Curriculum: Overview

Duke University seeks to empower you to develop the capacity to reason effectively, exercise sound judgment, synthesize knowledge, and conduct yourself in historically and ethically informed ways.  To do this, you’ll be asked to fulfill four sets of requirements.  These are:

  1. Areas of Knowledge (2 in each of the 5 areas)
  2. Modes of Inquiry (1-3 in each of the 6 modes)
  3. Small Group Learning Experiences (3 experiences)
  4. The Major


Each of these is designed to develop your knowledge, intellectual abilities, competencies, and skills in a different way:









AOKs are distributed as follows:


  • Arts, Literatures, and Performance [ALP] (2.0 credits) – Includes courses in music, drama, dance, art, art history, literature (in English or another language), and literary theory.
  • Civilizations [CZ] (2.0 credits) – Includes courses in art history, history, philosophy, and religion.
  • Natural Sciences [NS] (2.0 credits) – Includes courses in biological, physical, and environmental sciences, as well as some psychology.
  • Quantitative Studies [QS] (2.0 credits) – These courses have as their main purpose instruction in a quantitative skill to achieve proficiency in mathematics, statistics, or computer science.  One of the 2.0 credits required must originate or be cross-listed in one of these three departments.
  • Social Sciences [SS] (2.0 credits) – Includes courses in African and African American studies; cultural anthropology; economics; environmental sciences and policy; linguistics; political science; psychology; public policy; sociology; and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies.
In addition to Areas of Knowledge, the curriculum requires completion of six Modes of Inquiry.

Three MOIs -- CCI, EI, and STS -- ensure that you’re exposed to important intellectual themes that transcend individual disciplines.  You need two courses in each of these categories.

The second set of MOIs -- FL, R, and W – is designed to help you develop critical proficiencies necessary for your success both in college and in the rapidly changing, complex world you’ll encounter after graduation.  You’ll need two R courses, 2 W courses (not counting Writing 101), and 1-3 foreign language courses (see details below).


  • Cross-Cultural Inquiry [CCI] (2.0 credits) -- CCI seeks to provide you with the tools to identify culture and cultural difference across time or place. It encourages critical and responsible attention to issues of identity, diversity, globalization, and power.
  • Ethical Inquiry [EI] (2.0 credits) -- Courses coded EI encourage you to develop and apply skills in ethical reasoning, to assess critically the consequences of actions, both individual and societal, and to sharpen your understanding of the ethical and political implications of public and personal decision-making.
  • Science, Technology, and Society [STS] (2.0 credits) -- Courses coded STS not only explore how science and technology have affected societal development but also how the needs of society have influenced scientific and technological development.
  • Foreign Language [FL] (1 to 3 Courses Required) -- The foreign language requirement may be met in different ways, depending upon the level at which you begin the study of the language in question.  If you begin your language study at Duke at the intermediate level or above, you can fulfill the language requirement by completing one 300-level course coded FL. See more detail.
  • Research [R] (2.0 credits) -- Courses coded R enable you to come to terms with the ways that new knowledge is created, organized, accessed, and synthesized in the various disciplines.
  • Writing [W] (Writing 101 and 2.0 additional credits coded W) -- To fulfill the Writing requirement, you must complete both of the following: Writing 101, in either the fall or spring of the first year, and two writing-intensive courses (coded W) in the disciplines, at least one of which must be taken after the first year.

This requirement is intended to ensure that you have the benefit of participating in courses with limited enrollment and ample opportunity for discussion and close collaboration with an instructor.  It has two parts:

Note: Transfer students with two or more semesters of course work from their previous institution have this requirement waived.

Small Group Learning Experience Requirement (2.0 credits) -- After the first year, you’ll complete 2.0 credits in small group learning experiences (SGLEs). This requirement can be fulfilled with 0.5 and 1.0 credit courses designated as seminars, tutorials, independent studies, or theses. 

Majors provide in depth exposure to one discipline and its methods, and they enable you to develop a measurable degree of expertise in that area. A listing of majors is available on the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences website, and specific course requirements are maintained on department and program websites. In general, 10 courses are needed to fulfill the requirements of a major.

Can I use AP or IB credits to satisfy some curricular requirements?

No.  Only courses taken at Duke (or formally transferred to Duke: see below) can be used to satisfy curricular requirements.  You can use up to 2 of these credits to count towards the 34 required to graduate, however, and an unlimited number to satisfy pre-requisites for advanced coursework in a particular department.


Do transfer courses taken at another institution carry codes?

Transfer courses carry Areas of Knowledge (AOK) but not Modes of Inquiry (MOI) codes.  In limited circumstances, you can petition for an inter-institutional or foreign language course to carry an MOI with justification (e.g., the language is not offered at Duke) and documentation of course content and requirements.  More details here and here.


Can I petition to add a code to a course I am currently taking or have taken?

No.  The curricular codes that appear on DukeHub for a course on the first day of class in any given semester are final. Those and only those codes will apply towards a student’s general education requirements. No additional codes will be awarded concurrently or retroactively to that particular offering of the course.

**Please note that independent studies are the exception to this rule – see below.


Do independent studies carry codes?

Yes.  Research independent study courses carry the R code.  You can also petition for a W code to be attached to one independent study by working with your faculty sponsor to incorporate a significant writing component into your work plan.  The work plan needs to be submitted for approval no later than the last day of drop/add for the term in which you're taking the course.


Can I use quarter- and half-credits courses to satisfy my AOK/MOI requirements?

Yes, but the total number of courses you can count from some departments, such as Dance and Music, is limited.  See Credit Limitations and Restrictions.


If a course carries two AOK codes, how do I decide which code I want counted?

You don’t need to decide.  The system will check your requirements to determine which categories you’ve completed and which you still need, and it will automatically assign the course to the one that’s outstanding.  For example, if you take a double-coded ALP and CZ course, and you already have two ALPs on your record but only one CZ, DukeHub will assign this course to the CZ category.


The course I’m thinking about taking doesn’t have any codes listed in DukeHub.  Is this an oversight?

No.  Some courses don’t carry curricular codes, though they may still be used to count towards the 34 required to graduate and/or the requirements of a particular major, minor, or certificate.