Curricular Resource Center

Develop an Independent Study Proposal

Getting Started on a Proposal

First, you need a topic that you are truly interested in. To jumpstart this process, come talk to the staff at the CRC (Lower Level, Hemisphere Building), email, and check out the Past GISPs Database. Once you have an idea, start talking about it with others. Visit faculty in their office hours to discuss how you might develop the topic. Run your ideas past other students, particularly if you are interested in doing a GISP.

Remember that Independent Studies on the same or similar topics may not be repeated for credit, except with approval of the College Curriculum Council.

Faculty Sponsors

Each Independent Study is sponsored by a faculty member who assesses the proposed study, provides advice during the semester, and evaluates the work of student(s).

Finding a Faculty Sponsor

Any faculty member with a current teaching position can serve in this role. If there is no faculty member with appropriate expertise or interest in the topic, a Ph.D. candidate can sponsor a (G)ISP or Academic Internship (AI). In such cases, the proposal must be accompanied by the graduate student’s Curriculum Vitae and a statement of qualification and recommendation from the Chair of the graduate student's department. The Chair assumes ultimate responsibility for the academic quality of (G)ISPs and AIs sponsored by a graduate student.

A supplemental instructor may assist with a (G)ISP or AI and with the evaluation of student work. In such cases, the supplemental instructor must complete a Faculty Sponsor Statement and submit a resume documenting relevant background. Supplemental instructors help with (G)ISPs and AIs as a professional courtesy; the University provides no financial compensation for this or any other aspect of a (G)ISP or AI.

If you do not already have a professor who you know is interested in the same areas as you are, a great place to start looking for a Faculty Sponsor is Researchers@Brown, where you can see research interests of different professors. Also, be sure to look at the CRC Past (G)ISP Database to identify any professors who regularly sponsor (G)ISPs in the field you are interested in.

If you want a more streamlined way of finding a faculty sponsor, check out this list of faculty sponsors who have sponsored (G)ISPs/AIs in the past, including professors who have sponsored multiple courses.

Role of the Faculty Sponsor

The faculty sponsor is responsible for all grading and evaluations and that students meet the University standards. This requirement assumes that the faculty sponsor has a continuing awareness of the progress of the Independent Study through regular meetings.

For GISPs, we recommend meeting with your Faculty Sponsor at least five times a semester; for Independent Studies (ISPs), we recommend at least ten meetings a semester. For introductory language based (G)ISPs, faculty sponsors should meet at least once a week throughout the semester.

To find GISP members, e-mail your idea and contact information to to be added to the Potential GISP Ideas Database. We also recommend using Today@Brown, posting flyers, e-mailing relevant groups and departments and advertising your ideas around campus as creatively as possible. 

Before deciding to do an ISP, check to see if the appropriate academic department offers Departmental Independent Study Projects (DISPs), independent research or reading courses. Departments that offer DISPs structure them in various ways. Some allow as much flexibility as a student-initiated ISP, while others are reserved for concentrators or thesis projects.

Related Information

An Independent Study Project (ISP) is a course you create in which you are the only student in the course.
An Academic Internship (AI) is a part-time, unpaid internship that is supplemented with some coursework on an academic topic related to the internship experience.