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Year 1

TriposComb-347-lecture.jpgBelow is the list of papers available in the first year. Students take a total of four papers: the two from Section A which are compulsory and two chosen from the list in Section B. At the end of the year, students sit a three-hour written examination in each of the four papers.

NOTE: Course guides displayed on this page are for papers currently offered under different Triposes, but which will form part of the PBS Tripos. As such they are for information only, papers are subject to change prior to the start of the course.


Section A

PBS 1: Introduction to Psychology

This course aims to introduce a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of Psychology. Through studying this course, students will develop their understanding of how the different approaches address specific topics within psychology. Topics are selected such that students without prior training in psychology will not be disadvantaged. After a brief introduction to the history of psychology, and its various sub-disciplines, a series of 5 broad topics will be explored. Each topic will be covered over 3 weeks, with research and ideas from different theoretical viewpoints being discussed and compared.


PBS 2: Psychological Enquiry and Methods

This course will be taught alongside the PBS 1: Introduction to Psychology course, with the aim of developing and understanding a range of techniques used within the psychological sciences. Along with the understanding of methodological issues, the course will also cover the fundamental components of biology (from genes to neurons) and research numeracy (presentation, probability and statistics) required to study psychology. Teaching will include practical sessions, giving the opportunity to experience how techniques work, and to develop specific research skills.


Section B

The list of papers available may vary from year to year but examples include:


ARC 1: Introduction to Archaeology

(From the first year of the HSPS Tripos)

This course provides a general introduction to archaeology.  Using case studies from across the globe, students are introduced to key thresholds in the human past, including:  the origins of the human species, the emergence of culture, the domestication of plants and animals, and the development of social inequalities and leadership.  Further themes include the analysis of archaic states and early empires, in addition to the impact of writing systems and the appearance of cities.   Students will learn methods and techniques (how archaeologists recover information and artefacts) as well as theory (used to explain how and why change occurs in human societies).   Students will gain an understanding of the diverse approaches used to think about the past, from ecological and evolutionary models, to current social theories and the post-colonial critique.  The place of archaeological heritage in the modern world is also discussed.  This paper is taught through a combination of lectures and practical sessions that give students opportunities to study artefacts from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.


BAN 1: Humans in Biological Perspective

(From the first year of the HSPS Tripos)

This paper provides a broad introduction to biological anthropology and covers major subject areas such as human origins, adaptation to different environments, life history and genetic diversity. The paper investigates behavioural and gene-environment interactions, and the ecology and adaptations of modern populations in the context of their growth, health and cultural variability. Specific topics covered include the burden of malnutrition and interrelationships with poverty, the role of nature and nurture in shaping human mind, and human communication and cognition. The paper concludes with two special topic modules: 1) What Infant chimpanzees teach us about Facebook, and; 2) Wildlife conservation in developing countries.


ED 1: Language, Communication, and Literacy

(Paper 2 from the first year of the Education Tripos)

This foundation paper considers a range of issues associated with children’s development and learning, with particular emphasis on the way different social and cultural formations affect language acquisition, communication, and literacy practices in Britain and in parts of the developing world.


NS 1: Evolution and Behaviour

(From the first year of the Natural Sciences Tripos)

This paper aims to introduce students to two main fields of whole organism biology. The course is taught jointly by the Departments of Zoology, Genetics, Biochemistry, Plant Sciences, Experimental Psychology and Biological Anthropology.


POL 1: Analysis of Politics

(From the first year of the HSPS Tripos)

This paper provides an introduction to some central questions, ideas and concepts about modern politics. It addresses the origins of the modern state and representative democracy and attempts to provide alternatives to them. It considers the arguments used to justify the modern state and representative democracy, the ethical and practical dilemmas in politics that they created, and the ways that they interact with ideas about liberalism, morality and religion.


EC 1: Microeconomics

(Paper 1 from the first year of the Economics Tripos)

This is the introductory paper in microeconomics. It analyses the interactions of agents motivated by economic self-interest, the link between market outcomes and market structure, and the criteria on which the results may be evaluated.



CS 1: Introduction to Computer Science

(Paper 1 from the first year of the Computer Science Tripos)

This paper gives a solid foundation in the fundamentals of computer science, including algorithm design, algorithm analysis, discrete mathematics, and software engineering. Students will develop practical programming skills through a range of practical classes and assessed exercises.


SAN 1: Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective

(From the first year of the HSPS Tripos)

This paper provides a general introduction to the aims, scope and methods of Social Anthropology through an exploration of three complementary avenues to the comparative study of human society and culture: ethnographic description and analysis of particular societies and cultures; the comparative study of social institutions; and the different theoretical approaches involved in description, analysis and comparison.


SOC 1: Modern Societies I: Introduction to Sociology

(From the first year of the HSPS Tripos)

The course introduces students to the discipline of sociology in two parts. In the Michaelmas term students are thoroughly acquainted with core sociological concepts and concerns (e.g. class, bureaucracy, social solidarity, social change).  We do this through a critical engagement with the ideas of three central figures in the history of modern sociological thought: Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim. Towards the end of Michaelmas and throughout Lent, we build on the foundations laid by the classical theorists and develop a systematic analysis of key institutions and aspects of modern societies including: the modern state and the rise of nationalism; citizenship and the welfare state; the media and public life; class and inequality; gender and the family.  We conclude with a broader reflection on the changing nature of modern societies in our contemporary global age.


PHIL 1: Metaphysics

(From the first year of the Philosophy Tripos)

This course examines a wide range of metaphysical topics of perennial interest. Many students will have encountered arguments for and against the existence of God. These arguments will be discussed in detail and also the problem of reconciling the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient benevolent God with the apparent existence of evil in the world. Other questions are whether causes must make their effects necessary, and likewise whether past events make the future inevitable. What is it to have free will? What is the relation between mental and physical phenomena? What is it to have a mind? The question of personal identity asks about the metaphysical nature of minded beings, in particular ourselves. What are we, metaphysically speaking?


PHIL 3: Logic

(From the first year of the Philosophy Tripos)

This course aims to introduce students to some basic issues in the philosophy of logic and language and to the idea of a formal logic. The key notion is the idea of a valid argument (e.g. All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; so, Socrates is mortal). Students will be introduced to two simple formal languages, those of truth-functional and first-order logic, and shown how validity is defined for each. They will practise  translation between English and these languages and reflect on the problems this generates. This task will assist the understanding of philosophical writings, many of which employ the symbols of truth-functional and first-order logic. Students will be introduced to the idea of formal derivations using natural deduction. They will also study the elements of probability theory, a part of mathematics that creates almost as many philosophical problems as it solves. The notion of meaning is central to the philosophy of logic and to the philosophy of language in general. The course covers the relationships between meaning and intention.