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Independent Study Proposal Guidelines, Graduate

A Gallatin Independent Study provides students with the opportunity to work one-on-one with an instructor on a particular topic or creative project. Designing the independent study is an important part of the project. The student should work with the instructor to discuss the aims and content of the study and produce the proposal, which consists of: the description; readings; written work to be evaluated; and syllabus. Students are required to receive approval for this study from their adviser, the independent study instructor, and the Gallatin Faculty Committee on Individualized Studies by completing an online Independent Study Proposal Form. Below are the instructions for completing the proposal form. As students begin to work on the Independent Study Proposal, they should refer to the Student Checklist to ensure that they do not miss any important steps or deadlines.  


Designing an Independent Study and Completing the Proposal

1. Identify an appropriate instructor: An instructor for a Gallatin Independent Study should be an NYU faculty member.
In rare cases a professor from another university or college might be approved to instruct an Independent Study. There is no guarantee that a non-NYU faculty member will be approved as an instructor of a Gallatin Independent Study. Students seeking to work with non-NYU faculty members must attach the professor’s curriculum vitae (CV) with the proposal form for review by the Faculty Committee on Individualized Studies.

2. Provide a description of the study: Like the course description in a college catalog, this part of the proposal should describe the general theme and scope of the independent study. (See Gallatin’s course descriptions for examples.) The theme may be stated as a problem to be investigated, an issue to be explored, or an argument to be defended. The description might indicate where the student is starting out and where the student would like to get in terms of answering a question, exploring a phenomenon, understanding a theory, building a skill or other goal. It should articulate the theme and strategy of the study as clearly as possible within 250 words.

3. Determine the number of Units*: Generally, independent studies are two, three, or four units. The number of units determines the number of readings and amount of work assigned – see the sections below (“Readings” and “Written Work”) for details.

Unit Limitations: While students are encouraged to engage in independent work with University faculty, the Gallatin program is designed for a careful balance between independent and classroom experience. Graduate students may therefore take a maximum of 12 credits of Individualized Projects. This includes any combination of Independent Study, Tutorial, Internship and Private Lesson credit. If a student receives credit for Course Equivalency, this will decrease that graduate student's allowance of Individualized Project credit.

*units signify credits

4. Articulate the work to be evaluated by the instructor:

A) Readings: The student must provide a reading list with authors and titles along with the proposal. The list should be comparable to a similar graduate-level classroom course, which means that a four-unit graduate independent study requires a minimum of 10-13 books. The list of readings may include substantial articles and other secondary readings. (However, a single article is not equivalent to a book; at least 3 articles are needed to equal a book.) Readings may change during the semester as the study evolves, but the preliminary list should be appropriate for the number of units. Proposals for creative projects must include readings, as well.

Below is the required minimum number of books for independent studies of various unit values:

• 4 units: 10-13 books
• 3 units: 7-10 books
• 2 units: 5-7 books

B) Written Work: The proposal should indicate the kinds of work (response papers, research essays, creative works, etc.), which will be evaluated by the instructor. Assignments should be comparable in extent to a similar classroom course, which means that a four-unit independent study requires a minimum of 25-30 pages of assigned written work. Details should be provided about this work, including the number, length and type of work to be submitted (e.g., two research papers, one 12 pages and the other 20).

For creative projects (e.g., photography, film making, painting, etc.) students are required to submit at least 20 pages of academic writing* in addition to the creative work for four units. For creative projects in writing (e.g., screenplays, novels, essays, blogs, etc.) students are required to submit at least 15 pages of academic writing*. Creative project proposals need to include details about the substance and format of the work, whether short stories, chapters of a novel, paintings, etc.

Ultimately, it is up to the student and instructor to determine the specific format of the work to be evaluated by the instructor. The work for the study should be submitted according to the schedule of due dates agreed upon at the outset, and as with a classroom course, late work may be penalized.

Below is the required minimum amount of written work for independent studies of various unit values. (The number of required written pages for creative projects may be less.):

• 4 units: 25-30 pages of written work
• 3 units: 20-25 pages of written work
• 2 units: 15-20 pages of written work

*Academic writing can be, for example, response papers to readings assigned, and/or a critical analytical and/or research essay that discusses one or more of the theoretical concepts of the class.

5. Determine the syllabus: Instructors and students are expected to meet regularly throughout the semester. The student must provide a schedule of the meetings with the instructor, which includes the topics, the readings, and assignments to be covered during each session. Students can revise their syllabus with their instructor once the semester begins.

Below is the required minimum number of meetings for independent studies of various unit values:

• 4 units: 7 meetings
• 3 units: 5 meetings
• 2 units: 4 meetings

NOTE: Long distance independent studies (where the students and instructor cannot meet together) are not generally permitted.  

6. Secure written approvals: Both the instructor’s and adviser’s approval of the proposal are required. While the instructor may agree to supervise the student’s work, the student’s adviser determines whether it is appropriate for the student to undertake an independent study. After submitting the proposal form, the student should follow up with both their adviser and instructor to make sure their approvals have been sent to Gallatin.

Once the completed independent study proposal has been submitted to, and reviewed by, the Gallatin Faculty Committee on Individualized Studies, the committee chair indicates final approval. Please note that submitting a proposal does not guarantee approval.

7. Meet the proposal submission deadlines and requirements: A timeline for planning is available on the Student Checklist. The completed independent study proposal consists of the following seven (7) components, and all must be submitted by the appropriate semester deadlines:

1. adviser’s approval
2. instructor’s approval
3. completed proposal form
4. description of the study
5. readings
6. written work to be evaluated
7. syllabus

8. Title of the Independent Study: If a student chooses, the title of an independent study will appear on the official transcript. Please check the “Title On Transcript” box on the proposal form to indicate this option, and enter the title. It should be a useful, descriptive title that reflects the unifying theme and content of the study. It should not duplicate an existing NYU course. The words “Independent Study” will appear before the title on the transcript: for example, “Independent Study: The Plays of Arthur Miller.” The title is limited to 26 characters including spaces and punctuation.


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