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Individualized study projects are credit-bearing academic experiences that provide you with the opportunity to pursue significant research, scholarship, or creative inquiry projects, or to pursue an academic topic in greater depth than the coverage of the topic in a class, with active faculty mentoring.
These types of projects are typically undertaken through independent study courses. Projects can be academic-oriented projects, such as "directed readings," which may include developing an annotated bibliography or conducting a literature review, or they can take the form of a specific research plan the outcome of which be a major research paper or report. Other projects included in the independent study framework are laboratory research, creative inquiry including poetry writing or studio art, and computer programming.
Participation in an individualized study project requires support and approval from both the faculty sponsor and, in most cases, the department.
Note that students may not be approved to pursue an independent study that covers the same material that is taught in courses offered as a regular part of a department’s curriculum.
If your work and the project goals are developed, guided, and evaluated primarily by your faculty mentor in collaboration with a community partner, it is likely designed as an action research or service-learning project, and should follow the procedures outlined on this page for independent study registration. There are additional steps to take in these cases.
If, however, your work is primarily assigned, guided, and evaluated by an on-site professional supervisor, it is better developed as an internship, and you should instead follow the H&S internship procedures.
If you are pursuing STEM laboratory- or field-based research in the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Studies and Sciences, or Physics, you do not need to complete a Learning Contract.
Instead, your first step is to consult with individual faculty members who lead research projects. The faculty mentor will let you know what the expectations are for success in the research course. They will also advise you on any next steps to take in the department, if required, to be approved.
For all other projects, you must prepare a Learning Contract, in consultation with a faculty sponsor, to be reviewed and approved by the department.
Some departments have their own Learning Contract forms or, in the case of honors projects, honors proposal processes. If not, you can utilize the H&S Learning Contract form, that is available for download.
The dean’s office does not review and approve Learning Contracts prior to your registration in the course.
Because these experiences are individualized, there is no established syllabus for the course designed by the faculty member. Instead, the Learning Contract serves as the syllabus for the course. It documents your preparation for the experience, outlines the project, determines the learning outcomes, and establishes the basis for evaluation (aka, how you will be graded in the course).
It is vitally important to collaborate with your faculty sponsor on the Learning Contract, so that you establish clear guidelines and mutual understanding of expectations. Ultimately, it is the faculty member’s responsibility to determine the basis for evaluation, just as they would for any other course that they are teaching.
Note that if your project involves research with living human beings, whether through surveys, interviews, or other face-to-face engagement, you may need to complete a human subjects proposal to be reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board before you begin the project.
Independent research projects that take place off-campus with community partners require additional information be sent directly to the dean’s office (to email@example.com):
information about the community partner, including name, title, and email address of contact, and name and address of organization
email from the community contact sent directly to firstname.lastname@example.org, confirming that they support your engagement with their organization.
Once you have been approved for the experience, the faculty sponsor or the department will submit an H&S Individualized Study Registration form on your behalf to have you registered for the appropriate section of the independent study course, for the right number of credits. This form is available through IC Workflow, and goes directly to the office of the registrar for processing.
Note that in order for registration to take place:
you must be in good academic standing without warning for grades (warning for credits alone is acceptable);
you must not have any holds on your student account;
you must have room in your schedule to permit the addition of the independent study course - if you are already registered in 18 credits, you either need to drop a course to make room for the independent study credits, or you need to complete the “over 18 credits” form available from the office of the registrar.
If you are not in good academic standing, and still wish to pursue an individualized study project, you may petition the dean’s office for permission to be enrolled in the independent study, once the department has approved the Learning Contract. Approval in this case is not guaranteed.
The Individualized Study Registration Form should be submitted no later than the last day of Add/Drop for fall/spring semesters, or by the registration deadlines for winter/summer sessions. Many departments have earlier deadlines in order for them to have time to review and approve Learning Contracts to meet the Add/Drop deadline. It is your responsibility to keep track of the deadlines.
We strongly recommend that, to the degree possible, individualized study be part of your academic planning during advising for the next semester’s registration. This will facilitate timely approval and registration, and insure that you are registered as a full-time student when the semester begins.
After Add/Drop, registration during the second week of classes requires additional approval from the Dean’s office, which is not guaranteed. Late adds of independent study courses cannot be approved after the second week of classes, except in exceptional circumstances.
Once you’ve been approved for registration, a copy of the Learning Contract, where applicable, should be sent by the department to the H&S Dean's Office (email@example.com) for our records.
You may also enroll in credit-bearing independent study courses during winter and summer sessions. Students enrolled in independent study courses during the winter or summer sessions will be charged per-credit tuition, at the rate established by the Office of Extended Studies (607-274-3143).
SUMMARY - Steps Needed for Individualized Study Registration
In consultation with a faculty mentor, develop a plan for an individualized study project. For STEM projects, talk to your faculty mentor about obtaining department approval.
For non-STEM projects, complete a Learning Contract and submit for department approval.
If your project involves service learning or action research in the community, you must submit additional documentation (see above for details) to the H&S Dean’s Office before your registration can be approved.
After you have been approved for the project, confirm that your faculty mentor or the department assistant will complete the H&S Individualized Study Registration form on your behalf (available thorough IC workflow).
The deadline to be approved for registration in an individualized study course is the last day of Add/Drop for either fall or spring semesters. Remember - if you need to submit a Learning Contract to be approved for the project, the department may have a much earlier deadline!