Independent Study Guidelines | St. Lawrence University Psychology

Independent Study Guidelines


For PSYC 471/472 and SYE:  PSYC 489/490

An independent study typically consists of a non-empirical exploration of some topic under the direction of a faculty member. Initiating and completing an independent study is the responsibility of the student. That is, faculty members are to be considered as advisors and not as prime movers of IS projects.  In addition, it is solely at the discretion of the faculty member to accept a student for an IS.


  • Typically, students should have completed Research Methods (PSYC 205), possess an overall GPA of at least 2.5, and have completed a minimum of 4 courses in psychology with at least a 2.5 average.
  • The topic should be of interest to the faculty member.
  • The student should present a written proposal/outline with a clear direction.
  • If the faculty member is unfamiliar with the student, obtaining references from other department members who are familiar with that student is suggested.
  • The faculty member should assess the student's motivation for the project.
  • Before beginning, there should be an awareness of, and agreement on, a tentative time-line or schedule for completion of all IS components.
  • Because other enriching experiences exist that students should pursue (e.g., Independent Research, Internship, Senior Project), students usually take no more than one IS in the Psychology Department.


It is expected that there will be regular (e.g., once a week, or once every 2 weeks) advisory sessions throughout the semester.  The student has a responsibility to attend these arranged meetings, as they are viewed as equivalent to in-class sessions and are a required component of the IS.  A minimum of 9 hours per week (outside the advisory meetings) should be devoted to the IS.  The work presented at the advisory meetings should reflect that time and effort.


Most ISs will require a final paper or equivalent project.  When a paper is required, it is expected that it will be a major literature review, in APA style, of no less than 20 pages (excluding references).  This paper should be the synthesis of a series of smaller written projects, outlines, drafts, etc., that have occurred throughout the semester.


How the process and outcome are weighted to arrive at a final grade should be left to the discretion of the faculty sponsor.  However, faculty and students should discuss and clarify this issue early on so that no ambiguities exist.  An IS cannot be taken for a Pass/Fail grade.


For an Independent Study to count as a SYE, the student is expected to take an active role in exploring a topic in a manner that demonstrates independent thought and creativity. In addition to the required paper or project, students will be required to write an epilogue on the order of five pages or more. This epilogue should integrate a student’s Independent Study experience with the knowledge and critical reasoning skills that he/she has developed as a student of psychology, as well as a SLU student in general.  An IS can only be undertaken as a SYE if approved by the supervising faculty member. Priority will be given to students with a psychology major or minor, as well as students with a neuroscience major.

 (Rev. 4/14)