Independent Study Options

The open curriculum at Brown places a high value on independent learning experiences for undergraduates. Chief among these are individual and group independent study courses. Brown supports three different kinds of independent study options. Students can design a new, independent course by proposing either an Independent Study Project (ISP) or a Group Independent Study Project (GISP) through the office of the Dean of the College. A departmental independent study offers another, more flexible variation. 

Independent Study Projects

Students who wish to register for a non-departmental independent study course or courses submit formal proposals to the College Curriculum Council, which is charged with reviewing such petitions. Independent study proposals must be filed with the Office of the Dean of the College in 313 University Hall. Proposals for semester I are due in early April; those for Semester II are due in early November.  Check the University Calendar on the Registrar’s website for exact dates.

Group Study Projects

Group Independent Studies (GISPs) are cooperative inquiries in which participating students bear major responsibility for both the planning and conduct of the work. GISPs carry regular course credit and provide an opportunity for academic pursuits which might not be available in regular courses.

Each GISP is sponsored by an instructor holding a teaching appointment at Brown University. The GISP sponsor helps students develop the proposed study, provides oversight during the term the course is offered, and evaluates each student's work. Normally, a GISP sponsor will be a Brown faculty member. Under exceptional circumstances, a graduate student with appropriate expertise and teaching experience may be eligible to be a sponsor. 

Instructors interested in sponsoring a GISP may consult the Curricular Resource Center website.  The College does not offer remuneration for sponsors of GISPs.

Departmental Independent Study

A departmental independent study offers another, more flexible variation in which students may pursue a reading, research, or thesis project with a faculty member of their choosing. These classes do not require prior approval from the CCC. Some departments have a detailed plan for students to follow in developing such courses. The CCC has determined that a departmental independent study should have no more than 10 students enrolled in any given semester.

Please note that the last day to register for a departmental independent study course is the same as the last day to add any course, i.e., the end of the fourth week of classes. 

The CCC had developed guidelines for departmental independent studies to help students and faculty make the most of this open learning option. All departments are encouraged to adopt these guidelines, which are detailed in the PDF below.