For Undergraduates

Getting Started in the Social Sciences

There are many sources of information about concentration options at Harvard College. The fields of concentration (FOC) section of the Handbook for Students offers an overview and list of tracks and required courses for each concentration. The Advising Programs Office 48 Book provides an introduction to each concentration that includes distinguishing features, a section on what alumni have done with their degrees, and a "Ways to Explore" page listing gateway courses. The undergraduate program (UGP) sections on each department and degree committee website present the most detailed information. We encourage you to use all of these resources as you plan your program of study.

African and African American Studies (AAAS) [FOC | Ways to Explore | Dept UGP]
To get a flavor of this field, consider any of the following introductory courses: AAAS 10: Introduction to African American Studies; AAAS 11: Introduction to African Studies; AAAS 16: Sociology of the Black Community; and AAAS 20: Introduction to African Languages and Cultures.

Anthropology (includes Archaeology) [FOC | Ways to Explore | Dept UGP]
To explore Anthropology, consider one or both of the introductory courses that are given every year: Anthro 1010: The Fundamentals of Archaeological Methods and Reasoning and Anthro 1600: The Ethnographic Encounter: An Introduction to Social Anthropology. The Gen Ed courses and First-year Seminars given by Anthropology faculty also provide engaging introductions to the fields. These are liable to change year to year, so please check this page for current offerings.

Economics [FOC | Ways to Explore | Dept UGP]
has created a guide for first-year students interested in the field.

Government (political science) [FOC | Ways to Explore | Dept UGP]
Interested first-year students should read this guide, and might want to consider any of the following courses: Gov 10: Foundations of Political Theory (spring); Gov 20: Foundations of Comparative Politics (fall); Gov 30: American Government - A New Perspective (fall); Gov 40: International Conflict and Cooperation (spring); Gov 50: Research Methods in Political Science (fall)

History [FOC | Ways to Explore | Dept UGP]
has a number of First-year Seminars and General Education courses suitable for first-year students, but they vary from year to year; visit this page for current listings.

History and Science (HS) [FOC | Ways to Explore | Dept UGP]
Introductory courses include HS 100: Knowing the World - Introduction to the History of Science, and three General Education courses: Culture & Belief 34: Madness and Medicine; Culture & Belief 47: The Darwinian Revolution; Ethical Reasoning 33: Medical Ethics and History.

Psychology [FOC | Ways to Explore | Dept UGP]
Science of Living Systems 20: Psychological Science is the main gateway course into psychology.

Social Studies [FOC | Ways to Explore | Dept UGP]
Concentrating in social studies requires a broad exposure to diverse social science fields, so first-year students might consider Ec 10 and/or an introductory Statistics course. Courses like Gov 10 or Gov 20 are useful to see if one actually finds political theory interesting and enjoyable. Additionally, the readings for those courses provide an introduction to a number of theorists and philosophers covered in Social Studies 10. Other introductory options include History 13a or any Ethical Reasoning course.

Sociology [FOC | Ways to Explore | Dept UGP]
Studying sociology is a great way to explore a new perspective on the world since many students take little or no sociology in high school. Sociology is an interdisciplinary social science that uses a variety of research methods, offering a broad perspective on social life. If you are interested in exploring sociology there are four routes to consider:

  1. You can take one of the courses designed to give you an introduction to the discipline including: Soc 24: Introduction to Social Inequality; Soc 25: Introduction to the Sociology of Organizations; Soc 26: Introduction to Global Social Change; Soc 27: Introduction to Social Movements.
  2. You can take an elective from among the 100-level courses (see current list) in an area that interests you.
  3. You can take a General Education course that is also a sociology course including: Societies of the World 44: Human Trafficking: Slavery and Abolition in the Modern World and United States in the World 24: Reinventing Boston: The Changing American City. For an updated list of such courses please contact Laura Thomas at lthomas@wjh.harvard.edu.
  4. If you have confidence that you are going to concentrate in sociology you can consider taking one of the following core courses that are required for concentrators: Soc 97: Social Theory (offered fall and spring); Soc 128: Models of Social Science Research (offered fall only).

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality [FOC | Ways to Explore | Dept UGP]
There is a growing collection of General Education courses offered by WGS faculty that are specifically designed to serve as gateways into the concentration, for instance, Aesthetic & Interpretive Understanding 26: Race, Gender, and PerformanceUnited States in the World 26: Sex and the Citizen: Race, Gender, and Belonging in the United States; and Culture & Belief 37: The Romance - From Jane Austen to Chick Lit. Interested students may also wish to take a First-year Seminar offered by WGS faculty (current listings).