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Independent study courses provide an opportunity for students to pursue a special research or academic interest under the direction of a faculty member of the Department of Political Science. Beginning in Fall 2018, there are two independent study options for political science majors.

POLI 395: Mentored Research in Political Science

In this course, students carry out a research project under the direct supervision of a faculty mentor. The student can either be working on an independent project or providing research assistantship on a faculty-led project. In either case, there is the expectation that the student is actively engaging in research. This course meets the Experiential Education (EE) general education requirement. This course provides RESEARCH credit as part of the IDEAs in Action curriculum. 

POLI 395 courses take various forms. For some, students will complete a research project; in such classes the ten required pages of writing will take the form of a final paper. Students assisting faculty in research may fulfill the ten-page requirement by other means such as writing a literature review or collecting, coding, and documenting data in a codebook. These are but a few examples of what a POLI 395 course can look like and is determined by the faculty supervisor.

POLI 396: Directed Readings in Political Science

In this course, students work through a syllabus in a special field under the direction of a faculty member. The topic of a directed reading course should be different from courses we already offer in a traditional classroom setting.

Both POLI 395 and 396 are only available to political science majors. The research and writing entailed in an independent study course must be equivalent to the workload of a regular course. The student, in collaboration with the supervising faculty, formulates a syllabus that precisely outlines the content of the independent study course, including any readings. As with a regular course, the syllabus should delineate the assessment criteria for the student. A minimum of three hours of independent work per week is required for each credit unit, with students expected to produce a minimum of ten pages of writing by the end of the semester.

A student who wishes to pursue an independent study should write a research proposal and contact a faculty member who teaches in the research area of interest to supervise the project. After identifying a faculty supervisor, the student must complete an Independent Study Learning Contract through the Online Learning Contract Manager (OLCM) and a research proposal outlining the specific details of the semester-long project. Students should complete this process before the semester begins.


The Independent Study Learning Contract must be completed and approved by both the faculty supervisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies by the deadline as set by the Dept, usually during the second week of classes; for summer semesters, the contracts must be completed and approved by the deadline set by the Dept, usually by the first week of . Students will not be able to register for POLI 395 or 396 after the add period.

If you have questions about independent study or the approval process for POLI 395 or 396, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Christopher Clark.