Independent Study


Students may request to undertake independent work after the completion of 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.

Independent Study Requirements

There are no formal requirements for independent studies in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. These courses are intended to be flexible to cover a range of possible individual projects. However, the department wholeheartedly endorses the suggestions for initiating and completing an independent study included on this site. In the case of an independent study with a view to submitting 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 get in touch with the faculty member with whom they wish to work to secure his or her permission. Note that there is some demand for faculty supervision of independent work, so the earlier the process starts the more likely to be accepted.

2. Students should submit a one-page statement of interest (300 words) to their independent study adviser in the last week of classes THE SEMESTER BEFORE starting 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
  • an informal transcript.

Once approved:

3. The faculty advisor requests an independent study section from the Registrar; the student may then register for independent study 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

The paper must be referenced completely, accurately, and according to departmental and disciplinary requirements.

See the American Sociological Association Style Guide.

The independent study paper should be submitted to the faculty advisor on the first Monday of the final examination period.