Independent Study Guidelines

Independent study projects provide an opportunity for an interested student to explore a subject area of particular importance to her/him that is not otherwise available in the department’s curriculum. They allow students to pursue in-depth field or library research as apprentice scholars or as policy analysts. The possible topics for independent studies are nearly unlimited. 

Student Eligibility

Because credit is earned for these courses, students should expect to devote the same amount of time that they would to any other upper division course in the major (if not more time). To be eligible to take SOC 499, the student must have completed at least 60 credit hours of coursework, including at least 15 credit hours in Sociology. An independent study proposal is much more likely to be approved if the student has an overall grade point average of at least 3.0 and can successfully document (on the Independent Study Proposal form) that she/he has adequate preparation (combination of course work and life experience) to undertake the work.

Choosing a Faculty Mentor

A member of the UB Sociology faculty MUST agree to serve as mentor for your independent study before the Department will consider your proposal. This person will be responsible for overseeing the conduct of the independent study from inception to completion and will assign an appropriate letter grade.

Ideally, your faculty mentor should have some background and interest in the topic of your independent study. It is recommended that you begin making arrangements with a faculty mentor as early as possible. Because the extent of a mentor’s participation in each independent study should be substantial, no mentor may sponsor more than three independent studies per semester (unless approval to sponsor additional independent study students has been received from the Undergraduate Studies Committee).

Proposal and Final Report

The Undergraduate Studies Committee (USC) must approve all proposals for independent studies. You should begin the process by preparing a rough draft of your idea and asking a faculty member whose opinion you value to give you feedback. That person may agree to be your mentor or may suggest that you approach another faculty member about playing that role. You will need to submit a Proposal for Independent Study to Ms. Kelly Crean, Undergraduate Program Coordinator, before the end of business on the third day of the fall or spring semester you would like to register for independent study credits; earlier is better. The USC will review the proposal and convey to you the response.  

At the end of the semester, you must submit an Independent Study Final Report.  This completed report must be submitted to your faculty mentor and to Ms. Kelly Crean, Undergraduate Program Coordinator, by the end of business on the last day of classes in the semester in which you registered for independent study credits.

Learn more

Contact Ms. Kelly Crean, Undergraduate Program Coordinator, with questions about doing an independent study and to request an independent study proposal form.

Types of Independent Studies

  1. Guided reading. In consultation with the faculty sponsor, the student chooses a number of readings (books and/or journal articles) around a topical theme or question. Completion of learning outcomes is assessed by preparation of a written document, which may be an annotated bibliography or a literature review. For this option, a student must have successfully completed (with a grade of B- or better) SOC 349, Sociological Theory, and at least one 300- or 400-level elective Sociology course(s) relevant to the independent study topic or question.
  2. Empirical research. This option involves the student developing a realistic proposal that includes one or more research questions, a proposed method (including appropriate discussion of data availability and research ethics), and a workplan. Completion of learning outcomes is assessed by preparation of a research paper, with an introduction, focused literature review, a methods section, and findings. For this option, a student must have successfully completed (with a grade of B- or better) SOC 293, Social Research Methods, and at least one 300- or 400-level elective Sociology course(s) relevant to the independent study topic or question.