Information about independent studies

Sometimes you may have a look at the electives offered and they may not quite apply to you.  You may, however, have this brilliant idea for a topic you'd love to explore and that we don't offer a class in.  In some cases you might be able to take the course in another department and have it transferred in.  If you want to pursue this route, you need to get the course pre-approved by your advisor, before you sign up for that other course.

If you work well on your own, if you are the master of your own schedule and learning topics, and like to plan your own work, and, of course, thrive in such an environment, an independent study could be another for you!

The independent study will provide opportunities for students to work independently in one of the following areas: Applied Linguistics, Psycholinguistics, Sociolinguistics, Second Language and Bilingual Methodology, and Cross-Cultural Studies. Students who wish to do an independent study should submit a study plan which should include: a brief description of their area of interest and an outline of the topic they plan to research in terms of content, time and the structure of their project.

Students eligible to take an Independent study course should be at the end of their course work for their M.A. and have at least a 3.5 GPA. All research plans for an Independent Study are subject to approval by their advisor, the supervising faculty, and the Department Chair. An Independent Study cannot be used to substitute a required APLING course.

Independent studies require a lot of planning on your part, but here is a what you should do to be able to get an independent study approved:

  1. Think of a subject they want to study and put together a brief proposal
    This brief proposal serves as a window into the project you wish to pursue. It allows others, especially your potential independent study advisors to get a sense of where you might go.
  2. Then look at our faculty listing and their research interests and another areas of interest and approach the most appropriate faculty for your topic.
    You can find a listing of our faculty here: It is important to be able to match up your topic with the appropriate faculty member. The faculty member may not be supervising you as closely as they do in a traditional, paced, course. However their expertise is invaluable in providing a scope-check, reality-check, and a potential safety net.
  3. Approach faculty member to see if they are willing and able to  supervise the independent study
    Even if you find a faculty member whose interests align with yours they may not be able to accommodate your request. It is possible that prior obligations other than teaching could prevent faculty members from being able to take you on as an independent study advisee. If at first you don't succeed, ask another faculty member.
  4. Then speak to faculty advisor and department chair for final approval.
    If you get a faculty member on-board to be your independent study supervisor, the next step is formal approval from the department chair of the department. Once the department chair approves the independent study, the program manager (AK or Evy) can register you for the independent study.
  5. Work on a plan!
    Once the independent study is approved, you aren't done yet!  Don't wait until the semester begins to hatch a plan for your independent study!  You should be working on creating a study plan, in consultation with your independent study supervisor, for what readings you will do, what sorts of learning objectives you aim to satisfy, and what deliverables you will submit (and by what dates!).  You may have some of this in your brief proposal (from step 1), but this part is where things get formalized.  Without a solid plan that both you and your supervisor can agree on, the independent study may not be on a solid base.
  6. Keep on task, keep on track
    One of the potential pitfalls of an independent study is that you get side-tracked.  While you and your supervisor agree on deliverables and deadlines, it's important to keep your own pace. Your supervisor is there to make sure that you are not overlooking important research, materials, and avenues of inquiry. They are not there to help you keep the pace. :-)

Some Suggestions for Preparing your Proposal:


Briefly address the following points:

  • What is/are your QUESTION(S)?
  • WHY do you want to study this topic?
  • Describe your CONTEXT and the CONTEXT of the study.

Briefly name the three most important things you already know. (If you have already read something on the topic, write an abstract of what you already know. Clarify your point of departure.)


  • Timeline
  • Structure

C. IMPLICATIONS (projected benefit(s) and beneficiary/s)

Be sure to include:

  • What is your PROPOSED LITERATURE base? (If you have begun reading, list possible/projected specific references you have identified.)
  • HOW will you go about studying your question? (Here you are outlining how you plan to address your questions: If you plan to collect information in addition to reading the literature, how do you plan to do it?)
  • HOW and to whom do you plan to report what you find? (e.g., who do you imagine as the ideal audience for your lit review?)
  • WHAT do you hope to learn by doing this study? Describe any other potential benefits or beneficiaries.


  • You do not have to write your proposal in exactly this order or form. Use the questions as suggestions or a guide, but you decide how to write it and organize it. Be brief and to the point (i.e., don’t go into a lot of detail).
  • Try to frame measurable goals and a timeline. What would you like to achieve overall in the course of the semester? Be as succinct as possible: keep the narrative sections to a few paragraphs each at most. Use a table or other graphic for the timeline. Use an outline to show the structure.
  • Using subtitles for different sections greatly helps the reader!

Following those brief steps will get you on a good path to successfully preparing and completing your independent study.  If you have additional questions about the independent study email and we'll be happy to answer them! :-)

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