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.

2022 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 2022 URS Schedule (pdf - 187.53 KB)


2022 Schedule:

8:45-9:00    Welcome & Introductory Remarks – Gustavo Furtado, Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies

9:00 – 9:30         Quienes somos / Qui sommes-nous: A New Ideology of Language Learning
Moderators: Liliana Paredes, Sandy Valnes Quammen
Discussants: Laura Bilanceri, Melissa Simmermeyer
Presenters: Barbara Cardenas Codriansky, Ava Durgin, Angelina Frances, Anna Ghelfi, Mike Lund, Ondine Peck-Voll, Kristen Rigsby     
9:30 – 10:15        The Roles of Health Promoters, Conservation Technology, and Music
Moderator: Gustavo Furtado
Discussants: Sarah Quesada, Esther Gabara
Brian Linder        Health Promotion in Honduras: Empowerment, Community Connection, Confidence in Local Honduran Health Services 
Ashley Rosen        Filling in the Gaps and Finding Holes: Conservation Technology in the Amazon
Thomas Zornig         Comparing the Definitions and Roles of Music in Amazonian and Western Cultures

10:15 – 11:00    Colonial and Post-Colonial Displacements
Moderator: Deb Reisinger
Discussants: Saskia Ziolkowski, Helen Solterer
Trisha Gupta        Trauma Resurgence: Becoming a Refugee in France
Daniel Ehrlich        Aller sans retour: The persecution and hospitality facing Egyptian Jews in 1957
Jack Kochansky        Refugee politics: Drivers of refugee acceptance across US states
Joshua Coopersmith    Goodbye Paris, Hello Beijing in Francophone West Africa?

11:00 – 11:15    BREAK

11:15 – 12:00    Identity, Ethnicity, and Citizenship
Moderator: Laura Florand
Discussants: Samar Miled, Joan Munné
Suzie Choi        ¿Qué significa Latinx?: How everyday discrimination and political inequality reinforce Latinx as "outgroup”
Victoria Hernandez    A History of Latinx Citizenship: The Intersection of Legal and Social Norms as Forces that Shape Intergroup Prejudice  
Amanda Kang        My Perspective or Yours: The Representation of BIPOC in Francophone Literature and Cinema by Authors of Different Backgrounds
Arielle Stern        L'héritage de la colonisation défini par les relations de propriété (The Legacy of Colonization Defined by Proprietary Relationships)

12:00 – 12:45    Literature and Neuroscience 
Moderator: Deborah Jenson
Discussants: Thomas Muzart
Gwyneth Bernier        Flaubert's Shifting Philosophies Through the Lens of the Four Versions of La Tentation de Sainte Antoine 
Sasha Faison         Capturing Consciousness: an exploration of how Flaubert’s account of his own epilepsy and those presented in his writing closes the gap between the mind and the body
Morgan Biele        On the Same Page: Understanding Distributed Mind through Neuroscience and the Narratological Fields in Flaubert's Madame Bovary

12:45    Closing Remarks – Laura Florand, Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies