Independent Study & Research

Through independent study, you can earn course credit while pursuing your own individual interests under the supervision of a faculty member. There are two types of independent study:

  • Independent Study (non-research), and
  • Research Independent Study.

The following policies apply to both types of independent study:

  1. Approval — The independent study must be approved by the instructor(s) involved as well as by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the relevant department or program.

  2. Faculty appointment — The instructor of record (supervising faculty member) must hold a regular rank faculty appointment at Duke within the department or program sponsoring the independent study. In some cases, there may be an additional instructor who mentors the bulk of the independent study and holds an appointment outside the sponsoring department or program. If this is the case, the supervising faculty member is responsible for submitting the final grade, and ensuring that the instructor adheres to academic standards, policies, and procedures pertaining to undergraduate students in Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.

  3. Course Content / Quality — The independent study must provide a rigorous academic experience equivalent to that of any other undergraduate Duke course. Independent study courses may not duplicate available course offerings in the semester or summer term in which the independent study is being taken, nor may independent study be used simply to provide low-level support for other projects or to observe or shadow the work of others.

  4. Meeting schedule — In addition to the individual effort of the student, which normally entails ~10 hours per week, the student will meet with the instructor of the independent study at least once every two weeks during the fall or spring semester (at least once a week during the summer).

  5. Final product — The student will produce a final academic and/or artistic product to be completed during the semester for which the student is registered for the course.

  6. Grading — The instructor will evaluate the work, including the final product, associated with the independent study, and submit a grade by the end of the semester. If the instructor is someone other than the supervising faculty member, the instructor will consult on the final grade with the supervising faculty member from the sponsoring department or program, who will submit the final grade.

Procedure to Apply:

  1. Students wishing to register for an independent study or research independent study must first contact the DUS before they meet with a regular rank faculty member with expertise in the desired area.
  2. The student and instructor should agree on the course title, a comprehensive description, a detailed list of proposed readings, objectives and expectations, the nature of the final product, as well as a calendar of meeting sessions and evaluation criteria.
  3. The student submits the Independent Study Application Form (see below) to the Director of Undergraduate Studies for final approval before the end of registration for the term in which the independent study is to be taken. If approved, the student will receive a permission number from the Program Coordinator to register for the course.

Application Form:

Undergraduate Independent Study Form

Please also consider Graduation with Distinction!

Independent Study

Project: Neualtland, Nuova e Antica: Italian Zionism during the Fascist Period”

Independent study project title slide

Student: Jason Beck (Political Science & Italian ’20) 

When the global pandemic kept everyone at home and prevented the department from having our wonderful Undergraduate Research Symposium, where we get to see the range of undergraduate research in Romance Studies, Jason Beck transformed his work into a recorded presentation. Jason explored the development of Zionism, anti-Zionism, the myth of Jerusalem, and the myth of Rome in Fascist Italy. His final project wove together the complexities of the shifts in national feeling, the Fascist promotion of ancient Rome as a model, and Zionism in a rich analysis of Jewish Italian identity and history, with special attention to three key autobiographical works: Fabio della Seta’s The Tiber Afire, Augusto Segre’s Memoirs of Jewish Life: From Italy to Jerusalem, 1918-1960, and Dan Vittorio Segre’s Memoirs of  Fortunate JewAn Italian Story.


Project: "Diferencias y disparidades de salud para la comunidad hispana en Durham (Differences and disparities of health for the Hispanic community in Durham)"

Student: Carter Lovvorn (Spanish ’20)


Through an internship with the Durham County Department of Public Health, Carter Lovvorn participated in the preparation and implementation of the Durham County Community Health Assessment (CHA). His honors thesis explores results about Latinx communities from previous CHAs and closely documents the current state of Latinx communities in Durham. Having participated in many aspects of the CHA, Carter explains the process of designing and distributing one of the few bilingual community survey’s in North Carolina. The critical analysis of trends that emerged from the 2019 health data identify how cultural, linguistic, and systemic issues impact the well-being of Latinx communities in Durham.

Duke's Undergraduate Research Support Office provides grants and assistantships for undergraduate research projects, creative arts projects, travel to research conferences, and summer research programs. See the complete list of URS programs.

2023 URS Poster





Each year the Department of Romance Studies (with co-sponsorship by Trinity Research Enhancement) presents an Undergraduate Research Symposium on the theme of ‘Old Worlds, New Worlds, Future Worlds.' The symposium provides an outlet for the outstanding research produced by students in Romance Studies courses, and is an important means by which the department fosters an active culture of research and exchange among students and faculty. 

Download 2023 URS Schedule (pdf - 190.99 KB)


2023 Schedule:

9:00 – 9:15        Welcome & Introductory RemarksJosé María Rodríguez García, Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies


9:15 – 10:00    Challenges and Opportunities for Healing in Global Health Perspectives

Moderator: Hélie Vigor

Respondents: Marcos Canteli Vigón, Emma Howell

Peter Caragol                     Breast Cancer Treatment in Spain: Problematizing Screening Practices and                                                                 Global Health Inequities

Phelan Mahoney              Narrative Medicine: The Importance of a Humane and Personal Approach to Medicine

Camille Krejdovsky          Dance as a Medium for Exploring the Experience of Refugees                                       


10:00 – 10:45   Situating Planning and Policy: Evolving Subjectivities, Expanding Localities

Moderator: Leonardo Bacarreza

Respondents: Lisa Merschel, Sandy Valnes Quammen

Thuan Tran                         The Present and Future of Urban Design Policies in Latin America

Daniel Sutton                     Language and the Gendered Self: Addressing Grammatical Gender in the Italian Language

Audrey Costley                  Linguistic Policy and Planning in Francophone Louisiana: An Analysis of the State and Outlook of French in Louisiana


10:45 – 11:15   Saludos y Despedidas: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Greeting and Farewell Practices in the Spanish-Speaking World

Moderator: Rebecca Ewing

Respondents: Mattia Begali, Joan Munné

Presenters: Lydia Cox, Teddy Hur, Athena Yeung


11:15 – 12:00   Visions of Excess in Modern French Literature and the Arts

Moderator: Anne-Gaëlle Saliot

Respondents: Kate Driscoll, Elvira Vilches

Gwyneth Bernier               From Flaubert's Sins to Van Gogh's Sunflowers: The Hallmarks of a Shared Obsession in Two Artistic Titans

Ethan Chen                         Animal Magnetism in 19th Century French Literature

Stephen Atkinson            Decadent Discipline in Early 20th Century French Literature


12:00 – 12:30   BREAK


12:30 – 1:00    Engineering in Francophone Countries

Moderator: Deb Reisinger

Respondent: Laura Florand

Presenters: Roxana Haas, Lizzy Jones, Marie Lowry, Emily Yagoda


1:00 – 1:30        Circulations and Negotiations of Cultural Memory

Moderator: Saskia Ziolkowski

Respondents: Laura Florand, Joseph Mulligan

Andres Cordoba                 Objects and Memorials as Variable Fixing Points in Memory

Meghna Parameswaran  Beyond the Tangible: Memorials as Sites of Cultural Exchange


1:30 – 2:15        Subverting the Gender Binary in Socio-Cultural Practices: Between Oppression and Nonconformity

Moderator: Sarah Quesada

Respondents: José María Rodríguez García, Harry Karahalios

Justin Xavier                       Foundational Legacies of Colonialism: Gendered Perspectives

Steven Powell                    La amenaza del homosexual: The Creation, Oppression, and Proliferation of the Homosexual Under the Franco Regime in Spain

Laila Khan-Farooqi           France’s Gender Binary: Perspectives on Masculinity, Femininity, and Gender Nonconformity in 19th Century Literature and Art


2:15                 Closing Remarks Laura Florand, Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies