Curricular Resource Center

Departmental Independent Study Projects

Departmental Independent Study Projects (DISPs) allow individual students to initiate, design, and execute a credit-bearing course with the help of a faculty advisor.

About Departmental Independent Study Projects

Departmental Independent Study Projects are facilitated directly through an academic department. You can work with a faculty member who registers the Departmental Independent Study Projects through his/her/their department. The course is often called "Independent Reading and Research" or "Independent Research" (a specific course title will not appear on your transcript).

Departmental Independent Study Projects (DISPs) are an alternative to Independent Study Projects (ISPs). ISPs require submission of a syllabus and review of the proposal by members of the College Curriculum Council the semester before the ISP takes place. On the other hand, DISPs do not require an approval process ahead of time; they are typically planned and facilitated within the same semester. Work directly with your faculty advisor to determine the expectations you both have for the credit no later than two weeks into the semester that the DISP takes place. They will give you an override code, and you must register for the course no later than the Add a Course deadline listed on the Academic Calendar -- the end of the fourth week of the semester.

Note: If you are an F-1 visa holder and are seeking off-campus work authorization through the non-professional track Curricular Practical Training (CPT), please email Connect with a member of the international student advising team to understand your eligibility, the application timeline, and craft your CPT Independent Study Proposal (ISP).

The Registrar's deadline for registering for a DISP is no later than four weeks from the start of the semester. (It is the same deadline for adding a course for the term/semester.)

Get Started

First, you need an idea, a topic, an orientation, or a subject that you are truly interested in. Discuss your topic of choice with relevant professors and faculty members to refine your course outline. Each department has unique regulations regarding structuring and deadlines of Departmental Independent Study Projects, so it is important to communicate both with Brown faculty who do related work and with department chairs. Remember that you will be working closely with a professor, so make sure to discuss your ideas and goals and figure out what works for both of you. Professors invest their time in Departmental Independent Study Projects, so you have to respect their time!

Steps to Take

Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Find a faculty member to work with. You can either choose a professor whose class you have attended in the past or a professor with similar academic interests as yours. (Tip: Visit Researchers@Brown to find professors whose interests align with yours.)
  2. Go to Courses@Brown.
  3. Select the "Include Independent Study Courses" option.
  4. Look up the department you want to register your DISP in.
  5. Add "Independent Research" (or something similar) to your cart. DISPs are usually courses in the 1900s in that department.
  6. Request an override code through Courses@Brown. (If you don't see your faculty advisor on CAB, contact the department head and the registrar to get them added to CAB so you can register for their DISP section.)
  7. Once the professor grants you an override, register in the DISP before the end of the 4th week of the semester.

Visit the CRC during open hours to discuss your topic and the merits of choosing an ISP of DISP. Even though DISPs do not submit proposals to the CRC, we can still help you and offer resources in drafting a syllabus!

Note: For Departmental Independent Study Projects, students do not need to submit a proposal to the CRC. However, it is probably a good idea to draft one anyway, so that students and faculty sponsor are "on the same page" moving forward into the semester.