Research through Independent Study

Doing Independent Study lets you earn course credit by working on a research and/or creative project under the supervision of a faculty member. In most departments and programs, the course number for Independent Study is 399.

The content and level of "independence" in an Independent Study can vary greatly and will often change over time. You might develop a project based on your own persistent interest in a particular topic that you wish to study in more detail. Alternatively, you might become involved in ongoing faculty research. In this case, you might start out doing background reading and attending weekly meetings with your supervising professor and his or her graduate students. You might also help with routine tasks in a lab. As you gain more knowledge and experience, you are likely to contribute more actively to research meetings, engage in more intellectually challenging activities, and help to shape the direction of future research.

Finding a professor with whom to do an independent study

How can you find someone with whom to do an Independent Study? Talk with your major adviser, the Director of Undergraduate Studies in your major, or a professor whose classes and research are pertinent to your interest. You can also consult your department or program’s website; faculty members' bios will have information about their research interests, and you can contact those whose interests best match yours. Extensive information on undergraduate research at Northwestern—including guidance on finding faculty mentors—is available through the Provost's Undergraduate Research website.

Independent study policies

Departments and programs vary in how Independent Study counts toward major and minor requirements. They also have different policies and procedures for registering for Independent Study. Be sure to learn how this works in your department well in advance of the beginning of the quarter! You should also familiarize yourself with Weinberg College rules and policies for independent study.