Independent Studies

Community Research Needs Database

If you are pursuing or interested in pursuing an independent study with a local community research component, then we'd suggest you start by contacting the following departments:

  • Visit the Swearer Center for more information on community engagement, public service, and volunteer work in Providence. 
  • Visit the Environmental Studies department page for relevant opportunities locally. 
  • Check out the Biology Office of Undergraduate Affairs for research opportunities with Brown Medical School clinical faculty, jobs, and internships at Rhode Island Hospital, Hasbro Children's Hospital, etc.
  • Speak with professors with expertise in the issues your are interested in exploring, as they may be working formally or informally with local organizations.

The CRC's Community Research Needs Database (CRND) connects Brown students to Providence based organizations to collaborate on semester, summer, or year-long research projects. Through the database, community organizations can take on student research partners to fulfill unmet research needs for specific projects or programs. Students may receive credit for their work through Departmental Independent Study Projects (DISPs), Academic Internships (AIs), Independent Study Projects (ISPs), final research papers, capstone projects, or theses. 

Many Providence community organizations have great ideas and research needs but do not have the time, manpower, or resources to thoroughly pursue them. Many Brown students would like to make their work more meaningful and increase their engagement with the Providence community. The CRND provides a space for Providence organizations to list their research needs, to be searched by Brown students. Interested students are independently responsible for contacting and pursuing projects with community partners. Both parties are responsible for establishing direct communication and pursuing a meaningful collaborative relationship.

Contact information and brief descriptions of potential projects are available here. Individual research project expectations should be negotiated between the student research partner and the organization. It is integral that both parties are upfront and clear about the standards and ambitions for the work.

Student Research Partner Expectations

  • Independently contact community partners via the CRND website and follow-up consistently.
  • Work with the community partner to delineate research trajectory, including detailed topic and final product definition.
  • Meet with community partners on-site to discuss research needs and form a relationship with the organization.
  • Commit to a specific time period for the research project, spanning a semester, or year.
  • During this period, conduct detailed research towards a final product which serves the needs of the community partner.
  • Students may also receive credit for their work in the form of course-credit bearing independent studies (DISP, ISP, or AI), a course term paper, or as a long-term thesis or capstone project.
  • Students may provide research-method mentorship to community partners.
  • Students are not required but encouraged to participate in additional volunteer work with their partner organization.

It is also important to note that AIs and ISPs must be set up before the semester the project is intended for while DISPs can be set up within the first two weeks of a semester (see DISPs for more information).

Community Partner Expectations

  • Provide a short description of desired research topic and primary contact information for the CRND
  • Respond to interested students and participate in further development of research needs and project outline with student research partner(s); this includes specific research questions as well as definition of the final product (such as a literature review, research paper, policy proposal, etc)
  • Meet with students to outline research goals and maintain communication throughout the project
  • Provide mentorship and advising to student research partners for the duration of the research project (which may be a semester, or yearlong project)
  • Though students may become further involved with your organization, CRND student participants are not expected to commit to more than the outlined research project and should not be expected to participate in additional volunteer work