note: You can only do this for one course within a Cluster. In the example above, if you had designated the Cluster as SS, you could change one TH course to an SS, but not both.
In the Wash. U. Course Listings, there are two ways of deciding which Cluster to take to complete the Cluster requirement in a particular Area:
- Search for Clusters by area, or
- To see if a course participates in a Cluster, find the course by using the "Search" function.
Please contact Trevor Bilhorn with any additional questions.