Independent Study

Independent Study projects offer an opportunity for a student to explore a topic or subject area that is of particular interest to them but may not be available otherwise in the Department’s curriculum. Independent Study encourages close student-faculty interaction and develop strong intellectual connections outside of the traditional classroom.

The possible topics for Independent Study are nearly unlimited. The form of an Independent Study may vary from a directed reading of scholarly literature to an independent research project in which the student collects, analyzes, and/or represents data about a particular topic.

Independent Study projects are typically one semester. In some cases, a student’s project may extend to two semesters. Up to two semesters of Independent Study (at the intermediate- or advanced-level) contribute toward the major in Anthropology.

Faculty members in Anthropology are experts in topics, issues, or theoretical areas and in particular geographical regions. Take a look at Our Faculty and Staff to get a better sense of our research and teaching interests.

Independent Study Guidelines

Getting Started

Independent Study are individualized courses that require initiative, high motivation, and self-discipline on the part of the student. For these reasons, the Department generally prefers that students already have completed coursework in the discipline, ideally a course with the faculty advisor. Students register for an Independent Study, but before doing so, must find a faculty advisor who is willing to mentor their project.

Meeting with Faculty

It is the responsibility of each student undertaking an Independent Study to find a faculty member who is prepared to guide the project. Make sure to begin talking with faculty well in advance of registration. Because the extent of an advisor's participation in each independent study will be substantial, no faculty member may sponsor more than three Independent Study courses per semester, including Honors Projects.

The student, in consultation with the faculty advisor, seeks out and selects materials for study, provides coherence to the project, limits the scope of the project, and decides on the appropriate work-product to result from the project.
  • Independent Study projects are not synonymous with departmental Honors.
  • Independent Study may be undertaken by sophomores, juniors, or seniors who are majors, and under special circumstances, by non-majors.
  • Students interested in doing Honors projects should consult the guidelines and timeline for those projects.

Throughout the Independent Study, the faculty advisor's major role is to serve as a sounding board for the student's ideas and analysis. A student will meet with their advisor on a weekly basis over the course of the Independent Study. Depending on the project, the faculty advisor may discuss research ethics, design, and methodology; suggest areas for further reading and discussion; review and assess written work and other forms of research produced by the student.


The advisor has the responsibility to evaluate the student's performance by means of a grade at the end of a semester. Grades will largely be based on the evaluation of the interim and final work product(s) agreed upon by the student and their advisor (e.g., paper(s), film, and/or public lectures).

Grades may also include some evaluation of the manner in which the project which was carried out by the student using criteria such as the following:
  1. Meeting regularly with an advisor to discuss readings, fieldwork, analyses, etc.
  2. Developing and keeping to the mutually agreed upon schedule of reading, fieldwork, and writing.
  3. Taking the initiative in seeking out resources and making appropriate use of them.