Department of English Language and Literature

Independent Study Policy

Independent Studies are best suited for areas of interest shared by a student and a faculty member but not available in the department's regularly scheduled courses; they should not be used to substitute for an available course. Students interested in pursuing an Independent Study should consult with the faculty member with relevant expertise; see the list of department faculty. Note that faculty are not compensated for these courses, and so they are entirely voluntary: faculty are not required to offer them.

All Independent Studies must be approved by the English Department. They also require a syllabus that specifies (1) learning outcomes for the course, (2) the number of credit hours, (3) the number and length of meetings between the student and faculty member, (4) required readings, (5) guidelines for assignments, (6) relative weights for assignments and the grading system to be used. For approval, fill out the Independent Study Proposal form, print it, sign it, and bring it and the syllabus to the English Department. The form and syllabus should be submitted by the Friday before the start of the semester in which the course will be taken; if it is necessary for the form to be submitted later, please consult with the department for more information. Note that the current form substitutes for the old course request form, which will no longer be used.

Download Independent Study Proposal form

Graduate Literature Independent Studies

Graduate Literature Independent Studies are subject to additional guidelines. MA in Literature students may count up to one independent study course toward their degree. The student, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, will contact a relevant faculty member with a request to conduct an independent study. If the faculty member agrees, the student must draft a written proposal and prospective syllabus to be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Literature Committee for approval. This process should be completed by the end of the semester prior to the one in which the student is proposing this study. If you have further questions about this process, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies.

The following items must be included in your proposal and syllabus, which will also serve as a learning contract if the course is approved:

  1. The topic of your course. Explain how you developed the topic and what the parameters are.
  2. The academic term in which the course will take place and the number of credit hours.
  3. Learning outcomes. Explain how this course is necessary to your development as a graduate student. How will it advance your graduate education?
  4. Provide us with the reading list and the rationale. How was it developed? Did you consult with other professors, bibliographies, or disciplinary specific databases?
  5. Explain what kinds of written work will be required. Be specific. Remember that graduate level courses demand that students demonstrate sophisticated interpretive, research, and writing skills. Possible written assignments might include:
    • Bibliography or Annotated Bibliography (if so, how many sources?)
    • Journal entries or other kinds of short, reflective pieces
    • Summaries, analyses, or literature reviews of professional scholarship (peer-reviewed journal essays or scholarly monographs)
    • Prospectus for future project
    • Abstract
    • Draft work
    • Research essay (meaning a well-researched paper with an original thesis and well-integrated citations—cite an expected page length or word count for your paper).
  6. If there are other kinds of assignments attached to your class, mention it in the proposal. This might include service work, field research, attending lectures, exhibitions, or performances.
  7. Relative weights for assignments and grading system to be used.
  8. Mention what research resources you anticipate using in this class. Be specific. Cite individual databases.
  9. Mention how often you will meet with your professor to discuss your progress. It is recommended that you see your professor a minimum of 8 times throughout the semester.
  10. Your syllabus and reading list should include your deadlines. Note that you must plot out required readings and any written due dates week by week in your syllabus.
Last Updated: 4/18/23