Independent Study

Students may request to enroll in independent study after their freshman year.

In the sophomore and junior years, independent study cannot exceed 8 credits, and it is usually undertaken at the 295 level. Seniors may take a flexible range of credits of independent study at either the 295 or 395 levels. Students may not count more than 16 credits of their independent study towards the 128 credits required for graduation. A 300-level independent study cannot count toward the 12 credits of 300-level work required for the major.

Independent studies accommodate a range of projects. For an independent study that is designed to become an honors thesis, please refer to the thesis section on this site.

How do I begin an Independent Study?

1. Students who wish to undertake independent study should obtain permission from the faculty member with whom they wish to work. Students should start the conversation early. Pre-registration is not required.
2. Students should submit a one-page proposal (300 words) to the independent study advisor they have consulted, on the Monday of the last week of classes the semester before they wish to start an independent study. The statement should include:

  • name, class year, name of the academic advisor, major/minor;
  • an informal transcript;
  • courses taken in the major;
  • a tentative/working title;
  • name of the preferred supervisor;
  • a description of the topic of study;
  • relevant study/research experience;
  • a proposed methodology/design for study (e.g., guided reading, literature review, participant-observation, ethnographic interviews, survey analysis, etc.);

Request for independent study 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 to work with another faculty member.

Completing an Independent Study  

1. Faculty supervisor requests an independent study section from the Registrar and the student registers via my.mtholyoke.

2. If independent study includes research involving human subjects, students must discuss their plans for completing the Institutional Review Board (IRB) review process with their advisors.

3. Students should meet with their supervisors in the first week of the semester to discuss the timeline of the study, to arrange regular meetings to undertake it, and to decide about the final product that is to be delivered at the end of the semester. Exact details of the arrangements are left to the student and faculty member involved. Students should prepare a study timeline before coming to this first meeting to get the advisor’s approval.

4. The deadline for submitting first full draft of the final product to the supervisor is the second to last week of classes. If the work is intended to qualify for honors, an earlier deadline will apply.

5. The deadline for submitting the final draft is 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 and the American Sociological Association Style Guide.