The Ways of Knowing Requirements invite students to explore the fundamental question, “How do I know what I know?”

The question prompts students to evaluate the origins of knowledge, values, and beliefs, and to question and to revise their determinations when needed. Davidson’s Ways of Knowing Requirements aim to foster and guide students’ exploration of that fundamental question. They are designed to help students understand 1) the relationship between what we know and how we know it; 2) the ways interpretation, analysis, and expression differ across and within disciplines of the liberal arts; and 3) the ways scholars share information and ideas with one another and with the public.

Ways of Knowing Requirements

To satisfy these requirements, students must take one course in each of these areas:

Historical Thought (HTRQ)

Courses that seek to understand past human societies and how those societies have evolved over time. Examining documents and/or artifacts to construct broad narratives about the past and how human societies evolved; these courses reveal the constructed ways in which we understand the past and suggest the contingency of how we understand the present.

Literary Studies, Creative Writing and Rhetoric (LTRQ)

Courses that develop skills for creating and analyzing the complexities of language, form, and aesthetics through which speakers and writers represent the world or express their ideas about it. These courses explore written and oral forms of expression that invite creative interpretation.

Mathematical and Quantitative Thought (MQRQ)

Courses that study mathematical, programming, or statistical concepts. Some of these courses instruct students in making and analyzing numerically based claims about reality; others develop knowledge based on mathematical proof and problem-solving.

Natural Science (NSRQ)

Laboratory courses that study the natural and physical world through direct observation, experimentation, and/or analysis of empirical evidence. In these courses, students encounter concepts and models and test them against measurements of natural and physical processes, differentiating knowledge based on testable explanations of phenomena from other kinds of knowledge.

Philosophical and Religious Perspectives (PRRQ)

Courses on fundamental questions, philosophical reasoning, and religious thought and practices reflect on questions about knowledge, existence or the social and ethical world; reasoning about the derivation of positions, beliefs or values; or practices forming individual or community identity.

Social-Scientific Thought (SSRQ)

Courses that employ systematic analysis of qualitative, quantitative and/or ethnographic information drawn from the human world. These courses develop, test, and explain concepts and theories about human behavior, either individual or collective and differentiate knowledge derived from observations of the human world from other sorts of knowledge.

Visual and Performing Arts (VPRQ)

Courses that teach students to represent or express ideas or formulate arguments about how the world is represented in music, theatre, visual art, dance, and screen media. These courses help students build conceptual vocabularies for interpreting and communicating ideas about such works and the formal and aesthetic concerns related to them and/or understand how other have interpreted and communicated these ideas in historical contexts.

Requirements May Be Met With Credit From

No more than two credits attained prior to matriculation at Davidson (or, for transfer students, as a degree candidate at another college) may be applied to the satisfaction of Ways of Knowing requirements. Students may elect which two to apply and may change that selection as late as January of senior year. Selection is made or changed by official notification to the Registrar's Office. This includes the use of Advanced Placement test credit, International Baccalaureate test credit and AS and A-Level course credit.


  • Humanities Program: Students completing the two-course sequence will earn three credits and fulfill two Ways of Knowing requirements in addition to the writing requirement.
  • WRI 101 Writing in the Liberal Arts does not fulfill the Ways of Knowing Requirements.
  • A few departments offer courses with more than one course prefix (e.g., CLA, LAT, and GRE in the Classics Department, and MAT and CSC in the Mathematics Department). Courses with different designations, however, are sufficiently different to meet the goal of breadth across departments/programs.