How to Write a Proposal for an Independent Study at College


Most colleges offer students the opportunity for independent studies in place of or alongside classes and labs. Typically, the independent study must enhance the student's existing course of study. You can use an independent study to take the place of a class that is unavailable, to provide elective credit or to investigate an area that is not covered in a formal class. The independent study proposal is crucial to the course. Not only does the proposal provide the means for your college to approve the course and assign credit, but it serves as a plan of action for the student.

Things You'll Need

  • List of requirements from your college

Purpose and Rationale

  • Begin your proposal with a statement of purpose. Describe, in one or two sentences, exactly what you plan to accomplish with this course of study.

  • Elaborate on your statement of purpose by discussing your subject and summarizing your approach to the research.

  • Outline your rationale for this project by describing how it will assist you with your studies and your future career.

Methodology and Assignments

  • Describe your methodology -- the steps you will take to complete your independent study in detail. Explain how each step fits into your purpose.

  • List your bibliography -- the books, films and other media you will use in your research. You are not required to use all of the resources and the list does not have to be complete. It should reflect a variety of perspectives on your topic and touch each aspect of your research.

  • Create a list of assignments that your sponsoring professor will use to evaluate your progress. These can be papers or projects, but each should serve a purpose and have clear guidelines.

Final Review

  • Compare your proposal to the list of requirements provided by your college. Make sure you have included all requested information and directly addressed any questions.

  • Review the proposal with the faculty adviser who will supervise your work, and make any changes needed based on your discussion.

  • Fill out any additional request forms as outlined by your college.

Tips & Warnings

  • Write your proposal using succinct, direct action words. Be as specific as you can -- this will increase the likelihood your proposal will be accepted. It will also be incredibly helpful as you attack your independent study project.
  • Be careful to keep your independent study project very focused. Unwieldy projects will be difficult to complete.


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