L&S Guidelines for Topics Courses

"Topics" courses provide departments and programs with flexible tool for exploring new topics and emerging areas of study. They may also provide a mechanism for offering courses that are taught infrequently. This document discusses these considerations, and offers advice from the L&S Curriculum Committee concerning how best to use topics courses as part of a holistic curricular planning approach.


“Topics” courses are types of courses that have a general catalog-level title and a variable section-level title determined by the department. They serve as broad categories within a particular field, under which a range of more narrow subjects may be taught.

Topics courses allow flexibility in the curriculum, so the faculty can experiment with new courses, offer instruction in areas that are not part of the regular course array, take advantage of the expertise offered by visiting professors, or to provide a “holding” place while a course is awaiting approval. These are tools to use when departments want to offer courses that don’t appear often enough, or that aren’t broad enough, to justify creating a regular course.

Considerations When Developing Topics Courses

Department-Level criteria to ensure topics courses are used appropriately should include:

Please contact Kimbrin Cornelius at kimbrin.cornelius@wisc.edu if you have more questions about topics courses.