The foundation modules are three modules which prepare students for later work in the University Scholars Programme. They consist of modules in Writing & Critical Thinking, Quantitative Reasoning, and the University Scholars Seminar. You are encouraged to take these modules early in your USP career, and should aim to finish all three modules before the end of your second academic year at NUS.

Writing and Critical Thinking

(to be read in 1st or 2nd semester of enrollment)
Modules in this area will help you read and think critically, engage with texts rather than simply repeating them, and to write persuasively. Each module is organised around a series of fascinating questions that you will investigate from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

WCT is a foundational academic domain in the USP.

Programme Outcomes
This is our set of outcomes: the things we would like our students to learn in the Writing and Critical Thinking Programme.

Core UWC2101 Outcomes

Students should be able to:

  • demonstrate the ability to analyse evidence that is both genre- and audience-appropriate
  • write with a clear purpose and focus so as to participate in interdisciplinary academic inquiry
  • participate in scholarly conversations through intellectual engagement with secondary texts

Core UWC2101 Policies

  • Each class requires 18-22 pages of polished prose.
  • WCT instructors emphasise process-based pedagogies, including conferences, peer reviews, and multiple drafts for each writing assignment.
  • Instructors will hold 2-6 conferences with every student in the class.
  • Each class will conduct peer reviews. These can cover a range: from informal peer-review activities, to up to 3 formal peer reviews.
  • Writing assignments cover at least 2 genres. In the longer term faculty will emphasise genre pedagogies.
  • At least 1 of the genres covered is the researched argument. Students will learn to do library research and credit sources properly.
  • All formal writing assignments go through revision and reflection processes, which means that there are at least 2 drafts per formal assignment.
  • Instructors will provide rigorous feedback on students’ writing. This can take a variety of forms, for example written or video feedback, or a combination of both as appropriate in the instructor’s view.
  • The teaching load consists of 2 sections per semester so that faculty can sustain a high level of personalised, intensive, hands-on instruction and feedback to students. For the same reasons, class size is capped at 12 students per section.
  • Faculty should be able to choose from a range of handbooks.

The Writing Centre
Staffed by trained student assistants, the Writing Centre offers one-on-one conferences to students who are writing papers for any USP module.

An annual journal published by the Writing Programme, folio showcases the best student essays produced in our University Scholars Writing & Critical Thinking modules.

Related Web Resources

A list of resources to help writers on various subjects, ranging from writing for specific disciplines, to research, to citation and stylistic matters.

For the full list of WCT Programme Outcomes, please see:

Quantitative Reasoning Foundation (QRF)

The Quantitative Reasoning Foundation (QRF) module introduces students to the basics of quantitative reasoning, defined broadly as "the way in which we can use numbers to provide evidence for our arguments." It does so by examining a specific substantive topic whose claims can be assessed quantitatively. Such substantive topics include: evaluating our individual eco-footprint (UQF2101E), quantifying nuclear risk (UQF2101G) or environmental quality (UQF2101I), and assessing the relationship between democracy and war (UQF2101H). Each module section is limited to 25 students.

In taking the module, students will gain an appreciation that, for many questions/issues, a quantitative analysis can provide the insight and clarity that complements and moves beyond what might be gained through a qualitative approach. QRF also helps prepare students for Inquiry-tier modules in the USP Sciences and Technologies Domain. The module is required for all USP students entering the program in Sem1 of AY 2012/13 or later. USP students are required to take QRF within their first three semesters of enrolling.

Programme Outcomes

Upon completion of the QRF, students should be able to:

  • Understand and be able to articulate the basic intuition and logic that undergirds quantitative analyses.
  • Demonstrate how this logic can be applicable to questions in their own fields of study.
  • Become more critical consumers of quantitative knowledge through their increasing ability to read, interpret, and think critically about the use of numbers in the material they encounter daily.
  • Discuss the purpose, strengths, and weaknesses of quantitative analysis, both in the abstract, and in the consideration of any given particular phenomenon, issue, or question.

More specifically, students should be able to:

  • Name the steps of the scientific method as it applies to quantitative research, describe the relevant tasks associated with each step, and be able to perform these tasks correctly.
  • Have a particular awareness of (1) the role that theoretical concepts and their empirical operationalization play in the research process; and (2) the importance of “falsifiability”.
  • Be able to: (1) build datasets by gathering and organizing numerical data, (2) compute basic descriptive statistics, (3) perform basic statistical analyses (in the form of linear regression), and (4) interpret the descriptive statistics and regression results.
  • Have familiarity with the concept of “significance,” in the statistical sense, and be able to explain why it is central to the very notion of quantitative reasoning.

Each QRF module will also have Learning Objectives that are unique to the module’s substantive topic, to encourage students to connect specific knowledge of the substantive topic with the above QR objectives.


The QR Centre

The QR Centre provides help primarily to USP students currently reading the QRF module. Yet, it also invites USP students, regardless of whether they are reading a QRF module, to work on QR-related assignments in the Centre. There is no need for appointment for the QR Centre. All USP students can just drop in anytime during the Centre’s operating hours. Check for details at or read about its launch.

University Scholars Seminar

Overarching goal: To begin to develop your ability to recognise potential problems and needs more readily and with greater accuracy than others.

Key words: Intellectual curiosity, Reflective learning, Exposure to multi-disciplinarity

What to expect: You will be treated to a four-fold stroll through big ideas on human inquiry and the nature of the world. Four different professors will introduce you to, and help you reflect upon the different modes of inquiry that constitute the modern knowledge enterprise.

Learning Outcome:

1. USS is (part of) the beginning of your USP academic journey, a goal of which is ultimately to shape independent, adaptable thinkers and doers who will make an impact in the world. And to do that, we want to help you develop your ability to recognize potential problems and needs more readily; with greater accuracy than others.

2. USS serves the larger goals of the USP academic journey by treating you to a four-fold stroll through big ideas on human inquiry and the nature of the world, where four different instructors with different intellectual backgrounds will introduce to, and help you reflect upon different modes of inquiry that constitute the modern knowledge enterprise.

3. By introducing you to these ideas, we seek to leverage upon your existing curiosity in subjects that go beyond your specializations, and also to encourage you to seek out new things to learn. You might have a stronger background in the sciences or in the humanities, but as USP students, we know that you have wider intellectual ambitions—and USS is here to give you a taste of that wider field.

4. We also want you to reflect upon what you learn. The point of the modulets is not deep specialization (the majors are for that); rather, we want to show you how we can and ought to make critical audits of our knowledge, views, and approaches to understanding the world around you. The day will come when the reflection thing becomes the main point—in the capstone USR. The USS is the just the start of the process that will take you there.