Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing Requirement

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What are Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing?

Over 1,500 courses manifest the eight WAYS across a broad range of subjects and disciplines.  As the breadth component of Stanford's General Education, these courses complement the depth of study in your major.  More importantly, these courses serve as milestones on the new WAYS roadmap that encourages you to explore and shape your own educational path.  Whatever your eventual concentration or career, taking courses in the eight WAYS described below will supply you with essential skills that will help you to flourish, adapt to new challenges, and serve as a responsible engaged citizen.

What categories comprise the Ways?

11 courses in 8 categories.  May double-count with Thinking Matters and major coursework, although courses may not count for two WAYS for an individual student. Courses must be at least 3 units and taken for a letter grade, with the exception of Creative Expression, which may be 2 units and Satisfactory/No Credit at the instructor’s discretion.

Aesthetic and Interpretive Inquiry (2 courses)

Sample Courses:

  • Bollywood and Beyond: An Introduction to Indian Film
  • Theories of the Image
  • Philosophy and Literature
  • The American West
  • Introduction to Prehistoric Archeology
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Dynasties, Dictators, and Democrats
  • Introduction to Music Theory


Social Inquiry (2 courses)

Sample Courses:

  • Education, Gender, and Development
  • Introduction to Cultural & Social Anthropology
  • Understanding the Welfare System
  • The Greeks
  • Technology and National Security
  • Health Care in America
  • Media, Culture, and Society
  • Psychology of Prejudice


Scientific Method and Analysis (2 courses)

Sample Courses:

  • Plant Genetics
  • Structure and Reactivity
  • Biotechnology in Everyday Life
  • Ice, Water, Fire
  • Extinctions in Near Time
  • The Science of Mythbusters
  • Emerging Zoonotic Diseases
  • The Biology of Stem Cells


Formal Reasoning (1 course)

Sample Courses:

  • Calculus
  • Introductory Logic
  • Game Theory
  • Breaking Codes
  • The Cancer Problem
  • Theory of Probability
  • Market Design
  • Economic Analysis I


Applied Quantitative Reasoning (1 course)

Sample Courses:

  • Measuring Global Health
  • Riding the Data Wave
  • Predicting Volcanic Eruptions
  • Introduction to Statistical Methods
  • Human Exposure Analysis
  • International Relations
  • Dynamics and Management of Marine Populations
  • Feeding Nine Billion


Ethical Reasoning (1 course)

Sample Courses:

  • Ethics of Religious Politics
  • Contemporary Moral Problems
  • Worlds of Gandhi
  • Computers, Ethics, and Public Policy
  • Justice
  • Moral Limits of the Market
  • Medical Ethics in a Global World
  • Rules of War


Engaging Diversity (1 course)

Sample Courses:

  • Dance in Prison: The Arts, Juvenile Justice, and Rehabilitation in America
  • Translating Japan, Translating the West
  • Introduction to Queer Studies
  • The Urban Underclass
  • Explaining Ethnic Violence
  • Women & Disabilities
  • Cultural Shaping of Emotion
  • Religion and Politics in the Muslim World


Creative Expression (1 course)

Sample Courses:

  • Beginning Improvisation
  • Introduction to Conservation Photography
  • The Broadway Musical
  • Introduction to Animation
  • Fiction Writing
  • Architectural Design
  • Art & Electronics
  • The Aesthetics of Data


Ways to Focus/Ways to Explore

Learn how two students pursued their current interests and discovered new ones while following the WAYS roadmap:

Sophia and Ben Illustration

Sophia arrives on campus already committed to saving the environment. She uses the WAYS to try out a variety of disciplines that approach this topic from different perspectives and using diverse methodologies. From “Energy and the Environment” (WAY: Scientific Method and Analysis) to “Environmental Economics and Policy” (WAY: Social Inquiry) and “Environmental Science and Technology” (WAY: Applied Quantitative Reasoning), Sophia gains skills that will empower her to tackle complex environmental problems, whether she eventually becomes a civil engineer, a science writer, or a policy-maker.

Ben enters Stanford with many interests—from drama to neuroscience—but he isn’t sure what he wants to pursue in college. By taking courses on topics in his areas of interest that also fulfill WAYS, he gets to design his own curriculum while gaining skills that will help him in any major. A course on “Shakespeare” (WAY: Aesthetic and Interpretive Inquiry) leads to his participation in “Beginning Improvisation” (WAY: Creative Expression). His Thinking Matters course “How Does Your Brain Work” (WAY: Scientific Method and Analysis) leads him to do research in his professor’s lab, where he discovers that he has a passion for experimental investigation. The unexpected connections he finds between improv and scientific experimentation show Ben how he is building his skills in complementary and powerful ways.


Click here to start choosing courses and uncovering your own Ways roadmap!