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UNIV 111

Focused Inquiry is about asking questions. Good questions. Thoughtful questions. Probing questions. And all kinds of questions: What is the meaning of justice? Are pharmaceutical companies responsible for the opioid epidemic? Why is there a decline in the global birth rate? What is the cultural function of cosplay?

UNIV 111 is divided up into three theoretically and thematically connected units. These units are:

  • Experience/Culture/Text
  • Text/Context
  • Context/Argument

As the first part of a three-semester course sequence, UNIV 111 builds the foundational skills essential for success in both the students chosen field of study at VCU and in their profession. We think about what makes a good question. We think hard about the meanings of the questions we ask and about what kinds of evidence might answer those questions, whichever way the evidence leads (critical thinking). We ask ethical questions—questions about what we should or should not do—and we contextualize our claims for people with different beliefs (ethical reasoning). We find credible evidence in reliable sources and critically interpret that evidence (information fluency). We analyze statistics in those sources, considering the meaning behind those numbers and how they help us understand and answer our questions (quantitative literacy). We work with others to formulate good questions, to seek answers, and to present our findings (collaborative work). And we present, individually and collectively, the answers to questions, both in writing and in speech and in a variety of contexts (written communication and spoken communication).

What we’ve just described are the seven core skills of Focused Inquiry:

  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Ethical Reasoning
  3. Information Fluency
  4. Quantitative Literacy
  5. Collaborative Work
  6. Written Communication
  7. Spoken Communication

None of these skills can stand alone; they depend on one another. Thought without expression is inert. Evidence without data is guesswork. Evidence without responsibility is dangerous. And so on. Taken together, these seven skills are the foundation not only of academic work but also of the intellectual skepticism and rigor required of engaged and responsible citizens.

Virginia Commonwealth University

Department of Focused Inquiry

Harris Hall, 5th Floor
1015 Floyd Avenue
Box 842015
Richmond, Virginia 23284-2015

Phone: 804-827-0838

Updated: 6/7/2019

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