Scientific and Social Inquiry

A capacity to frame and pursue questions concerning how the world works is essential to becoming responsible, engaged citizens who understand how science, society, and individual lives intersect, and who can navigate contemporary and emerging public debates over social and scientific issues.

While inquiry in the natural sciences explores the forces governing the physical universe, and inquiry in the social sciences examines the interplay of factors driving outcomes in the social world, both pursue answers by collecting and analyzing or interpreting evidence to evaluate competing claims. Through understanding and practicing the methods of scientific and social inquiry, all BU students will develop a broadly informed curiosity about the workings of the physical and social worlds, as well as the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind needed to engage with key challenges facing our species and planet today, such as sustainability, immigration, and globalization. These learning outcomes involve an introduction to major concepts in both scientific and social inquiry, and the opportunity to pursue more advanced evidence-based inquiry in the social or natural sciences or at the intersection of science and society.

Students are required to fulfill three units in this capacity:

  • Scientific Inquiry I (1 unit)
  • Social Inquiry I (1 unit)
  • Scientific Inquiry II or Social Inquiry II (1 unit)

Note: For many students, taking a Scientific Inquiry I course before a Scientific Inquiry II course will be a logical sequence. However, depending on the course and on a student’s background, this will not always be the case. Students are not required to take a Scientific Inquiry I course prior to taking a Scientific Inquiry II course. Additionally, a Scientific Inquiry II course may be taken to fulfill the Scientific Inquiry I requirement, allowing the student to use two Scientific Inquiry II courses to fulfill this requirement. The same is true for Social Inquiry.

Butterfly Collection

Scientific Inquiry I

Scientific literacy—both a basic understanding of major concepts in the natural sciences and a grasp of how scientific knowledge is produced and validated—is essential to responsible citizenship and personal autonomy.

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scientist working in lab

Scientific Inquiry II

Courses in Scientific Inquiry II build on previous college-level experience with scientific inquiry.

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Candle Vigil

Social Inquiry I

Understanding how social phenomena affect our lives informs our personal and ethical growth by illuminating the societal implications of our individual actions.

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Wind turbines at sunset

Social Inquiry II

Courses in Social Inquiry II build on previous college-level experience with social inquiry.

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