Independent Studies

Independent Studies in Sociology

SOC 399 Independent Readings

Students who earn credit in SOC 399 typically write an ASA-style paper critically reviewing and synthesizing the scientific literature on a well-defined (and usually narrowly defined) topic. Such an assignment involves considerable bibliographic work, database searching, reading, thinking, critiquing, synthesizing, and writing. The topic of study is usually one in which the sponsoring faculty member has some special expertise or interest. 

SOC 499 Independent Research

Students earn credit in SOC 499 engage in the design, conduct, and analysis of original research. The student's role in a project is usually well-defined in advance and will vary from one project to the next depending on the nature and the stage of the research. 

Getting Started

The first step in getting started is to discuss a possible project with a faculty member. After doing so, both the student and the sponsoring faculty member must sign a contract in advance. Copies of the contract form are available in the Sociology Office (2170 ASH).

The success of an independent study often depends on how well matched the student and the sponsor are. It is a good idea to work with a sponsor that you already know (particularly one who has taught a course you have taken). However, if your own interests are good match with those of someone you do not know well, you can still approach that professor to discuss whether an independent study project would be appropriate. 

Grading and Credit

SOC 399 and SOC 499 are graded Credit/No Credit. Students can take SOC 399 and SOC 499 for 1 to 3 credits. The amount of credit awarded depends on the amount of work a student is expected to do. In general, for a standard course at GVSU, students are expected to put in 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour in class. Following this guideline, students are expected to devote about 3-4 hours per week to the course if they register for one credit, 6-8 hours/week for two credits, 9-12 hours/week for three credits, and 12-16 hours/week for four credits. The amount of credit you will receive is stipulated in the contract. 

Limits on Applying Credits

You can do more than one independent study. However, you are permitted to apply at most six credit hours of independent study work to a major in Sociology.

Some Things that Independent Studies are NOT

Independent studies are not substitutes for courses offered by the department. Typically, independent studies address content areas that are both more specialized and more advanced than is typical of standard courses. Nor are independent studies simply directed readings courses; the level of engagement, self-direction, and independence expected of participating students is substantial. The students who thrive in independent studies tend to be highly motivated self-starters who become intensely engaged in the project.