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Special Subjects: Guidelines

What is a special subject?
What is NOT considered a special subject?
Title and Description Guidelines
Numbering Guidelines

What is a special subject?

A subject that is taught in a classroom or laboratory setting under one of the following circumstances:

  1. as a pilot or a subject that will be taught only once;

  2. as a new subject introduced outside the normal catalog review cycle, most commonly to accommodate subjects that will be taught by new or visiting faculty;

  3. as an experiment in using an alternate method of teaching an established subject, without affecting the availability of the established version of that subject.

Special subjects are introduced at the discretion of the sponsoring department using catalog numbers reserved for that purpose. A specific subject may be offered twice as a special subject; after that, it must either be dropped or added to the permanent curriculum with a permanent number assigned to it. Departments are encouraged to create special subject numbers that correspond to each unique set of attributes (e.g., level, grading rules, duration) that applies to their curriculum. Because these numbers may be “recycled” from term to term, departments need only create as many numbers as necessary to correspond to the number of offerings by type that they will offer in a particular term.

Special subjects may not be used to create a joint listing with a permanent subject. Under certain circumstances, a special subject may be joined in a meets-with or equivalent relationship with a permanent subject with the express approval by the appropriate Faculty committee.  Any subject that is either required for a degree or will carry GIR credit must be approved by the appropriate Faculty committee as a permanent subject. 

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What is NOT considered a special subject?

The following types of subjects are not considered special subjects:

  1. Subjects that have a consistent and specific theme or disciplinary focus, but may have a different topical emphasis with each offering. If the content of each offering is unique, these subjects may usually be repeated for credit, with the permission of the instructor.

  2. Independent study subjects

  3. Guided research subjects

  4. Advanced seminars within disciplines

  5. Pre-thesis subjects, including pre-thesis research

  6. Thesis design or research subjects

  7. A practicum, professional workshop, internship, or field work experience

  8. Subjects intended as a permanent part of the curriculum, either as part of a degree program or as a General Institute Requirement (GIR)

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Title and Description Guidelines

The official catalog description for any type of special subject should be brief and broad in focus. Both the title and transcript title should identify the area of study. Avoid using the word “topics” in the title. Examples of acceptable titles:

    • Special Problems: Physics
    • Special Subject: Architectural Studies
    • Special Seminar: Management
    • Special Laboratory Subject: EECS

    The following types of titles are reserved for permanent subjects:

    • Advanced Topics in …
    • Advanced Seminar in …
    • Current Topics in …
    • Current Problems in …
    • Current Research in …
    • Research Seminar in …
    • Study Abroad in …
    • Topics in …

    As is currently the case, departments may publicize their special subjects as they would any other subject. At their discretion, departments may provide alternate titles and descriptions outside of the Catalog to inform students of the content of these subjects. However, these subjects will be identified on students’ transcripts by the official title in the Catalog. Departments are responsible for managing the use of special subject numbers and for maintaining an archive of their special subject offerings.

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    Numbering Guidelines

    Special subjects are identified in CIS with the letter "S" as the first character after the decimal point of the subject number. That letter must be followed by a minimum of two numbers.  For example:

    • 2.S900
    • CMS.S01

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