Independent Study


Students may request to undertake independent work after their freshman year. A maximum of eight credits of such work can be elected in the sophomore and junior years, usually at the 295 level. Seniors may take a flexible range of credits of independent study at either the 295 or 395 levels. In all, a maximum of 16 credits of independent study can be included in the 128 credits required for graduation. Note that 300-level independent work cannot be applied toward the 12 credits of 300-level work required for the Anthropology major.

Independent Study Requirements

Independent study courses are flexible in order to accommodate a range of projects. We nevertheless offer the following suggestions for initiating and completing an independent study. In the case of an independent study that is designed to become a thesis, students must meet a more stringent set of requirements. These are laid out in the thesis section of this website.

Initiating and Completing an Independent Study

Note:  students do not need to pre-register for an independent study

1. Students should obtain permission from the faculty member with whom they wish to work. Because there is some demand for faculty supervision of independent work, students are more likely to be accepted if they start the process early.

2. Students should submit a one-page statement of interest (300 words) to their independent study advisor in the last week of classes the semester before they intend to start an independent study. The deadline is the Monday of the last week of classes each semester. The statement should include:

  • name, class year, advisor’s name, major/minor
  • courses taken in the major
  • relevant research experience
  • a tentative/working title;
  • a description of the research problem or research program;
  • a proposed methodology or research design (e.g., guided reading, participant-observation, survey analysis, ethnographic interviews, library research project, etc.);
  • name of the preferred advisor; and an informal transcript.

The statement of intent may be denied if the proposal is not well formulated, or if the faculty member is overcommitted for the semester in question.  In the latter case, students may be given the option of working with another faculty member, or may be encouraged to develop their work in the context of ANTH/SOC 226: Research in Sociology and Anthropology. 

Once approved:

3. The faculty advisor will request an independent study section from the Registrar; the student then registers via MyMountHolyoke.

4. Students who plan to conduct research involving human subjects should explain their plans for completing the Institutional Review Board (IRB) review process and must have their IRB proposal materials reviewed and approved by their supervisor before submitting them:

5. The student prepares a timeline for delivering drafts to the advisor.

6. The student meets with the advisor in the first week of the semester to approve the timeline and arrange regular meetings to discuss the work. Exact details are left  to the student and faculty member involved.

7. The final deadline for submitting first full draft to the supervising faculty member is the second to last week of classes.

8. The final draft is submitted on the first Monday of the final examination period.

References and Bibliographies

All independent study papers must be referenced completely, accurately, and according to departmental and disciplinary requirements.

See the American Anthropological Association Style Guide.

Thesis students must follow the College guidelines for formatting and submission: