Independent Study

Students in Psychology
Students in psychology

Independent study courses offer students the opportunity to design and carry out a specific project on his/her own under the supervision of a professor. These projects involve conducting experiments (Psychology 4000/4001) or writing extensive literature review papers (Psychology 2970-2973). Field investigations may also be conducted.

An independent study should be undertaken to use and extend information gained from previous academic experience. Recent research projects have examined children's language development, metacognitive benefits of strategy training procedures, mediating factors of word recognition, recovering repressed memories, and postmodern and hermeneutic theory analyses. Sophomore, junior, and senior majors are eligible for consideration for independent study, which is distinct from senior honors projects.

First Steps

To pursue an independent study project, you should first find a faculty member who has the willingness, expertise, and time to sponsor it. Because the number of independent study projects that any faculty member can supervise is limited, it is advantageous to discuss potential projects as early as possible. Students are advised to contact the faculty during the previous semester to arrange subsequent independent study.

It is also important that independent study include an original contribution by the student. Pure replications or hook reports are unacceptable for independent study, but partially extended replications may be appropriate. Off-campus independent studies will be acceptable only if evidence for independent work is clear and if the project has obvious relevance to psychology. Merely learning a technique or working in a laboratory in a technical capacity is not sufficient to warrant independent study credit.


The final report of the independent study project must be submitted to the advisor of the project by the last day of classes in the term. It is wise to turn in a rough draft at least two weeks prior to that time. The department strives for the highest standards of clarity and precision in written work. Please refer to the American Psychological Association Publication Manual (a copy of which is in the library and in the psychology department office, and can be purchased at the Smith Union bookstore).

All research performed under the auspices of the Department of Psychology must be in accordance with the ethical principles outlined by the American Psychological Association.