Independent Study Guidelines

Independent Study in English provides a means for students to expand, enrich, or deepen their understanding of an aspect of their classroom study, or to undertake an investigation in a subject not covered in a regular course. This specialized and advanced learning opportunity can be focused on literature or creative writing. The guidelines below should help in discerning if independent study is an appropriate opportunity and if so, how to include it in a course of study.


This program is intended for English majors who are pursuing upper-level work and are not normally granted on topics taught in the Department’s regular curriculum. Students are required to have a 3.0 cumulative grade point average, and in addition, should be self-motivated, self-disciplined, and intellectually independent. In an independent study, students are responsible for the work; the faculty member will not organize the project for you; rather he/she will advise the student on the project.


A faculty member in the English department must agree to serve as a student’s independent study advisor. Students should make an appointment with the faculty member they would like to work with, so that they can present verbally and somewhat informally their proposal for an independent research topic or project. Students should have a fairly definite study topic, or project, in mind before meeting with the faculty member. Faculty advisors should not be expected to come up with a topic or project. The faculty member may either tentatively accept the verbal proposal, or decline the verbal proposal. If the verbal proposal is accepted, students must then write a “study proposal” and submit it to the (tentative) faculty advisor for approval. (Study topics should not duplicate what is covered in the regular course offerings.)

Study Proposal and Approval

After the verbal proposal has been tentatively approved, students must write a “study proposal” of no more than one page in length, and should include the following: a summary statement of the area to explore or the problem or issue on which to work; a reading list or bibliography; and a description of the types of assignments (e.g. the number and types of papers, oral reports, or research projects). The written study proposal must be approved and signed by the faculty advisor.

Approval for an independent study is granted when a faculty member has signed the study proposal.

Work Schedule

The student and the advisor must agree in writing on a work schedule, which will include: a meeting schedule and due dates for assignments. Students are responsibility for adhering to this schedule, and may be dropped from independent study if they do not adhere to it. Students are expected to work largely on their own.

Grades and Credit

Once independent study has been approved, students must register for this “course” in order to receive standard credit. Faculty advisors will assign standard grades at the end of the semester.