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Independent Study

Independent study offers students the opportunity to work one-to-one with faculty in an area of shared scholarship. It is your responsibility to approach the faculty member with an idea for independent study. Faculty members consider each request individually; professors are under no obligation to offer an independent study option to any student. Only doctorate-level faculty (faculty with a Ph.D.) and adjunct faculty can oversee independent study classes.

Supervised study experiences are not designed to simply "provide extra credit." These studies are designed for advanced students who have either completed all available courses in a specific subject/rubric or who are completing advanced research. Undergraduate students may earn a maximum of 18 independent study credits at MELC. 

As always, students should plan well in advance which courses they will take in order to meet graduation requirements. DO NOT count on meeting graduation requirements through Independent Studies unless you have an agreement in writing from the professor who will be your supervisor.

Types of Independent Study

Directed Readings (490)

These are undergraduate scholarly projects driven by specific texts. Often linked with courses the students are currently in to provide a deeper learning experience.

Undergraduate Research (499)

This experience offers the opportunity for in-depth research on a topic. Students will work on their own research topics or help faculty with on-going projects. Highly recommended to prepare for your Senior Essay (NEAR E 498).

Senior Essay (NEAR E 498)

This allows students in their final year the opportunity of a large-scale research and writing project under the close supervision of MELC faculty. At this point, the senior essay is required for students in the Comparative Islamic Studies, Biblical and Ancient and Culture & Civilization Tracks. We highly recommend that you first take Undergraduate Research (NEAR E 499) to prepare for your essay. 

The student and faculty thesis supervisor must agree on a topic for the senior essay. The project can be a new topic on which the student has never written, or it can be a topic inspired by a paper that the student has written for an earlier course. However, the senior thesis must be something more than a modest revision of some earlier paper. The senior essay, if it is developed from an earlier essay or research paper, must represent significant new work and development beyond any earlier product. A copy of any earlier paper that provided the inspiration for the senior essay must be turned in with the senior paper. 

During the quarter in which the paper will be written, the student enrolls in NEAR E 498 for 5 credits, with the faculty supervisor listed as the instructor.

The supervisor and student will together agree on: (a) a regular meeting schedule during the senior essay quarter; (b) the methodology to be followed in writing the paper; and (c) the due date for the final version of the paper.

The essay should be about 20-30 pages in length. The student should own and use a standard style manual and follow a standard format or style for the writing of research papers. One example would be the style guidelines in the MLA Handbook. Final decision about the style to be followed will be agreed upon by the student and the faculty thesis supervisor.

The senior essay must go through at least one rewriting. At least one first draft must be submitted to the faculty thesis supervisor for comment and correction no later than three weeks before the agreed upon due date for the final version.

For Graduate Students

It is appropriate for graduate students to register for one or more quarters of Independent Study (NE 600) in order to cover material on the reading list in preparation for the exam. 

In addition, the faculty strongly recommends that, as preparation for the general exam, all M.A. students should have taken at least one course from each of the following lists: 

  • LIST A: NE 210, NE 211, NE 212 
  • LIST B: NE 220, NE 240 

If they have not taken these courses or equivalent courses as undergraduates, M.A. students may cover the course contents by registering for NE 600, attending the classes, and completing additional work designated by the instructor, thereby earning credit for an Independent Study. The general exam will assume broad core knowledge of the Near East and comparative perspectives on the field. However, it will not be a standardized exam, but rather will be suited to each student's course of study.

What to do

  1. Plan ahead. Speak with a faculty member before the quarter begins to obtain his or her approval and to plan what the independent study will entail. 
  2. Fill out the Independent Study form (pdf file) indicating the work to be covered, the assignments to be completed, and the reason for setting up an independent study rather than completing the work through a regularly offered course. Have your supervising faculty member sign this form. 
  3. For the Senior Essay, fill out the  Senior Essay form (pdf file). Have your supervising faculty member AND the Undergraduate Advisor sign this form. A copy will be kept in the student's file. 
  4. Submit the completed form to the MELC front office (Denny 220) or email it to Registration for Independent Study and Senior Essay will not be completed unless the forms are signed by the supervising faculty member and advisor (if necessary). When the necessary steps are completed, MELC staff will forward the student's information to Humanities Academic Services who will enter the registration for the appropriate credits.
  5. Be sure to consult with your supervising faculty member throughout the quarter.