Independent Study

Consistent with its commitment to student-directed learning, Brown offers a variety of independent study opportunities.

Departmental Independent Study Courses

Many academic departments at Brown offer independent research or reading courses. Each department handles this type of course differently: some departments allow as much flexibility as a student-initiated Independent Study Project (ISP, see below); others reserve independent research and reading course for concentrators or thesis projects. To register for a departmental independent study (in addition to whatever the instructor or department requires), students log into [email protected], select the box labeled, "include in the independent study courses," and enter the instructor's name in the search field. Students would then select the appropriate course title (typically below the 2000-level) and add the course to their cart; students must obtain an override from the instructor in order to register. 

The deadline for enrolling in a departmental independent study is the same as the deadline for adding any other kind of course.  Students in departments that do not offer independent study options may want to consider doing an ISP (Independent Study Project) or a GISP (Group Independent Study Project). 

Group Independent Study Projects (GISP)

Group Independent Study Projects are cooperative ventures in which students and Brown faculty develop credit-bearing courses that are not a regular part of the Brown curriculum. Participating students bear major responsibility for researching the course topic, constructing a syllabus, and planning and conducting the academic coursework. Each Group Study is sponsored by an instructor who holds a teaching appointment at Brown and who is prepared to play an active role in the course. The College Curriculum Council reviews all proposals, and courses appear on the academic transcript with a unique number and title.

The development of a GISP proposal is an intrinsic part of the course. Each student participant is therefore expected to contribute to the course syllabus. Students who have not played a part in planning the course may not register after the fact.

Any student who is in good standing and who has completed at least one semester at Brown is eligible to initiate and participate in a Group Study Project. Proposal forms and other information about GISPs are available at the Curricular Resource Center and on the CRC web site

Independent Study Projects (ISP)

ISPs work in the same way as GISPs, but here it is an individual student who is responsible for designing, implementing, and carrying out the coursework with a faculty mentor.

Global Independent Study Project (GLISP)

Brown students studying abroad may also initiate an independent study with a Brown faculty member. Students are expected to develop a project proposal that connects both to their curriculum abroad and to their concentration at home. Students who complete a GLISP earn an additional Brown credit along with their credits abroad.

A global independent study often serves as the catalyst for a student's continued research after returning to Brown—usually in the form of an honors thesis. More information may be found on the Office of International Programs website.