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FAQ: Independent Study

What is Independent Study?

The Independent Study provides opportunities for students to create their own course and explore academic topics that are not covered in the established curriculum.

An Independent Study is a for-credit course carried out under the supervision and mentorship of a faculty member. The Independent Study takes place outside of the students’ scheduled class hours and outside of the supervising faculty’s scheduled teaching load.

So it can’t be an existing Pratt course?

That’s right. Independent Study can’t be an existing Pratt course. The Independent Study is all about providing students (undergrad and grad) with an opportunity to create their own class and their own project for research and study. For example, a student might take a class with a faculty member whose research/work they are interested in, say a general course on theatre. After the class, the student realizes/decides that they would like to delve deeply into the work of one playwright—but a course with that specificity is not offered at Pratt. An Independent Study could be to propose a course going in depth into the works of that playwright, with the supervision and mentorship of the faculty member who inspired this line of inquiry and work. Or, for graduate students, the Independent Study could constitute deep dives into particular topics that, again, are not offered as for-credit courses, and that relate to their research. For graduate programs, the Independent Study can be integrated in ways that can truly advance students’ interests, knowledge, competencies, and agency.

Who can do an Independent Study?

Students should be matriculating juniors, seniors, and graduate students and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 to be eligible.

What are the credit requirements?

A student may take up to 6 credits of Independent Study towards their undergraduate or graduate degree, and may not take more than one Independent Study course during any one semester.

Other requirements I should know?

The Independent Study must be taken for credit. The number of credits allotted for the Independent Study must be determined in consultation with the supervising faculty member and chair of the department hosting the Independent Study. The approved number of credits cannot be changed after the student has registered for the course. Three total hours of work per credit per week are expected on the part of the student. (For a 3-credit Independent Study, a total of 9 hours of work per week is required for the student.) The Independent Study must be registered with the Office of the Registrar.

How do I propose an Independent Study?

First, a faculty member must agree to guide and supervise the Independent Study.

An Independent Study form must be filled out with all requisite documents attached. Independent Study forms are available in the Office of the Provost and in the Office of Academic Advisement. Download a copy of the Independent Study form.

The proposal must include:

  • The Independent Study Form, with all required signatures;
  • A narrative description of the project, along with a description of how the Independent Study connects to the rest of the student’s curriculum and a justification for doing the Independent Study;
  • A description of the final output and work produced by the student;
  • An outline and schedule of meetings with the faculty supervisor and a timeline of the student’s research and work;
  • A bibliography and other relevant resources, if applicable;
  • A list of outcomes and methods of assessments for the course agreed upon by student and faculty advisor.
Can I sit in on a class and count that as an Independent Study?

No! Attending a class “as an independent study” or “in lieu of an independent study” by definition doesn’t constitute an Independent Study.

What about providing the syllabus of an existing class in lieu of generating my own timeline and narrative? Can I just use an existing syllabus to propose the Independent Study?

No! Providing the syllabus of an existing class in lieu of student-generated descriptions of the project and research threads, along with your timeline and other requirements doesn’t work, by definition. Remember that the Independent Study is the opportunity to create your own course, so by definition you shouldn’t use an existing syllabus. That said, you could use existing syllabi as tools or inspiration to construct your own course.

Can multiple students do the same Independent Study at the same time with the same faculty member?

No! An Independent Study is by definition an individual and independently created course by one student. A faculty member may supervise multiple approved Independent Studies at the same time, but the Independent Study should not be the same.  

What if I sign up for a course that’s cancelled because of low enrollment. Can everyone then just do it instead as an Independent Study?

No! Again, the point of Independent Study is to provide an opportunity for students to create their own course. A course that has only two or three students signed up and gets canceled, can’t then be regenerated ‘as an independent study’. The whole ‘as an Independent Study’ expression, in fact, should not be used—it’s a good indication that it’s probably not a real Independent Study.

Can various students work on different aspects of a faculty member’s research project or a group project or a research agenda through Independent Study?

Preferably not. Independent Study should be generated by the student and address their interests. It is occasionally possible that a student’s interest in creating a course and designing a learning experience for themselves coincides with, or is inspired by, a faculty member’s research/creative work, or a given research group’s agenda. In that case, both student and faculty/research group must make sure that the Independent Study remain a learning experience designed by the student and for the student, while it simultaneously contributes to the  research/work of the faculty or research group.  Note again: Independent Study projects must take place outside of the students’ scheduled class hours and outside of the supervising faculty’s scheduled teaching load.

What are the deadlines, and what is the proposal process?

Independent Study forms must be signed by the student, the student’s academic advisor, the faculty supervisor, along with the chairperson of the department hosting the Independent Study (and the chairperson of the student’s own department, if different), and the dean of the school hosting the Independent Study.

Once all have signed and the Independent Study is approved at these levels, the completed forms along with the rest of the proposal must be taken to the Office of the Provost for review and final approval. If material is missing or is not sufficiently complete, students proposing the Independent Study will have to supplement their proposal. Students will be able to register for Independent Study only if the proposal is approved by the Office of the Provost.

The deadlines for all Independent Study proposals is: one week BEFORE the last day of the Add/Drop period in a given semester.

Why is the deadline one week before the end of add/drop in a given semester?

This deadline allows students to sign up for an existing course in the curriculum if they need the credits and the Independent Study is not approved—or not approved in time.

Once the Independent Study is approved, students are responsible for taking one copy of the approved Independent Study to the Office of the Registrar in order to be able to register for the course.

Still have questions?

Please read the Independent Study guidelines and examine the form closely. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us in the Office of the Provost, North Hall 205, Brooklyn campus.

Amir Parsa, Director of Interdisciplinary Study: