Independent Study Instructions

Please read and be sure that you understand these guidelines before submitting your proposal. In developing your project and filling out all forms, ensure that you (and your mentor) are complete and descriptive to avoid delays. If you have any questions, contact Dr. Mallory.

You can download and print a checklist with due dates and abbreviated step by step instructions by clicking here.

Types of Projects

Independent Study can allow a student to obtain a variety of different educational experiences. The only strict guidelines are that the experience must be applicable to the student’s degree and career goals, and that it must not be something that can be obtained through a scheduled BSC course. Common Independent Study projects involve research with a faculty member or other scientist, directed reading or library research projects that build upon regular coursework, and specialized training.

Depending on the type of project, some time may be needed to arrange the details of the project, find time in the mentor’s schedule to work with you, and get the project approved. This is particularly true if you are wanting to start working in a research lab, as labs have finite space and sometimes fill up months in advance. Therefore, if you want to gain some Independent Study experience, it is advisable to start the process of identifying a mentor early. In identifying your mentor, try to find someone who works in a field that interests you or is part of your career goals, and who seems to be enthusiastic about mentoring you. Situations where either the mentor or mentee are less than enthused about the project are not likely to result in a worthwhile experience for either.


Most Independent Study mentors will be faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences, but under some circumstances mentors from another department or even from outside the university may be approved. If you wish to do your project with a non-BSC mentor, discuss your reasons for this with Dr. Mallory before beginning the application.

Furthermore, if your mentor is not BSC faculty, be sure that he or she sees and agrees to the conditions of a Independent Study project as outlined in the Mentor’s Agreement Form. The mentor will be required to sign this form before the project begins, but it is advisable to make them aware of the form and requirements early in the process. The agreement form can be found by clicking here, or on the “Forms” page. If your mentor is not Marshall faculty, be sure to get full contact information including mailing address, email, and phone number to include on the proposal form. For Marshall faculty, only the email is necessary.

Once you have identified a mentor, it is critical that both you and your mentor fully understand the guidelines and due dates for any project you wish to perform. When developing a proposal, ensure that clear expectations are set down between you and written on the proposal form. The project description should make it clear to the Independent Study Administrator exactly what activities you will be involved in, and how completion of the project will be assessed. Fine details of the activities themselves are not necessary at this time.

Time Commitment

The time commitment for Independent Study can vary based on the number of registered hours (1-4). A general guideline to use is that the student should spend about 20-25 hours working on the project through the semester for each hour of credit, but this can vary somewhat depending on the project. A final report of some form is required. It can take the form of a written research summary (much like the scientific paper), or an oral or poster presentation. The detailed expectations for the final report should be arranged with your mentor, together with a timeline for completing it.

Start early enough to leave sufficient time to complete required paperwork before the due date for that paperwork.

Project Approval

The process of project approval works as follows:

1. After working out the details of your project with your mentor, including the plans for the final report, you fill in the Online Project Proposal form and submit it to the Department of Biological Sciences for approval.
2. After review, you will either receive a notice that your proposal needs changes before it can be approved, in which case you will have to follow the instructions you receive to address the deficiencies, or you will receive a notice of preliminary approval. You take your notice (along with the Independent Study Mentor’s Agreement Form and the attached Mentor’s Evaluation Form if the mentor is not BSC faculty), to your project mentor for signatures.
3. You return the signed forms to the Department of Biological Sciences office (S350) BEFORE the start of classes. At that time you will receive final approval, and receive permission to register for BSC 485.


Once you have begun your project, you must keep a notebook of your activities, which you will use to complete your final report. If your mentor is BSC faculty, the final report or presentation will be given to them for assessment. If your mentor is not BSC faculty, the report or presentation will be given to the mentor, then submitted to the Department of Biological Sciences office (S350) for assessment. The report must be submitted BEFORE the start of final exams for the semester during which you performed your Independent Study.

Your Independent Study mentor must also, before the start of final exams, submit the Independent Study Mentor’s Evaluation Form to the Department of Biological Sciences. This form is necessary for you to receive your grade, so be sure that your mentor has a copy with sufficient time to complete it before the deadline. The evaluation form can be found by clicking here, or on the “Forms” page.

  Once both the report (if neccesary) and evaluation form have arrived in the BSC office, a final grade will be determined. If any of the required items are late it may jeopardize your grade and graduation, so work to ensure that everything arrives on time.

Online Project Proposal

Once you have read and understood the above information, and developed your project plan with your mentor:

Click here to access the Online Project Proposal form.