Independent Study

Upperclass students have the opportunity of studying a particular topic in-depth, under the supervision of one of the department’s faculty.


An independent study may take many forms. One possible approach is to carry out research on a particular issue or problem; another approach is to examine the general literature in a particular field for which we offer no courses. The content of the independent study will thus depend on the purposes of the study. Whatever approach the independent study takes, it should be kept in mind that the student's efforts should not significantly differ from the time commitments assigned to regular lecture courses. The goal of the independent study is to provide flexibility to learn.

Examining the Literature of a Field of Politics

If the goal is to examine the literature of a field of politics, the student should at a minimum provide evidence of:

  • A systematic reading program, covering some of the key books, articles, and other materials connected with the subject.
  • A review of that reading program. The review could take the form of an oral, written, or combined synthesis of the reading program.

Research About a Particular Subject or Theme

If the independent study is concerned with research about a particular subject or theme, the student should provide a written paper, with appropriate bibliographical entries.


  • Independent studies are designed for upperclassmen students.
  • Independent studies will not be used as substitutes for courses given by the department.
  • Normally, independent studies build upon previous coursework.


  • The initiative to arrange an independent study is with the student. Arrangements should be made well in advance of the semester for which independent study is proposed.
  • The student should work with the professor best able to assist the student's particular interests.
  • The student should expect to meet regularly with his advisor to ensure proper supervision.