Skip to main content

Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors at ILR may propose a course of study to more deeply pursue an interest or a question that intrigues them and that is not fully treated in regularly scheduled courses. When an individual student does this it is called an independent study. If two or more students decide to pursue such a course of study as a group, it is called a directed study and is handled slightly differently.   

How do I submit a proposal?

For either an independent study or a directed study (ILR 4990), students discuss an issue or question of interest with a faculty member and write a proposal that includes a description of their project, how the study will be conducted and with what level of faculty supervision, a tentative bibliography, and an indication of how the work will be evaluated. The proposal is then submitted to and reviewed by the supervising faculty member and the Academic Standards and Scholarships Committee in ILR.

Forms to be completed may be downloaded, completed, and submitted to OSS, 101 Ives Hall. Forms may be submitted in person or via email at

Who will review my proposal?

The Committee reviews your academic record, which should give reason for confidence that you can complete a self-initiated and self-determined study, and the scope of the topic (to be sure that you have identified a manageable amount of material).

When do I begin my independent study or directed study?

Most 4990's are proposed at the end of a term (for the next semester) or at the very beginning of a term (within the first week).

How many credits will I receive?

Depending on the amount of work involved, and in agreement with the faculty member, you may request one, two or three credit hours for the study, and it may be ILR elective or general elective credit. If you and the faculty supervisor believe that you will be doing more work than one might expect for a three credit course, then you may request four credits and the faculty member will be asked to justify that fourth hour in a memo to the Academic Standards Committee.

How will I be graded?

An ILR 4990 is graded as you and the supervisor have agreed. In most cases, students meet on a regular basis with the supervising faculty member, discuss the reading or research completed, determine the next steps and consult on the "product" (customarily, but not necessarily, a paper). At the end of the semester, the instructor submits a letter grade for the 4990.

Out-of-College supervision for independent and directed study

You may request that a non-ILR professor supervise an independent study. The proposal must include

  • description of the topic
  • the methodology and resources to be used
  • the amount of academic credit to be awarded upon successful completion of the project
  • the division of work among the students (in the case of a directed study)

Forms need to be filed with the faculty member's College Registrar; for example, if you are doing an independent study in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, you need to submit their independent study form and file a copy with the ILR Registrar in 101 Ives Hall. (ALS forms are available in 140 Roberts Hall; Arts and Science forms are available in 61 Goldwin Smith Hall.)

You also need to print out and submit an 

to the Office of Student Services.