How to Write a Proposal for an Independent Study

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Proposing an independent study is an indication that you have reached the level where you are capable of taking ownership of your personal and educational development. Independent study is an opportunity to explore a specific topic that interests you in more depth. Once you identify a topic of interest, do your research so you can convince the decision-makers that they should approve your application. Check to see whether your university or department has a form you can download for an independent study project, or if writing a proposal is part of the independent study.

State the purpose of your independent study. Also indicate the dates for the study and how much credit you are requesting for the independent study.

Identify the topic you are going to study. Write a short paragraph outlining the area you are interested in. If your topic involves off-campus research, such as interviews or visiting museums for research, be sure to include that information.

Write your proposal for an independent study in the first person. Use small words when possible. When you change ideas, change paragraphs. The committee or head of the department wants to know that you have considered all aspects of your independent study.

Maintain an academic tone at all times. You want to sound objective and lay your ideas out in a logical way. Make it flow from one section to another.

Explain why your topic or area of study is relevant. Try to draw your independent study into the bigger-picture of what you want to achieve as a student. Look at it as “something” more you want to do.

Identify your research methodology. Let the committee know if you are going to use a qualitative or a quantitative paradigm. You may also want to add a note about why you decided to use your chosen methodology.

Present a reading list and indicate a working bibliography. List books and journal articles you have already read on the topic of your independent study, and indicate what you need to read for a better understanding.

Establish how your independent study will be evaluated. Independent studies generally require a major essay, so be sure to include at least one written report as well as other assessments, such as presenting a paper at a conference.

Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.