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Northwestern University

Area II: Formal Studies

NOTE: Students who start taking classes at Northwestern after Spring 2023 should refer to the FD-EDR: Empirical and Deductive Reasoning page. The information below pertains to students who started at Northwestern Spring 2023 or earlier.

The area of formal studies introduces you to concepts, methods, and the use of formal rules of inference. All formal studies courses show how objects of thought and experience—and their relationships—can be analyzed in formal terms. They differ, however, in the data studied. For example, mathematics and statistics courses focus on numbers, while linguistics courses focus on structures and patterns in natural languages.

Why take courses in formal studies?

Becoming familiar with abstract languages or formal rules of inference, whether based on quantitative or symbolic methods, will enhance your ability to analyze and interpret masses of information intelligently, perceive patterns and order amid seeming confusion, and derive sound conclusions from explicit assumptions. It will also help you to communicate your reasoning and conclusions to others clearly and effectively.

Choosing courses

Review the list of approved courses in formal studies.

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