Curricular Resource Center

Understand Types of Independent Study

Brown's Independent Studies Program offers a dynamic framework for self-directed learning. Within this context, there are five distinct types of Independent Studies, providing a range of options for personalized and group-driven learning experiences.

Main Types of Independent Study

The three main types of Independent Study at Brown are:

An Independent Study Project (ISP) is a course you create in which you are the only student in the course.
Departmental Independent Study Projects (DISPs) allow individual students to initiate, design, and execute a credit-bearing course with the help of a faculty advisor.

What's the difference?

An Independent Study Project (ISP) is a course designed and taken by a single student. 

Group Independent Study Project (GISP) is a course designed and taken by two or more students.

Departmental Independent Study Projects (DISPs) are like (G)ISPs within departments. They are usually approved by the chair of the department itself and each department has a different process for “submitting” a proposal. Your first step would be to work with a faculty member who sponsors a DISP. 

In a DISP, a specific course title will not appear on the student’s transcript. Also, a student can sign up for a DISP in a department up to 4 weeks into the semester, the same deadline as the “Add a Course w/ a Fee” deadline. (Know that signing up after the shopping period means you will incur the late registration fee). However, each faculty member/department has their unique guidelines, so please check with them about what they are.

Additional Independent Study Types

These additional two types of Independent Studies have more niche roles:

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.
Global Independent Studies (GLISPs) are Independent Study Projects or Group Independent Study Projects but for students abroad. Students have the option of creating a Global Independent Study while studying abroad.