Skip to main content

Independent study provides undergraduate students with the unique opportunity to develop an idea or project, research, and produce a final written paper, report, or artistic work with the instruction and one-on-one guidance of a faculty member in the Department of Communication. Independent study courses allow students to build on the knowledge they have acquired from other classes in the Department, while exploring topics and areas not regularly covered in the curriculum. An independent study has a specific focus rather than a broad, general one. The subject matter is determined by the student in conjunction with a faculty instructor and caters to the student’s particular intellectual interests. Students interested in pursuing an independent study course should be self-motivated, high-achieving, and dedicated and should meet the eligibility requirements outlined below.


Student Eligibility

In order to register for independent study credit, a student must demonstrate:

  1. An overall GPA of 3.0
  2. A GPA of 3.5 in Communication courses (multiply the quality points of your grade by the hours of credit for each COMM course, add all quality points together and then divide by the total number of hours)
  3. Successful completion of all regular courses offered by the Department of Communication that are relevant to the particular project being considered

A student who does not meet the eligibility requirements may work with the instructor for the proposed independent study course to complete an independent study appeal form {linked at the bottom of this page}.  The form must be submitted with the student’s completed Student Learning Contract {linked at the bottom of this page}. Once submitted, the appeal will be reviewed by a committee comprised of the Department Chair, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and Department Adviser. Full support of the instructor is required for an appeal to be considered. Appeals are not guaranteed to be approved and will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.  


Application Process

Finding a Supervising Professor

The student is responsible for finding a faculty member (not a graduate student instructor) who is willing to be his/her instructor of record for the independent study.  Contact information for faculty members can be found here.  Students should pick faculty members with the same area of interest.

Before approaching faculty members about serving as an instructor for an independent study, students should write up a project proposal along with a short list of suggested readings. This will give the instructor a starting point from which to negotiate the course requirements.  The proposal should also include a brief explanation of why the student wants to complete an independent study.

Please note that faculty members are not obligated to advise a student on an independent study project. They may be unable to, due to other commitments, even if they are excited about the topic. Students should seek out a faculty supervising instructor as early as possible.

Learning Contract and Course Syllabus

The student and instructor of record must complete a Student Learning Contract {linked at the bottom of this page} for the independent study. The instructor must also create a formal syllabus for the independent study that should be submitted with the learning contract.  The syllabus for the independent study will specify the number of hours of work expected by the student. The number of hours of work expected of a student is the same as for any advanced or capstone course: three hours of work every week for each hour of course credit.  The learning contract and the syllabus will also specify the number of required meetings between the instructor and student. Typically, students and their supervising instructors meet once a week or twice every two weeks.  Additionally, the syllabus must detail the reading and writing assignments required to complete the independent study. Due dates will be specified for all assignments. As an independent study is an upper level course, there should be a substantial writing component to an independent study taken as a whole.  The student and the supervising instructor should reach a mutual understanding of how the student’s grade will be determined. The syllabus will describe this assessment procedure and criteria for determining the student’s grade.  Lastly, the student and the professor must submit a 100 word work plan. This might be analogous to the introductory purpose statement provided in the typical class syllabus.

Approval and Course Registration

Completed learning contracts and syllabi should be brought to the Undergraduate Student Services Assistant in Bingham 117 by the deadline for the corresponding semester. Independent study proposals are reviewed by the Undergraduate Studies Committee.  If approved, students and their instructors will be notified by email, and the student will be enrolled in the correct independent study course.


*Independent Study proposals may be submitted until January 26, 2021 but there is no guarantee they will be reviewed.


If you have any questions about the application and approval process, please contact the Undergraduate Student Services Manager, Jonah Hodge, at


Enrollment Limitations

Students may have a maximum of 12 hours of independent study credit.  No more than 6 hours of independent study credit may be used to fulfill major requirements.

Students who are interested in pursuing an independent study that would involve use of the Swain Multi-media Lab must contact Mark Robinson.


University Independent Study Policy

For more information, please see the University’s independent study policy on the Office of the University Registrar’s website.


Forms available for download:

WORD format

♦♦ only typed submissions will be considered ♦♦

 Aggregate Policies: IS, Honors, Special Topics Dept. Reference