Proposing an Independent Study

Proposing an Independent Study Image

Proposing an indepedent study takes a bit of preparation and planning.  First, you want to identify a member of the English department graduate faculty who is best able to direct your independent study.  It will most often be a faculty member with whom you have already studied.  Faculty may not lead an independent study for you if they are unfamiliar with you, your work habits, and your research interests.  Next, you should ask the selected faculty member to direct your independent study.  Once you have a verbal agreement, you can move forward with planning your proposal. 

The proposal consists of a few things:

1.  A statement describing the planned independent study 

Your statement should be clear and concise.  It should address why you want to take an independent study and why the areas of research of study within your independent study can't be studied or discussed in already existing courses provided by the English department or other department here at Mason.  Your statement should speak to your goals in and beyond the independent study.  It should be clear from your statement how your prosposed independent study relates to and enhances your degree program.  Your statement doesn't have to reach a certain word count, but it should be approximtely one to two pages in length, double-spaced.

2.  A bibliography

Your statement should be paired with a bibliography.  While your statement speaks to the purpose of the independent study and the work to be completed within that independent study, your bibliography should list the texts you will read as part of the independent study.  Just like a regular course, independent studies must pair reading and writing assignments.  Your bibliography should list the number of books appropriate to a course taken for the number of credits you are proposing. If you plan to take an independent study for 3 credit hours, the reading portion of the courses should be equivalent to the reading completed in any graduate English course.  Your faculty director will be able to guide you in creating a bibliography.

3.  A proposed title

Your proposed title should be no more than 30 characters.  It should be specific to your independent study topic.  Titles appear on your official transcript.

4.  A brief statement describing how this independent study is intended to fit into your degree program

If you intend to count this independent study as literature credit, let us know.  If you want it to count as an elective, tell us.   If you aren't sure how this independent study fits into your degree program, ask your faculty director.  You should have a plan by the time you submit your proposal.


Once your proposal is complete and ready to submit, you must have your faculty director sign the proposal.  You can attach your proposal to a 798 form and simply write "see attached" in the answer fields on the 798 form and have your faculty director sign at the bottom of the form.  Submit the form and your proposal to the graduate programs manager for approval and processing. 

The graduate programs manager will complete an individualized section form and include it with your proposal for approval by the department chair.  Once the department chair approves the proposal, it is placed in your file and the individualized section form is sent to the Office of the Registrar for processing.