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The prerequisites consist of two required courses: a “Disciplines” course and a “World Regions” course. Students must take one from each of the lists below.  AP credit cannot be used to satisfy prerequisite requirements for ISF. 

Note: At the time of application, a prospective major can apply to ISF by filling out an application after they have completed their first prerequisite course with no less than a B- grade and are currently enrolled in their second prerequisite course. Their final acceptance in the program will be contingent on receiving a grade of B- or better in the second course. Applicants must attain no less than a B- in both prerequisite courses. Students may not apply to the major if they have not finished at least one of the two required prerequisite courses.


Students must take one of the following introductory courses (or their recognized equivalent, for transfer students):

  • Political Science 2 (Comparative Politics)
  • Political Science 4 (Political Theory)
  • Political Science 5 (International Relations)
  • Philosophy 2 (Ethics and Social Justice)
  • Philosophy 3 (The Nature of Mind)
  • Sociology 1 (Introduction to Sociology)
  • Anthropology 3 (Introduction to Social/Cultural Anthropology)
  • Economics 1 or 2 (Introduction to Economics)
  • Geography 10 (World Regions, Peoples, States)
  • Psychology 1 (General Psychology)
  • Rhetoric 10 (Introduction to Reason and Argument)
  • Education 190 (Critical Studies in Education)
  • Public Policy 101 (Introduction to Public Policy Analysis)

World Regions

  • Art History 11 or C11 (Introduction to Western Art)
  • Chinese 7A/B (Premodern, Modern Chinese literature)
  • AGRS 10A or 10B (Ancient Greek and Roman Studies)
  • African-American Studies 4A or 4B (Pre-colonial/20th century Africa)
  • History 2 (Comparative History)
  • History 4A or 4B (Medieval Europe)
  • History 5 (Europe Since the Renaissance)
  • History 6A or 6B (China)
  • History 8A or 8B (Latin America)
  • History 10 (Africa)
  • History 11 (India)
  • History 12 (The Middle East)
  • History 14 (Japan)
  • IAS 45 (World History)
  • ISF 10 (Enduring Books of the Western Tradition)
  • Japanese Studies 7A or 7B (Premodern, Modern Japanese Literature)
  • Southeast Asian Studies 10A or 10B (Premodern/modern Southeast Asia)

A Committee of Faculty Advisors will have the discretion, in unusual cases, of accepting applications to the ISF program from students who have completed, with a minimum B- grade, upper division courses that have adequately prepared them for their designated Research Program and that fulfill the spirit of the prerequisite requirements of disciplinary and regional preparation for the major. Finally, additional courses can be added to each of the two lists as deemed appropriate by the Director and the Faculty Advisory Board.

For transfer students, it is strongly recommended that these requirements be completed before enrolling at Berkeley.  Transfer students must submit syllabi of courses already taken to their ISF faculty adviser for approval. Both prerequisite courses must be taken for a letter grade.

Note that Academic Senate regulations stipulate that students must have a minimum grade point average of 2.0 before declaring any major in the College of Letters and Science and are required to declare a major by the time they have completed 90 units.

All courses used to fulfill ISF major requirements must be taken for a letter grade. No exceptions. Only COVID exceptions and Fall 2022 P/NP grades will be considered.  Courses offered on a mandatory P/NP basis cannot be used to fulfill an ISF major requirement. 

ISF Core Requirements (4 courses) 


Theory and Methods

ISF 100A: Introduction to Social Theory and Cultural Analysis (4 units)

All ISF majors must take ISF 100A. No exceptions.


Theory and Practice

All ISF majors must take a Theory and Practice course from the ISF 100-series courses listed below or from a list of approved courses taught in various departments across campus. 

  • ISF 60: Technology and Values (3 units)
  • ISF 100B: Interdisciplinary Theories of the Self and Identity (4 units)
  • ISF 100C: Language and Identity (4 units)
  • ISF 100D: Introduction to Technology, Society, and Culture (4 units)
  • ISF 100E: The Globalization of Rights, Values, and Laws in the 21st Century (4 units)
  • ISF 100F: Theorizing Modern Capitalism: Controversies and Interpretations (4 units)
  • ISF 100G: Introduction to Science, Society, and Ethics (4 units)
  • ISF 100H: Introduction to Media and International Relations (4 units)
  • ISF 100I: Consumer Society and Culture (4 units)
  • ISF 100J: The Social Life of Computing (4 units)
  • ISF 100K: Health and Development (4 units)
  • ISF 110: An Introduction to Data Analysis and Visualization (4 units)

These core courses provide an introduction to interdisciplinary theories and methodologies in the social sciences and the humanities. A student may not double-count a course as part of their course of study and as meeting the Theory and Practice requirement. 

NOTE: If a student’s course of study requires advanced work in a specific methodological approach, an appropriate course may be substituted for ISF 60, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E, 100F, 100G, 100H, 100I, 100J or 100K with the permission of their faculty adviser. In such cases, the student’s area of concentration normally requires courses in quantitative analysis, advanced statistical methods, demographics, natural sciences, and/or computer science.


Interdisciplinary Research Methods

ISF 189: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Research Methods (4 units)
Required for all applicants who apply to the major after June 1, 2014 but not a prerequisite to major declaration.

For all applicants, ISF 189 must be completed before ISF 190, the Senior Thesis Seminar, and in the semester before they graduate. ISF 190 must then be completed in their final semester. If a student enrolls in ISF 190 either simultaneous with or without having passed ISF 189, the student will be dropped from ISF 190.

This class is an introduction to research methods, leading students through different units built around specific learning goals and practical exercises. The course is designed to teach a range of research skills, including (but not limited to) the ability to formulate research questions and to engage in scholarly conversations and arguments; the identification, evaluation, mobilization, and interpretation of sources; methods and instruments of field research (interviews, questionnaires, and sampling) and statistical thinking; and the construction of viable arguments and explanation in the human sciences. At the same time, the course is designed to help students identify their own thesis topic, bibliography, and methodological orientation in preparation for ISF 190. Students who have already taken one of the following courses and received a B- or better can place out of the requirement to take ISF 189:

Note: The following courses will be accepted in place of ISF 189, with faculty approval, through Fall 2023 only. Effective Spring 2024, ISF 189 is required for all ISF majors, no exceptions. If a student requires additional methods practice for their Senior Thesis, additional methods courses may be used towards the Course of Study only. 

  • Anthropology 169B – Research Theory and Methods in Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Demography 160 – Special Topics in Demography
  • History 104 – The Craft of History
  • Psychology 101 – Research and Data Analysis in Psychology


Senior Thesis

ISF 190: Senior Thesis (4 units)
Must be completed in a student’s final semester, after they have completed ISF 189. 

Course of Study (6 courses)

A minimum of 20 UNITS (at least SIX courses) drawn from at least THREE fields or disciplines. Courses for this requirement must be UPPER DIVISION, (numbered 100 or above). A student may use a maximum of 3 classes from one discipline. All courses a student self-selects for their Course of Study must be approved by their faculty advisor. 

Upon consent of a faculty adviser, courses outside of the College of Letters and Science may be accepted when relevant, e.g., courses in Social Welfare, Journalism, Public Policy, City Planning, Business Administration, Architecture, etc. (For further information, please see Sample Research Programs.) Please refer to the relevant courses listed for possible Research Fields to view examples of how students can formulate their Course of Study. 

*Note: Upon approval from an ISF faculty advisor, a student may include one technical or natural science course as part of their Course of Study.

UPDATE: Given the current COVID-19 crisis, the default grading option for all undergraduate classes taken during the spring 2020 semester is P/NP. Students who are pursuing honors during the spring 2020 semester can receive a P in ISF 190, which would be listed on their transcript, and the ISF 190 instructors will decide what level of honors the students will receive. The letter grade that students would have received would be provided upon request. Students still retain the right to request a letter grade instead of P/NP for ISF 190 this semester as well.  

All ISF students seeking honors enroll in the senior thesis seminar with other majors (ISF 190); there will no longer be a separate Honors Thesis Seminar (ISF H195).  Students will first need to identify and seek out Senate faculty members from other departments for advice and to serve as second readers. Students must then let their ISF 190 instructor know that they intend to pursue honors in the major. This notification should take place early in the semester in which the student is enrolled in ISF 190.

Student grades in ISF 190 will be constituted by an average of grades assigned by the ISF 190 Instructor and the second readers. Senior honors theses that receive honors will be no different in length and baseline requirements than other ISF senior theses, although they will inevitably use more primary and secondary sources, employ a more sophisticated methodology, and offer more rigorous and sophisticated interpretations. 

Students eligible for honors must still have a cumulative and major GPA of at least 3.6. But the degree of honors in ISF Program will no longer be tied to a particular GPA. Instead, students in the honors option will be nominated for a degree of honors (Honors, High Honors, Highest Honors) by the ISF instructor, the second reader, or another ladder faculty member.  

The assessment of the degree of honors will be made by an ISF Honors Committee consisting of no fewer than two teaching faculty of the ISF Program and two Academic Senate members under the oversight of the ISF director.  The ISF Honors Committee will use the criteria of scholarly originality, methodological sophistication (including interdisciplinarity), the quality of source interpretation, and excellence in writing and argumentation to adjudicate the degree of honors to be conferred.

Upon completion of all requirements, students will receive their diploma with a special label affixed indicating the awarding of honors.