Independent study enables a student to pursue for course credit individual interests under the supervision of a faculty member.  

There are two ways to do an independent study:

Do supervised reading in a field of special interest under the sponsorship of a faculty member. Requires a substantive paper containing significant analysis and interpretation. 

Note: This does not bear a Research (R) code and does not satisfy any general education requirements.

Conduct individual research in a field of special interest under the supervision of a faculty member, the central goal of which is a substantive paper containing significant analysis and interpretation of a previously approved topic.  


  • Does bear a Research (R) code and satisfies one of the general education Research requirements.
  • One research independent study may be submitted and approved for a Writing (W) code in addition to the R code designation, but no other curriculum codes are permitted for research independent study courses. Students who wish to request a W code must take the appropriate form to 02 Allen Building by the end of drop/add period in the semester in which the student is enrolled in the independent study.
  • Access the Request for the Writing Code here.

Note: the consent of an instructor and the director of undergraduate studies is required for both types of independent study.

Register for an Independent Study in 6 Steps

  1. Review Duke’s Independent Study Policies and Procedures.
  2. Find a PUBPOL faculty member to supervise your independent study course.
  3. Complete the PUBPOL independent study form and submit for the faculty advisor and Director of Undergraduate Studies signatures.
  4. Once the form has been signed Anita Lyon, Sanford Registrar, will send you a permission number.
  5. Register for the course in DukeHub.

Finished Your Independent Study?

E-mail Suzanne Pierce, Student Services Coordinator and include:

  • Reading list
  • Meeting log (include dates and times that you met with your faculty supervisor.  Must be signed by faculty supervisor.)
  • Final product.

Reach Out


Suzanne Pierce

Student Services Coordinator

Suzanne Pierce is the Student Services Coordinator for the Public Policy Undergraduate Program.  She has over 24 years of experience at Duke University working with undergraduate students. 


Study with Renowned Faculty

Olivia Levine worked with physician and behavioral scientist Peter Ubel for her independent study. Olivia says she had a terrific experience in the program, and that she learned about an entirely new topic. "I gained in-depth knowledge about patient-clinician communication and explored how euphemisms are used in the context of discussing death," she says. Olivia recommends an independent study as a way to learn in depth about a field of interest.