Social Science and Humanities Theme Requirements

All McCormick degrees require seven courses in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Because some of these courses must be thematically related, this requirement is often called the Theme.

View Theme Frequently Asked Questions

Updated Theme Requirements as of Fall 2016

For the 2016-17 school year, requirements for courses in the Social Sciences and Humanities have changed. All students in the Class of 2020 and later can access the revised requirements through the online theme form that is available in the McCormick Advising System (MAS).

How to Fulfill the New Requirements

  • Choose seven courses total from two categories - Social & Behavioral Sciences and Humanities (see table below). Nearly all courses from the departments and programs listed in each category will count, but there are a list of disallowed courses from those departments and a list of allowed course from other departments (see tables below).
  • A maximum of five courses may be chosen from a single category
  • Indicate courses that are thematically related (minimum of three, up to all seven)
  • Create a title for their theme and describe it in a brief narrative
  • No more than three 100-level courses
    • Exception: up to four 100-level courses if three are foreign language
  • Additional Allowances
    • Weinberg first-year seminar courses (via petition; primarily for students who transfer in from Weinberg)
    • Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses are allowed. See theAP/IB table.
    • Half-unit (1/2) and one-third (1/3) unit courses are automatically combined
    • Courses used to fulfill other McCormick requirements may not also be used to fulfill this requirement (for example, GEN_CMN 102 if it is being used for the Communications/Speech requirement)

(You may need to scroll down and look for the down arrow to see the table.)

TABLE 1: Approved Departments and Programs by Category (link to PDF)

Social & Behavioral Sciences


ANTHRO – Anthropology

CFS  - Chicago Field Studies

COG_SCI – Cognitive Science

COMM_ST – Communication Studies

CSD – Communication Sciences & Disorders

ECON - Economics

ENVR_POL – Environmental Policy & Culture

GBL_HLTH – Global Health Studies

GNDR_ST – Gender & Sexuality Studies

HDPS – Human Development & Psychological Services

IMC – Integrated Marketing Communications

INTL_ST – International Studies

LEGAL_ST – Center for Legal Studies

LING - Linguistics

LRDSHP - Leadership

LOC – Learning & Organizational Change

POLI_SCI – Political Science

PSYCH - Psychology

SESP – School of Education & Social Policy

SOC_POL – Social Policy

SOCIOL - Sociology

AF_AM_ST – African American Studies

AF_ST – African Studies

AMER_ST – American Studies

ARABIC – Middle East & North African Studies

ART – Art Theory & Practice

ART_HIST – Art History

ASIAN_AM – Asian American Studies

ASIAN_LC – Asian Languages & Cultures

ASIAN_ST – Asian Studies

CHINESE - Asian Languages & Cultures

CLASSICS - Classics

COMP_LIT – Comparative Literary Studies

DANCE - Theatre

ENGLISH - English

FRENCH – French & Italian

GEN_CMN – Performance Studies and Communication Studies

GEN_MUS – Music Studies for Non-Majors

GERMAN - German

GREEK - Classics

HEBREW - Middle East & North African Studies

HIND_URD - Asian Languages & Cultures

HISTORY - History

HUM – Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities

ITALIAN - French & Italian

JAPANESE - Asian Languages & Cultures

JOUR - Journalism

JWSH_ST – Jewish Studies

KOREAN - Asian Languages & Cultures

LATIN - Classics

LATINO – Latina & Latino Studies

MENA - Middle East & North African Studies

MUS_COMP – Music Studies

MUS_TECH - Music Studies

MUS_THRY - Music Studies

MUSIC – Interdepartmental Courses for Music Majors

MUSIC_ED - Music Studies

MUSICOL - Music Studies

PERF_ST – Performance Studies

PERSIAN - Middle East & North African Studies

PHIL - Philosophy

PORT – Spanish & Portuguese

RELIGION – Religious Studies

RTVF – Radio/Television/Film

SLAVIC – Slavic Languages & Literatures

SPANISH - Spanish & Portuguese

SWAHILI – African Studies

THEATRE - Theatre

TURKISH - Middle East & North African Studies

YIDDISH – Jewish Studies

TABLE 2: Courses specifically allowed and not allowed to be used (link to PDF)

Additional Courses Allowed

Specific courses not eligible to meet theme requirements

MMSS 211-1 – Social Sciences

MMSS 211-3 – Social Sciences

MMSS 311-2 – Social Sciences

NAV_SCI 120 – Social Sciences

NAV_SCI 230 – Social Sciences

NAV_SCI 341 – Social Sciences

PRDV 325 – Social Sciences

TEACH_ED 329 – Social Sciences

TRANS 310 – Social Sciences

BUS_INST – Kapnick Business Institutions Program

ECON 281

ECON 380-1

ECON 380-2

ECON 381-1

ECON 381-2

ENGLISH 106-1, 2

GEOG 341

Kellogg Courses


How to Choose Your Theme

As you consider picking a focus for your theme, think about which subjects interest you beyond engineering:

  • Do you enjoy reading literature, pondering philosophy, painting, or playing a musical instrument?
  • Do you like learning about other religions or studying psychology?
  • Are there ways that speaking a foreign language or developing your knowledge of economics could further your professional or personal goals?

These are just a few potential starting points for your theme. Each department listed in the table has a website with descriptions of courses. Explore departments that sound interesting to find specific courses.

If you're still unsure if your theme might be approved, follow the acronym “S.T.A.R.”:

  • Succinct Title: You have a concise focus to your theme, as indicated in the title.
  • Thematically Related: The focus courses clearly and directly connect in this area of concentration.
  • Approved Courses: All of your courses listed are from approved departments.
  • Remaining Courses: You fulfill the rest of the categorical requirements.

When to Declare Your Theme

By the end of your sophomore year, complete the Social Science/ Humanities using the online portal in MAS.

Students in the Class of 2019 and earlier have the option to follow the modified theme requirements using the online form. Look for a the option on your dashboard in MAS. Students choosing the follow the older theme requirements will not be able to use the online portal and must use a paper form available in the Undergraduate Engineering Office (located in Tech L269).

You will receive an email indicating whether their theme has been approved.

  • If it is approved, this will be indicated in MAS and the courses will appear in your audit.
  • If it is denied, you will receive an email with suggestions for revisions.

Theme Requirements for Students Entering Prior to Fall 2016

Students may choose to use the revised theme option with prior permission of the Undergraduate Engineering Office.

Choosing this option request the use of a paper form that is available from the Undergraduate Engineering Office in Tech L269.

Students who entered the School of Engineering prior to 2016 are encouraged to follow the updated requirements and may do so without changing their catalog year. The previous requirements are outlined at the end of this page but cannot be completed using the online process in MAS; a paper form is required as is permission of the Undergraduate Office.

Students must complete seven courses related to their approved focus. Courses approved for use in the theme are categorized into three very broad areas:

  • Fine Arts, Language, & Literature (FAL)
  • Historical Studies & Values (HSV)
  • Social & Behavioral Sciences (SBS)

View the Approved Theme Course Listing for Prior to 2016 for a full list of approved courses and their respective categories.

After the student has chosen a focus, he or she must also make sure that the seven courses are distributed among these categories. There are two options to fulfill the theme requirement:

Option A

  • Seven courses total
  • Three courses in focus area
  • At least two courses from each category (FAL/HSV/SBS)
  • No more than three 100-level classes

Option B

  • Seven courses total
  • Five courses in focus area
  • No more than five courses from one category (FAL/HSV/SBS)

Note: The group of focus courses is not restricted to just one of the three categories.

If a course falls into more than one category, the student can choose either category.