Independent Study

For students with well-defined goals and motivation, independent study provides a way to earn academic credit while pursuing a topic or project of particular interest that is not offered as an organized class.

Not all graduate degree plans in the School of Arts and Humanities allow independent study courses as part of their curriculum, and those degree plans that do allow independent study courses limit the number of these courses that are applicable to the degree. Always be sure to check your specific degree plan if you are interested in undertaking an independent study course.

The subject of an independent study may arise from a student's own experience and interests or may derive from a class. In some cases, the independent study will involve frequent and regular meetings; in others, the student may meet with the faculty supervisor only a few times during the semester. A course of independent study might comprise a research topic culminating in one or several papers, a series of readings accompanied by short papers or an annotated bibliography, artistic explorations in the visual arts or creative writing, or other academically appropriate activities.

Independent studies are also frequently used in order to prepare the MA portfolio, the MA thesis, or the MA final project; to prepare for the doctoral field examinations; and to prepare the dissertation proposal.

Independent study courses do not satisfy the requirement in the PhD Program in Humanities to complete five 7000-level courses.

Students considering pursuing an independent study should identify for themselves their area of interest and contact a faculty member appropriate to this area of interest to act as faculty supervisor. Normally, a student should approach a faculty member with whom he or she has already taken at least one class. Students should note that faculty members are under no particular obligation to accept students for independent study, since these are always an addition to the faculty member's teaching load. Therefore, students should be prepared to demonstrate that they are capable of defining, organizing, and completing an independent course of study.

Normally, only regular Arts and Humanities faculty members supervise independent study. Visiting faculty and part-time lecturers do not normally supervise independent study. Students may consult the list of faculty members to determine the rank of potential supervisors. Students will normally register for three hours of credit under the independent studies course number in their program area and at their level (MA or PhD) of study.

Once a faculty member has agreed to supervise a course of independent study, the student and faculty member should come to a clear understanding of the nature and scope of the project and its goals as specified in writing in the Application and Registration for Independent Study.

In all cases, the written description of the project should indicate the aim and scope of the project, which must be related to the demonstrated expertise of the supervisor, and contain a preliminary list of relevant readings (all entries must be complete and in conformity with MLA or Turabian citation style.) The final product for the independent study must be specified, indicating both the kind and the scope of the requirement (i.e., a fifteen-page paper, an annotated bibliography of twenty texts, a five-minute video, etc.).

The Application and Registration for Independent Study is signed by the student and faculty supervisor and turned in to the Graduate Advisor or the Graduate Coordinator. It is then submitted to the appropriate administrator (program head or Associate Dean) for approval. Applications for independent studies may be returned to the student for revision at every stage, so be sure to allow sufficient time for the entire approval process. Only once approval has been granted will the independent study be granted the appropriate CRN and section number and the Registrar be contacted, enabling registration.