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.

2021 URS Flyer


Download 2021 Program (pdf - 193 KB)

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. With the pandemic moving everything virtual for the 11th annual symposium in Spring 2021, students' projects were posted online a week prior to the event, displaying an amazing variety of interdisciplinary and innovative topics and research approaches. This allowed for robust conversation amongst the presenters, moderators, respondents, and all in attendance via Zoom.

Click on the links to view the presentations.

Colonialism, Slavery, and Antisemitism in Pre-Modern Spain

Moderator: Elvira Vilches                                              

Respondents: José María Rodríguez García, Melissa Simmermeyer

Anna Davis & Alex Hoffman - Cultura y cambio: El colonialismo y la esclavitud/Culture and Change: Colonialism and Slavery

Sophie Barry & Sydney Gaviser - Antisemitism and Slavery in Early Modern Spain: An Artistic Analysis

Language and Equity: Case Studies on Mental Health, Asylum, and Obesity

Moderator: Joan Clifford                                              

Respondents: Luciana Fellin, Liliana Paredes

Katie Tsai - Pour le bien-être psychologique: The Role of U.S. Schools in Improving Refugee Children's Mental Health

Gwyneth Bernier - The Case for Language-Based Genocide as an International Basis of Asylum

Angie Anaeme - Differences, Disparities, and Developments in the Obesity Epidemic Among Hispanic and Native American Communities in Arizona

Broken Promises: Social Cognition, Public Health, and Mental Illness Past and Present

Moderator: Joan Clifford                                          

Respondents: Deborah, Jenson, Walter Mignolo

Alex Raghunandan -  The Comparison of French and English Indo-Caribbean Literary Depictions of Indentured Servitude and its Associated Neurological Implications

Alex Johnson - Hypochondria and Mental Health in Molière’s “Le Malade Imaginaire"

Osmay Pardias - Promesas Rotas: An Overview of Cuba’s Food Distribution Program “La Libreta” and Its Impacts on Health

Diversifying the Classics: Sex, Love, and Global Asymmetries

Moderator: Martin Eisner                                          

Respondents: Alyssa Granacki, Saskia Ziolkowski

Griffin McDaniel - The Evolution of Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron

Courtney Lee - The Psychology of the Dolce Serena: The Examination of Dante’s Innovative View of Self-Control and Love in Purgatorio

Love Stories and Courtly Life in the Francophone World

Moderator: Michèle Longino                                    

Respondents: Anne-Gaëlle Saliot, Laura Florand

Sydney Wilkerson - Origins of the Contemporary Feminist Profile: Exploring the Female Archetype in Colette’s Cheri Novels

Dan King - The French Love Story: A Journey Through the Centuries

Marie-Line Lochard - The Royal Ideology and Aesthetics of Monarchy Under Haitian King Henri Christophe