Independent Study FAQs – Nicholas School Undergraduate Programs

Independent Study FAQs

WHAT CAN AN INDEPENDENT STUDY COURSE COUNT FOR?

  • Independent study courses count toward the 34 course credits needed for graduation.
  • Both Independent Study and research Independent Study courses count as a Small Group Learning Experience (SGLE).
  • Courses officially titled “Independent Research Study,” coded R, count toward the Research requirement.
  • One Independent Study or Independent Research Study course may be submitted toward the WID (Writing in the Discipline) requirement; for more information on that option and the form that must be submitted by student and advisor, see Independent Study (Research) “W” coding. The “W” designation may be appropriate for a second or third semester Research Independent Study credit. Briefly, it entails several iterations of written parts or whole paper or written reports.
  • One Independent Research Study course may count as an upper-level elective for the majors/minors in Environmental Science & Policy or Environmental Sciences, provided the course is not also being used to satisfy requirements for Graduation with Distinction.
  • Independent Study courses may count as upper-level electives for the majors/minors in Earth and Ocean Sciences; an Earth and Ocean Science major pursuing the two-semester Graduation with Distinction may count one course as an upper-level elective.
  • For Environment majors, the Independent Study counts toward the “Independent study, internship or field experience” requirement for the major.

WHO MAY REGISTER FOR AN INDEPENDENT STUDY?

Students may pursue independent research at any time during their college career, but most students opt to register for an Independent Study course during the junior and/or senior years. Students intending to apply for Graduation with Distinction are expected to register in two consecutive independent research studies with the same faculty mentor.

HOW DO I GO ABOUT FINDING A FACULTY MENTOR OR RESEARCH TOPIC?

A successful independent study matches student, mentor and research topic.  There are two ways to approach this.

First, if you have a research idea or general topic you would like to study, look for a faculty member to supervise your work.  You may explore the Nicholas School faculty listing to see who specializes in your area.  You may also speak with your advisor, the DUS, the undergrad program office or even co-majors for suggestions. Once you have someone in mind, email or visit him/her to propose your idea. Alternatively, you may not have a clear idea of the topic you want to study, but you know of a faculty member whose work you are interested in (perhaps you met him/her in a previous course).  Make an appointment with the faculty member to explore possible ideas together. See the Undergraduate Research Support office for advice on how to contact potential mentor.

Once you have identified a mentor that is willing to work with you, meet to discuss the weekly schedule, the timeline for the semester (what outcome is expected and when), the expectations and rules.