Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a GISP, an ISP, and a DISP?
In Group Independent Study Projects (GISPs) and Independent Study Projects (ISPs), students and faculty work together to develop credit-bearing courses that are not a regular part of the Brown curriculum. Participating students are responsible for researching the course topic, constructing a syllabus, and planning and conducting the academic coursework. Each GISP and ISP is sponsored by a faculty member who assesses the proposed study, provides advice during the semester, and evaluates the work of each student. GISPs are intended for multiple students while ISPs are for individual students.
In Departmental Independent Study Projects (DISPs), a student works with a faculty member who registers the DISP through his/her department; usually this course is called, "Independent Reading and Research." While DISPs also allow individual students to initiate, design, and execute a credit-bearing course with the help of a faculty advisor, a specific course title will not appear on the student’s transcript. The approval process does not require the submission of a syllabus during the semester prior to the DISP. Instead, the student student usually prepares a rough syllabus with the professor not later than two weeks into the semester that the DISP takes place.
Students who would like their course to appear under a specific name on their transcript should consider pursuing in Independent Study Project (ISP) instead of a DISP.
How many students can be enrolled in a GISP?
A minimum of 2 and a maximum of 15.
What is the expected workload of an Independent Study?
ISPs and GISPs are designed to be as (if not more rigorous) than regular Brown courses. The standard workload is between 150-200 pages of reading per week including a midterm and final. That said, the workload may vary according to the type of course being proposed, and there is plenty of room for creativity.
Who can sponsor a GISP?
Any faculty member with a current teaching position has the option of advising an independent study.
How do I find a Faculty Sponsor?
If you do not already have a professor who you know is interested in the same areas as you are, a great place to start looking for an advisor is www.research.brown.edu. Also, be sure to look at the CRC's Past GISPs Database to find professors who have a history of sponsoring GISPs in your subject.
How do I find readings for my syllabus?
We are fortunate to be at a place where there are professors who tend to specialize in pretty much every area of study so they are often the best resource. Looking up syllabi from other universities is also a very effective method.
How do I find GISP members?
To find GISP members, e-mail your idea and contact information to Independent_Study@brown.edu to be added to the Potential GISP Ideas Database. We also recommend using Morning Mail, posting flyers, e-mailing relevant groups and departments and advertising your ideas around campus as creatively as possible.
Can students join my course after we have submitted our proposal?
Unfortunately, the students who work on the proposal are the only ones who can take the course for credit because the planning process is considered an integral part of the IS learning process.
What are the grading options for Independent Studies?
Like any other class at Brown, ISPs and GISPs can be taken for a letter grade or as S/NC. The grading option may be changed up until the standard two weeks into the semester. Many GISPs end up being S/NC to reduce the workload on advisors.
Can graduate students participate in GISPs?
This is possible as per our guidelines but whether or not a grad student receives credit depends on his/her department.
I missed the Independent Studies deadline. What do I do?
Unfortunately, we cannot make exceptions if the submission deadline has passed. However, we encourage students to look into DISPs.