Academic Inquiry Seminars

Academic Inquiry Seminars (AIQS) offer an introduction to the forms and processes of academic writing at the university. They focus on helping students develop effective writing processes & contribute to meaningful scholarly and community conversations. 


Students complete a First-Year Writing Seminar Selection process prior to matriculation, in order to determine which of several environments will provide the best seminar experience for them. (This process is sometimes also referred to as "Directed Self-Placement" or DSP.) Each Academic Inquiry Seminar meets the same course outcomes and receives equivalent academic credit. 

  • Topical Seminars (AIQS 100) are organized around a topic of study, through which comprehensive instruction in academic writing is delivered. The majority of first-year students will take Topical AIQS.

  • Foundations Seminars (AIQS 110) provide more direct writing support to students who need or want more experience with the writing process. These courses provide students with opportunities to develop their own writing processes and their confidence about their ability to perform college level writing.

  • Seminars for Non-Native Speakers of English (AIQS 120) are designed for students whose first language is not English (including students who have attended high school in English-speaking countries) and who need or want direct support in reading and writing in academic English. These courses devote extra time to grammatical, rhetorical, and other concerns specific to non-native speakers of English; they are taught by faculty members who have special training in teaching English as a second/other language.

    • Some students may begin their experience in an Academic English Seminar (AIAE 100), which is designed to improve the fundamental reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills of students for whom English is not their first language. This course is taken prior to enrollment in an Academic Inquiry Seminar; it earns regular academic credit, but it does not satisfy the AIQS requirement.

AIQS Learning Outcomes

During their AIQS experiences, students will:

  • Establish the dispositions, habits, and writing processes that support successful academic engagement
  • Participate in academic inquiry by formulating questions based on information gaps or by reexamining existing information, and by contributing their own insights
  • Think critically and deliberate ethically about differences in values and assumptions, including describing the way that systems privilege some perspectives and present barriers to others
  • Identify and use (analyze, engage with, attribute appropriately) authoritative information sources and scholarly concepts in written, oral, and/or multimodal projects
  • Effectively communicate information and ideas in formats appropriate to the assignment and in ways that meet the needs/expectations of the audience, context, and purpose


Sample AIQS 100 Course Descriptions

AIQS 100: The Sound of the City - The Local and Global in Cleveland Popular Music

For all its celebrated connection to rock and roll, Cleveland is home to a wide variety of musical genres: jazz, polka, hip-hop, punk, R&B, blues, pop, among many others. Cleveland is also a home on the move, a city of immigration and outmigration, and a city of waterways, bridges, and commuter rails. Yet Cleveland is a city of enclaves, borders, and social distance despite geographic nearness. In this seminar, we will ask a fundamental question: is music like a bridge that connects different people in the city or is it a border that structures divisions? To answer this question, we will explore recordings, obituaries, journalism, and archival material to understand the sound of the city over time. We will examine the links between dominant and subcultural music, analyze music’s relationship to tourism, and reflect on how music defines Cleveland’s place in the global imagination. Music, at once rooted in identity and as rootless as radio waves, presents an alternate lens for understanding the routes and rifts shaping urban life.

AIQS 100: Global Food Challenges - Climate, Health, and Equity

In this seminar, we will examine the environmental, social, and health consequences of our food choices. Among other topics, we delve into the history of agriculture and industrial agriculture; the impact of the global food system on climate change; food insecurity; environmental racism in the food system; Black and Indigenous ecologies; and food waste. We look at the food system as both a significant cause of ongoing social, health, and environmental issues and a crucially important lever to optimize environmental sustainability and human health through community-centered regenerative and transformative solutions. Students will also engage with food and sustainability initiatives on campus and in our Cleveland community and visit a farmer’s market nearby.

AIQS 100: High Art & Guilty Pleasures

How, and why, do we draw distinctions between art and entertainment? Lowbrow and highbrow? A crowd-pleasing *flick* and a critic-approved *film*? This seminar will explore the logic of this common sorting process, as well as its consequences. After all, such distinctions have historically been linked with other forms of discrimination—often amplifying or silencing certain voices on the basis of gender, race, or class. In this course we will investigate these connections between critical evaluation and broader social dynamics, while also engaging critically with our own tastes, values, and received ideas. What makes *The Great Gatsby* so great? Is there any value in keeping up with the Kardashians? Who determines the criteria that make one work a *classic,* the other a *guilty pleasure*? Traversing a range of artworks, novels, comics, and movies, we’ll work both the high and the low ends of the cultural spectrum, paying special attention to works that seem to blur or combine the usual categories—compelling us to ask whether great art and guilty pleasures can sometimes be one and the same.