I have been searching for succinct language for referring to how "advanced" a topic or skill might be. I've found things like Integrative Complexity and the Model of Hierarchical Complexity, which seems to describe a school of thought, but falls short of providing consistent language for comparing examples within that school of thought. By "advanced", I am intending to communicate a greater amount of pre-requisite knowledge and/or a higher degree of complexity.

I toyed around with some terminology such as "Depth of Knowledge Required" at first, but it seemed lacking to me for some reason.

Is there a published set of language one could refer to in order to describe the concept of how advanced/complex a particular topic or skill is?

An example application where this terminology would be helpful could be in determining what the appropriate course of action would be to introduce a concept/topic to another person. For clarification, how would I compare the following two examples:

Computational Genomics in general might require additional knowledge compared to biological taxonomy

Non-linear dynamics involves many more pre-requisites than does algebra.

It's not that either option can't be complex or involve high level work, but to engage with the topic for the first time one clearly would be more difficult to approach than the other.

  • What do you mean by topic and where is this topic, anyway?? Who is expounding it?
    – Lambie
    Apr 17, 2019 at 18:13
  • @Lambie topic here was meant to describe a subject matter, in an academic sense. I suppose it could be broad or narrow. There was no one specific subject or skill in mind at the time of asking the question. Would a specific example help? Apr 17, 2019 at 18:17
  • Well....it seems to me that there are topics and topics. A topic can only be advanced in a specific context. Also, yes, I wonder what you actually mean. I think you mean: in-depth topics.
    – Lambie
    Apr 17, 2019 at 18:20
  • @Lambie Added an edit with example. This has been challenging to communicate, thank you for your thoughts! Apr 17, 2019 at 18:34
  • Ok,well individuals have knowledge: beginner knowledge of a topic, intermediate knowledge of a topic and advanced knowledge of a topic. Can't see how else one might word this. So,to correct your question, it is not how advanced a topic is. It is how much knowledge an individual has of a topic. Right? And for the topics themselves, we get: advanced mathematics, advanced physics. graduate and post-graduate topics.
    – Lambie
    Apr 17, 2019 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


I think you've already used the best (and probably the most well-known) word for the concept of "Depth of Knowledge Required" in your question:

level (n.)

A position in a scale or rank (as of achievement, significance, or value) m-w

Teaching is central to what goes on in the classroom. The demands placed on the teachers are considerable. Quite apart from the need for a high level of knowledge and skills related to the subject(s) that they teach, there is also the need for a good understanding of group dynamics, classroom management... K. Mallick and G. Verma; Researching Education

The book is aimed at the graduate and advanced-level student and is intended to provide instruction in the application of modeling techniques in molecular and cell biology. ... We expect the readers of this book to include cell biologists, developmental biologists, geneticists, structural biologists, and mathematical biologists, as well as the computational neuroscience community. J. M. Bower and H. Bolouri; Computational Modeling of Genetic and Biochemical Networks

In this text we work with students to give them a smooth and successful passage, at whatever level of study they are at, with the aim of trying to make studying a more enjoyable enterprise. E. Mason-Whitehead and T. Mason; Study Skills for Nurses

This may not be important from the view of gaining a qualification but it may be a very important factor in preventing that student from acquiring new knowledge at the next level. There are assumptions made at each level of study regarding prior knowledge...It may be the system of study that is at fault in not making sure that new knowledge is present only when prerequisite knowledge has been acquired. R. Ellis et al.; Applications and Innovations in Intelligent Systems VII

(My college roommate was a math major and went on to get his PhD and teach at a university. I remember his remarking to me that no matter how far along he was getting in his math studies, almost all his books had titles beginning with Introduction to... In other words, everything is indeed relative.)

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