Guidelines for an Independent Study
The independent study is a student-designed study on a topic, program, or project of choice. At Hampshire College it is defined as ’work, designed by the student in consultation with faculty, accomplished outside of the specific requirements of a course. It is a formal plan, approved by a faculty member, for pursuing work not otherwise available in courses.’ If you want to do an independent study (IS) you need to think about what you want to do, write up a proposal for it, and then find a faculty member to supervise it (some staff can supervise independent studies as well). Once you find a supervisor for your study, go to Central Records to receive an independent study form. You then give the IS a name, an academic level (100, 200, etc.), get the supervisor’s signature and your advisor's signature and then return the form to Central Records. The IS will appear on your records the same as a regular academic course would.
Independent studies can be done individually or in groups. EPEC Courses can also sometimes get registered as independent studies; talk to the EPEC facilitator and your advisor if you would like to do this.
Independent studies generally require you to be more organized and self-disciplined than courses. Keep this in mind when planning your semester.
Before you talk to someone about being your supervisor for the independent study, you should write up a proposal. You may want to talk to someone else who has written a proposal before, done an independent study before, your advisor, or another professor for exact details of what you should include in your IS. However, here are some guidelines to help you in the forming of your proposal:
You should begin with a paragraph that includes the subject you want to study, why you want to study it, and your goals in studying it.
It would be wise to make a list of questions you want to answer throughout the semester. Include a list of materials you will use to answer these questions (articles, books, experiments, internships, work, student groups, outside work, etc.)
You should include ways you might go about your studies. (Do you want to read an article each week and discuss it with your advisor? Do you want to participate in an internship? What kind of work do you want to do? etc. You can of course include a mix of things Ð you are not forced to do one thing.)
What are some things you might produce from your IS/what is an idea for the end product of your IS (a paper, a film, paintings, etc.)?
There are currently an unusually high number of students attending Hampshire and finding a supervisor for your IS might be more difficult than normal. You should get an early jump on it. However, you do have until the end of add/drop period to successfully register your IS. Remember: the advisor you choose will be writing your evaluation, so you may want to have it be someone who has knowledge in the subject you are going to be studying. You have two possibilities for an advisor for your IS:
- A Hampshire College professor: You can find a professor to be your advisor from a professor you already know, talking to students who know professors in the school of thought (NS, CS, SS, HACU, IA) you want your IS to be in, or asking your advisor or another professor for recommendations on who might be good for your study. You should e-mail this professor asking to set up a meeting about your IS, giving a brief description of who you are and what your proposed study is and why you want to do it. You can also stop by his or her office if you do not hear back, but sending an e-mail first might be best as it does not put the person on the spot.
- There is a course called ’Mentored Independent Study’ The Hub course defines it as: `The Mentored Project course is a pilot program. First-semester Division III (senior thesis) students are paired with third-semester Division I (liberal studies) students based on similar academic interests. The Division III’s mentor the Div. I’s in independent projects over the course of the semester. They work with their partners to identify a specific topic of study, hone the Division I’s interests into a feasible project, and then design, implement, execute and revise that project. In addition to meeting weekly with their partners, the Div. IIIs attend a weekly meeting with the instructor to report on their Division I student’s progress and to get help, advice, and support from the group. The Division III students also do unifying readings (a book a month) on teaching through project-based learning and on the nature of modern knowledge/creative work. The Division III student mentors are expected to check in with the teaching assistants on a regular basis with concerns and problems that they may encounter.’ It is not guaranteed that this course is offered every semester, so you should check The Hub ahead of time. Also, if you are not a third-semester student but still want to be involved with this, you should e-mail the professor who is running the program to see if you can be involved.Note: NS is currently the only school offering this option. That's okay - you can still use it for non-NS subjects!
It is unfortunate, but true, that under the current Div. I program it is extremely difficult to do an IS. However, that does not mean it is impossible - just that you need to be a lot more persistent about it and you might want to get an early start on your proposal.
Also, remember that under the current Div I program independent studies are restricted to semesters and possibly over January Term. So it might be wise to choose a study that will hold your interest for that long.
The best of luck to you and your education!
Examples of Past Independent Studies
Narrative Theory (Spring 2010, Claire Oberholtzer and Katie Culpeper, supervised by Kim Chang)
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