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Academics

Inquiry and Research in the Humanities (IRHUM)

The bachelor of arts degree program in Inquiry and Research in the Humanities (IRHUM) offers undergraduates the unique opportunity to pursue an individualized program of humanistic study in preparation of an independent, mentored research project, which will form the capstone experience of their college education at the University of Chicago. IRHUM is thus not defined by a particular discipline or field, but by the techniques and practices of humanistic inquiry and research. For individual students pursuing the IRHUM major, cohesion is provided by the program of humanistic study, formal research training, and the final research project they design in consultation with the Faculty Chair of IRHUM and their faculty mentor. While the IRHUM major can stand alone, it pairs well with other majors in the Humanities Collegiate Division and beyond.

Winter Quarter information sessions: 

Inquiry and Research in the Humanities Program of Study

The bachelor of arts degree program in Inquiry and Research in the Humanities (IRHUM) offers undergraduates the unique opportunity to pursue an individualized program of humanistic study in preparation of an independent, mentored research project, which will form the capstone experience of their college education at the University of Chicago. IRHUM is thus not defined by a particular discipline or field, but by the techniques and practices of humanistic inquiry and research. For individual students pursuing the IRHUM major, cohesion is provided by the program of humanistic study, formal research training, and the final research project they design in consultation with the Faculty Chair of IRHUM and their faculty mentor. While the IRHUM major can stand alone, it pairs well with other majors in the Humanities Collegiate Division and beyond.

Admission to IRHUM is by application, in which students must clearly articulate their interest in humanistic research and describe the area of humanistic inquiry and research that they plan to pursue. Students design their own program of humanistic study in close consultation with IRHUM’s Faculty Chair and their individual faculty mentor (who will serve as the primary advisor of the student’s BA research project). Centered in the humanities, the program of study may draw on subject areas, fields, and techniques from disciplines in the social, biological, and physical sciences. While IRHUM has no formal language requirement, students researching topics in other languages and cultures are highly encouraged to demonstrate proficiency in those languages by taking higher-level courses and pursuing a Practical and Advanced Proficiency Certification. Students whose research would be enhanced by secondary sources in another language are highly recommended to take courses in reading a foreign language for research (e.g., GRMN 23333 Reading German for Research Purposes) early in their degree programs.

A student’s program of inquiry culminates in a genuine research project, closely mentored by a faculty member from a humanistic discipline (including the humanistic social sciences). To prepare students for their capstone research project, they will be trained in techniques and practices of humanistic research and given the opportunity to engage in genuine research in the context of a collaborative project or in a directed setting. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the various initiatives underway at the University of Chicago (College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Smart Scholars Program, Archaeological Field School, etc.) or with our international partners (the University of Sussex International Junior Research Associates Program, etc.).

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” - Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (1976)

The program now known as Inquiry and Research in the Humanities (IRHUM), is a new iteration of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (ISHUM), which was founded and first chaired by Norman Maclean, known most widely for his novella A River Runs Through It. Maclean came to the University of Chicago in 1928 to pursue graduate studies in English; he was later hired as an instructor and eventually became the William Rainey Harper Professor of English. He won the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching three times during his career at the University of Chicago. The major he created was instituted from the beginning as a major in which a student could design an individual course of study which was supervised individually by a faculty member.

Early on, as General Studies in the Humanities (GSHUM), the program naturally came to attract students whose interests fell outside of the terms in which the other academic departments of the University operated in that era. These included the study of film, and of theater and performing arts—both areas of study which GSHum professors and students in fact introduced to the University. Chairpersons starting from the 1970s include Janel Mueller, Herman SinaikoDavid Bevington, and Malynne Sternstein. At around the turn of the last decade, GSHum was renamed ISHum in order to emphasize what is unique about the program: the expectation that students would synthesize their own understandings from their experience of a set of academic disciplines that do not necessarily think about one another.

IRHUM builds on this rich tradition while responding to an increasing demand for formal research training and experience in the humanities. Reimagined by Professor Christopher J. Wild, Collegiate Master of the Humanities and Associate Professor of Germanic Studies, and Dr. Nichole J. Fazio, Executive Director of the College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF), IRHUM seeks to advance the humanities by equipping early-career scholars with the tools and training necessary for their individual success and as future advocates for the intrinsic value of humanistic inquiry. Benjamin Morgan, Assistant Professor of English, has been appointed as the inaugural faculty chair of IRHUM.

Program Requirements

  • Six Courses in the self-designed program of humanistic study, developed in consultation with the Faculty Chair of IRHUM and a faculty mentor.
  • Academic and Professional Writing (ENGL 13000) , recommended in the Winter or Spring Quarters of Year 2, or in the Autumn Quarter of Year 3.
  • Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design (IRHU 20100) , recommended in the Spring Quarter of Year 2 or Autumn Quarter of Year 3. This seminar will introduce majors to the basic tenets of humanistic inquiry, including the formulation and testing of research questions and lines of inquiry, and expose students to best practices in research design. In partnership with the University Library, this course will train students in information literacy and introduce them to best practices in research design (feasibility, assessment of primary and secondary source material, collation of resources), as well as expose them to research ethics and the principles of culturally sensitive research practices. The course will also include training in data use and management, and introduce students to research tools and technology available to them through the University Library system, as well as other on- and off-campus resources.
  • Two Research Seminars in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. This requirement may be fulfilled with Independent Study or Reading and Research courses.
  • Applied Mentored Research Experience, undertaken in the context of a collaborative, faculty- or discipline-expert mentored project. This experience will not necessarily correlate to the students’ own research project but instead expose them to the work of knowledge production as “apprentices” to experts in a humanistic field. This could include opportunities within a structured research experience with College partners (Smart Museum of Art, Oriental Institute Museum, archaeological fieldwork, the University of Sussex International Junior Research Associates Program, etc.) or a research assistantship for a faculty member. Majors will receive a stipend and, therefore, no course credit for this requirement. A mentored research experience in the biological, physical, or social sciences may count toward this requirement by petition.
  • Research Proposal Colloquium (IRHU 29600) in the Spring Quarter of Year 3. Upon approval of their research proposal, students will receive the necessary financial support to pursue their research project over the summer between Years 3 and 4. Stipends cover living costs and may support travel and other necessary expenses in support of their research project. The College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is aimed toward rising seniors and provides, thus, the ideal setting for IRHUM majors working on their research project.
  • BA Thesis Writing Colloquium (IRHU 29800) in the Autumn Quarter of Year 4. Students are expected to complete their thesis by the end of the Autumn Quarter.
  • In the Winter and Spring Quarters of Year 4, majors are expected to present their capstone research project to a wider audience by giving an academic talk at a conference, presenting a poster session, etc., for which IRHUM will provide the necessary financial support, as needed.
  • Majors are strongly encouraged to consider the curricular offerings of the Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse, as well as the resources and training offered through the College Center for Research and Fellowships.

Note: Students double-majoring can double-count up to three of the six courses in the self-designed program of humanistic study between the two majors and write only a single BA thesis (counting for both majors). IRHU 29600 Research Proposal Colloquium and IRHU 29800 BA Thesis Writing Colloquium

Summary of Requirements

Six courses of self-designed study

600

ENGL 13000

Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

100

IRHU 20100

Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design

100

Two Humanistic Research Seminars

200

Applied Mentored Research Experience

000

IRHU 29600

Research Proposal Colloquium

100

IRHU 29800

BA Thesis Writing Colloquium

100

Total Units

1200

The final BA research project, usually taking the form of a written thesis, is carefully scaffolded. Students design their research project in consultation with their faculty mentor during the course of IRHU 29600Research Proposal Colloquium in the Spring Quarter of Year 3. Upon approval of their research proposal, students receive full financial support to conduct their research over the summer between their junior and senior years. IRHU 29800 BA Thesis Writing Colloquium in the Autumn Quarter of Year 4 provides a structured and collaborative setting, in which students can complete their project in a timely and closely mentored manner.

This schedule is designed to avoid the usual Spring Quarter crunch of BA thesis writing and to make it easier for students to use their research thesis as a writing sample for fellowship or graduate school applications. The intentional design of the BA thesis (or, research capstone) experience ensures that students are fully equipped and able to put into practice the principles of academic research design. This elevates the value of the research thesis as a training experience, as well as a measurable academic output. Additionally, the enhanced structure of the thesis experience provides students with the opportunity to translate a portion of their project into a refined research and writing sample for the purposes of graduate school and/or any postgraduate experience that expects advanced research training (e.g., national fellowships like Fulbright, etc.). IRHUM also aims to train students in the dissemination of their research through written and oral communication to both expert and non-expert audiences. The final two quarters of Year 4 are reserved for attending undergraduate research conferences and symposia, writing up their research for publication, or preparing other forms of dissemination.

While the potential for developing individual BA programs in Inquiry and Research in the Humanities is as great as the combined ingenuity, imagination, and interest of each student in consultation with the student's advisors, we have identified a few sample program plans below:

Studying Chicago's Cityscape

ARTH 24190

Imagining Chicago's Common Buildings

100

ARTH 24191

City Imagined, City Observed

100

ENST 22300

South Side Ecologies

100

GEOG 23500

Urban Geography

100

PBPL 28501

Process and Policy in State and City Government

100

TAPS 24500

Chicago Theater: Budgets and Buildings

100

ENGL 13000

Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

100

IRHU 20100

Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design

100

Two Humanistic Research Seminars

200

Applied Mentored Research Experience

000

IRHU 29600

Research Proposal Colloquium

100

IRHU 29800

BA Thesis Writing Colloquium

100

Total Units

1200

Understanding Climate Change through Literature and Art

ENGL 12520

Climate Change in Literature, Art, and Film

100

ENST 28728

Climate Change and Society: Human Impacts, Adaptation, and Policy Solutions

100

GEOS 24220

Climate Foundations

100

GEOS 24705

Energy: Science, Technology, and Human Usage

100

PBPL 24756

Exploring the Resilient City

100

PHSC 13400

Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast

100

ENGL 13000

Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

100

IRHU 20100

Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design

100

Two Humanistic Research Seminars

200

Applied Mentored Research Experience

000

IRHU 29600

Research Proposal Colloquium

100

IRHU 29800

BA Thesis Writing Colloquium

100

Total Units

1200

The History of Print

ARTH 18700

The Arts of Arabic and Persian Manuscripts

100

CLCV 21500

Medieval Book: History, Typology, Function

100

ENGL 45433

Book History: Methods, Practices, and Issues

100

GRMN 22312

Reforming Religious Media: Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation

100

HIST 12203

Italian Renaissance: Petrarch, Machiavelli, and the Wars of Popes and Kings

100

HIST 25425

Censorship, Info Control, & Revolutions in Info Technology from the Printing Press to the Internet

100

ENGL 13000

Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

100

IRHU 20100

Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design

100

Two Humanistic Research Seminars

200

Applied Mentored Research Experience

000

IRHU 29600

Research Proposal Colloquium

100

IRHU 29800

BA Thesis Writing Colloquium

100

Total Units

1200

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Required Courses for IRHUM Majors

IRHUM majors can choose course offerings from across the College that fit into their program of study, provided they are approved by the IRHUM Faculty Chair and the student's faculty mentor. Methodology courses from other programs and departments may—upon petition—count toward the requirements of the IRHUM major. In addition to the three courses below, IRHUM students are required to take two IRHUM research seminars. These vary year to year.

IRHU 20100. Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design. 100 Units.

This seminar will introduce majors to the basic tenets of humanistic inquiry, including the formulation and testing of research questions and lines of inquiry, and expose students to best practices in research design. In partnership with the University Libraries, this course will train students in information literacy, introduce them to best practices in research design (feasibility, assessment of primary and secondary source material, collation of resources), as well as expose them to research ethics and the principles of culturally sensitive research practices. The course will also include training in data use and management and introduce students to research tools and technology available to them through the University Library system, as well as other on- and off-campus resources.    Instructor(s): TBD     Terms Offered: TBD

IRHU 29600. Research Proposal Colloquium. 100 Units.

Building on the research skills majors have learned in Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design [IRHU 20100], the two Research Seminars, and the mandatory Applied Mentored Research Experience, the Research Proposal Colloquium helps majors identify a relevant research topic/questions, design a feasible research project, establish a research timeline and formulate a clear and compelling proposal. The collaborative setting of the Research Proposal Colloquium complements the individual mentoring provided by the Faculty Advisor and the IRHUM Co-Chair. Upon approval of their research proposal by their Faculty Advisor, the IRHUM Faculty Chair, and Co-Chair, students are eligible to receive full financial support to conduct a portion of their research over the summer between their junior and senior years, as merited.   Instructor(s): TBD     Terms Offered: TBD
Note(s): All IRHUM majors are required to take the Research Proposal Colloquium in the Spring Quarter of their third year.

IRHU 29800. BA Thesis Writing Colloquium. 100 Units.

Building on the Research Proposal Colloquium and the research undertaken over the summer, the BA Thesis Writing Colloquium provides a structured and collaborative setting, in which IRHUM majors receive instruction on effectively writing about their findings, workshop their efforts with their peers, and, ultimately, complete their mentored research project in a timely and productive manner. Like the Research Proposal Colloquium, the BA Thesis Writing Colloquium complements the individual mentoring provided by the Faculty Advisor and IRHU Co-Chair. Furthermore, IRHUM majors will receive support translating their research experience and output into competitive applications for graduate programs, research grants, and national fellowships.    Instructor(s): TBD     Terms Offered: TBD
Note(s): All IRHUM majors are required to take the Thesis Writing Colloquium in the Autumn Quarter of their fourth year.

Since IRHUM is an interdisciplinary major whose field of study encompasses all the offerings in the various departments and programs of the University (particularly in the Humanities Division), all faculty members of these varied departments and programs are functionally related to IRHUM. IRHUM students may approach any University of Chicago faculty member who works in the student's field of interest with a request to serve as faculty adviser for the BA paper. Similarly, IRHUM students may take courses with any faculty member from any department of the University. However, there are also a select number of IRHUM faculty and board members dedicated to actively supporting its majors.

IRHUM Advisors and Mentors: 

  • Jessica Baker, Assistant Professor, Department of Music
  • Allyson Ettinger, Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics
  • Nichole Fazio, Executive Director, College Center for Research and Fellowships; Associate Dean of Students, the College
  • Allyson Nadia Field, Associate Professor, Department of Cinema and Media Studies
  • Timothy M. Harrison, Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Assistant Professor, Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature, Department of English
  • Ghenwa Hayek, Associate Professor of Modern Arabic Literature, NELC
  • Patrick Jagoda, Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
  • Sarah Johnson, Assistant Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
  • Katherine Kearns, Assistant Professor, Department of Classics
  • Sharese King, Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics
  • Issa Lampe, Director, Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry; Deputy Director for Academic and Curatorial Affairs, Smart Museum
  • Ellen MacKay, Chair of TAPPS, Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
  • Josephine McDonagh, Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
  • Benjamin Morgan, IRHUM Faculty Chair; Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
  • William Nickell, Associate Professor and Chair of the Slavic Department
  • Hervé Reculeau, Associate Professor of Assyriology, NELC
  • Victoria Saramago, Assistant Professor, Romance Languages and Literatures
  • Sabina Shaikh, Director, Program on the Global Environment; Senior Lecturer, Environmental and Urban Studies
  • Eric Slauter, Deputy Dean of Humanities; Interim Director of the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture; Associate Professor of English and the College
  • Stephanie Soileau, Assistant Professor of Practice in the Arts, Department of English Language and Literature
  • Rebecca Starkey, Head of Research and Instruction Services, University of Chicago Library
  • Megan Sullivan, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History
  • Nora Titone, Resident Dramaturg, Court Theatre
  • Christopher Wild, Professor, Germanic Studies; Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division; Deputy Dean of the Humanities
  • Tyler Williams, Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
  • Catherine Uecker, Head of Research and Instruction, Special Collections Reader Services, University of Chicago Library
  • Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer, Professor, Department of Classics; Director, Stevanovich Center for the Formation of Knowledge

Advising: Close contact with the faculty and staff relevant to the student's career in IRHUM—including the student's College adviser, the IRHUM Faculty Chair, and the student’s faculty mentor—is essential in a program that involves so much individual initiative and experimentation. Students are encouraged to seek their advice whenever they have an intellectual or practical concern about progress in the major.

Grading: All courses in the major must be taken for a quality grade, including ENGL 13000.

Honors: To be eligible for honors, a student must maintain an overall GPA of 3.25 or higher and a GPA in the major of 3.5 or higher. Honors are reserved for the student whose BA project shows exceptional intellectual merit in the judgment of the faculty mentor, the IRHUM Faculty Chair, and the Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division.

 

Key Campus Partners: IRHUM students will undertake two formal research experiences designed to further their engagement in the practice of humanistic inquiry: an applied mentored research project with a faculty member or through one of the programs supported through the College, and a BA thesis. To this end, IRHUM students will be supported by the College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF) in the identification of suitable opportunities and support presenting their research in various campus, national and international contexts. The University of Chicago Library will play a vital role in supporting IRHUM students through both formal training on specific research tools and supporting BA thesis research. The Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse is vital to IRHUM students expected to advance the public dissemination of their work. Additional support units include the UChicago Writing Program and the University of Chicago Language Center.

Direct links to relevant resources for IRHUM majors:

Research Support: 

College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF):

University of Chicago Library resources: 

National Fellowships: 

Interested students should apply for admission into the IRHUM program as soon as possible upon completion of general education requirements (typically by the end of the second year and, except in extraordinary circumstances, no later than the end of Autumn Quarter of the third year). Transfer students in particular are urged to apply at the earliest point that they can. An application is initiated by consulting with the IRHUM Faculty Chair and/or Co-Chair, to discuss the feasibility of designing and implementing the planned study and research program. After consultation, students who wish to pursue an application to the IRHUM program must submit a recent course transcript (with a minimum B average in preceding course work) and a two-part written proposal according to the following guidelines. Applications must be written in error-free, succinct, and well-crafted language in order to receive full consideration.

Motivation Statement: The first part of the proposal consists of a 750-word motivation statement, explaining the student’s intellectual motivation and academic preparation for embarking on an individualized program of humanistic inquiry, and describing in broad outlines the research interest(s), as well as the program of study to pursue those interests. Students are encouraged to briefly describe questions and/or specific topics they may explore in a BA thesis, as well as the names of up to three potential faculty members with a rationale for their choices. This will further clarify the student's intentions for the IRHUM major and its culminating research experience for the review committee. 

Course Prospectus: The second part of the proposal consists of a list of courses that comprise a potential program of study described in the motivation statement. This list may include courses the student has already taken as well as courses the student intends to take. While a list of proposed courses is a required part of the application, it is understood that these will undergo modification contingent on the availability of courses from year to year. Please note: this is a proposal and the committee appreciates that it will likely change over the course of the major. That said, any major changes to the course prospectus must be discussed with and approved by the IRHUM Co-Chair and then forwarded to the student’s College adviser.

After the application materials have been reviewed by the IRHUM Faculty Chair and Co-Chair, a twenty-minute interview will be scheduled with the IRHUM Faculty Chair and Co-Chair. The IRHUM Faculty Chair will inform the student via email of the result of the application.

  • Autumn Quarter Application DEADLINE: November 16, 2020 (applications reviewed on a rolling basis)
  • Winter Quarter Application DEADLINE: February 22, 2021 (applications reviewed on a rolling basis)
  • Spring Quarter Application DEADLINE: April 19, 2021 (applications reviewed on a rolling basis)

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Inquiry and Research in the Humanities in the College Catalog

IRHUM Contacts

Associate Professor, English

  • Email: bjmorgan@uchicago.edu
  • Office Hours: Office hours by appointment via email
  • Morgan CV
  • Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 2010
  • Teaching at UChicago since 2010

Dr. Nichole J. Fazio

  • Executive Director, College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF), Associate Dean of Students, The College
  • Email: nfazio@uchicago.edu
  • Office hours: by appointment and via Zoom
  • About: https://ccrf.uchicago.edu/about-ccrf/our-staff
  • DPhil (Ph.D.), University of Oxford; Fellow, Trinity College
  • At University of Chicago since 2015