Curricular Resource Center

Independent Study Projects

An Independent Study Project (ISP) is a course you create in which you are the only student in the course.

About Independent Study Projects

Independent Study Projects allow individual students to initiate, design and execute a credit-bearing course with the help of a faculty advisor. The topic of an Independent Study Project (ISP) is generally not offered in the established Brown curriculum and often presents a new and exciting field of study. The student is responsible for designing, implementing and carrying out the coursework, while the faculty member advises the project and evaluates the student's work.

At the end of each semester, students participating in Independent Study Projects (ISPs), Group Independent Study Projects (GISPs), and Academic Internships (AIs) are asked to give a 2-3 minute creative presentation about their work over the course of the semester. These presentations offer you the opportunity to share what you have learned during your Independent Study experience with an audience of your friends, peers, faculty and administrators.

Get Started

First, you need an idea, a topic, an orientation, or a subject that you are genuinely interested in. To jumpstart this process, visit the CRC and talk to the independent studies student coordinators. You can also reach student coordinators by email at Once you have an idea, start talking about it with other people. Visit faculty during office hours to discuss how you might develop the topic. Run your ideas past other students. You can browse some past proposals in our online (G)ISP database.

Before deciding to do an Independent Study Project, check whether the appropriate academic department offers an independent research or reading course -- or a Departmental Independent Study (DISP). Departments that offer such courses structure them in various ways. Some allow as much flexibility as a student-initiated ISP, while others are reserved for concentrators or thesis projects. DISPs can be secured at the start of the semester, while College Curriculum Council (CCC)-CRC-approved ISPs must be proposed the semester prior.

CCC-CRC-approved ISPs benefit from the student planning out the syllabus ahead of time and being able to hit the ground running once the semester begins. As well, ISP course titles appear as such on your transcript.

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