Getting Started


Seek out a faculty mentor with whom to work.

Approach faculty mentors based on your research interests. For example, if you would like to work with infants, see Dr. Schuetze. If you aren’t sure who shares your interests, explore the department website or talk to any one of the faculty. At this point, you will most likely not have a specific project in mind—this will be developed together with your mentor after you have both agreed to work together.


Work closely with your faculty mentor to develop the idea for your project.

Keep in mind that Independent Studies are one-semester projects, designed to be carried out to completion in a single semester. Honors Theses are two-semester projects for those who qualify. The first semester is set aside to design and begin the project and the second semester is for the completion of the study.  As such, Honors Theses are more in-depth than Independent Studies.


Do some background work before registering for the class

Spend some time with APA PsycNet to see what has been done in this area.  This will help you develop a rough idea of what you will be doing.


Complete the 499/496 form.

When you have identified your basic hypotheses and methods and have thoroughly discussed these with your mentor, you are ready to fill out the 499/496 form. This form must be completed in order to register for the class and is, in essence, your contract with the department. As such, it is to your benefit to make this form as clear and complete as possible. 

Tips for the completing the 499/496 form:

  • In the Rationale section, describe the purpose and background of the study. Cite prior research as appropriate.
  • In the Study Aims section, be sure to include specific, testable hypotheses.
  • In the Technical Section, plan to spend about 200 hours on this project and meet weekly with your faculty mentor. Specific activities for the project should include some sort of final paper or project to convey the results of your study.

Have your faculty mentor review and edit the 499/496 form.

When your form is complete, give it to your faculty mentor to review and edit. Your faculty mentor must sign off on the form before it is given to the chair. 


Submit the 499/496 form to the department chair.

When your faculty mentor is satisfied with the form and has signed it, give the form and the college’s Independent Study/Independent Project/Course by Contract form (available from the department office) to the chair for review. 

When the chair has signed off, you must pick up the college’s form and deliver it yourself to the Registrar’s Office. Without this final step, you will not be enrolled in the independent study.