Departmental ISPs (DISPs)

About DISPs

Departmental Independent Study Projects (DISPs) allow individual students to initiate, design, and execute a credit-bearing course with the help of a faculty advisor. DISPs are facilitated directly through an academic department; a student works with a faculty member who registers the DISP through his/her/their department. The course is often called "Independent Reading and Research" or "Independent Research" (a specific course title will not appear on the student’s transcript).

DISPs are an alternative to Independent Study Projects (ISPs). ISPs require submission of a syllabus and review of the proposal by members of the College Curriculum Council the semester before the ISP takes place. On the other hand, DISPs do not require an approval process ahead of time; they are typically planned and facilitated within the same semester. A student usually prepares a rough syllabus with the professor no later than two weeks into the semester that the DISP takes place.

The Registrar's deadline for registering for a DISP is no later than four weeks from the start of the semester. (It is the same deadline for adding a course for the term/semester.)

How do I get started?

First, you need an idea, a topic, an orientation, or a subject that you are truly interested in. Discuss your topic of choice with relevant professors and faculty members to refine your course outline. Each department has unique regulations regarding structuring and deadlines of DISPs, so it is important to communicate both with Brown faculty who do related work and with department chairs. Remember that you will be working closely with a professor, so make sure to discuss your ideas and goals and figure out what works for both of you. Professors invest their time in DISPs, so you have to respect their time!

Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Find a faculty member to work with. You can either choose a professor whose class you have attended in the past or a professor with similar academic interests as yours

    1. Tip: Visit Researchers@Brown to find professors whose interests align with yours

  2. Go to Courses@Brown

  3. Select the "Include Independent Study Courses" option

  4. Look up the department you want to register your DISP in

  5. Add "Independent Research" (or something similar) to your cart. DISPs are usually courses in the 1900s in that department.

  6. Request an override code through Courses@Brown (If you don't see your faculty advisor on CAB, contact the department head and the registrar to get them added to CAB so you can register for their DISP section.)

  7. Once the professor grants you an override, register in the DISP before the end of the 4th week of the semester

Visit the CRC during open hours to discuss your topic and the merits of choosing an ISP of DISP. Even though DISPs do not submit proposals to the CRC, we can still help you and offer resources  in drafting a syllabus!

Note:  For DISPs, students do NOT need to submit a proposal to the CRC. However, it is probably a good idea to draft one anyway, so that students and faculty sponsor are "on the same page" moving forward into the semester.