Individualized Study

“Guided Study,” “Independent Research,” or “Tutorial”

Statement of Understanding

You have approached me to conduct in an in-depth analysis of a specific topic of your choosing. Please keep in mind that it will be unlike traditional classes: you will be the only student, you will not be able to “hide” in class, your absences will always be noticed, and your work will be carefully scrutinized. However, it will also be less formal than a traditional class, it will be driven by your interests (and not mine), and it will be an opportunity for you to work individually—with my assistance and guidance—to learn about something important to you. You should see this course of study as a semester-long conversation with me about a topic of interest to you; if you fail to show interest, the conversation will falter. But if you maintain your level of interest, there is no limit to what you might discover.


By the end of the semester, you should:

Be familiar with the basic materials related to your chosen topic;

Have an appreciation for the context and scope of your chosen topic;

Be confident to discuss in-depth materials your have prepared related to your chosen topic; and

Be prepared to conduct in-depth research related to a specific aspect of your chosen topic.

[More specific goals will be provided after the Individualized Study has been approved.]


While some texts for an individualized study will be assigned at the outset, others may be assigned according to the progress and direction of our conversations as the semester progresses. Every effort will be made to ensure that readings are available in the VWU library, or can be obtained on-line. If necessary, you may borrow materials from me.

Responsibilities & Evaluation
  • Individual meetings (50 points)

For the entire semester, we will meet regularly for the sole purpose of conversing about the topic you have chosen to investigate. The substance of these conversations will be drawn from readings that will be assigned based on my training and your interests. For this reason, while some readings will be selected at the beginning of the semester, others may be added as the semester progresses in response to changes in our investigation.

I may provide some background, but you will be expected to lead the conversation.

At least 12 hours before our meeting, you must to send to me (via email: an analysis of each reading assignment. This analysis should be at least two pages long, and it may include a brief summary of the materials read, but the majority of it should be an analysis of the author’s argument, a reflection on the relationship of the reading to previous readings, or an exploration of some aspect covered in the reading.

  • Final Paper (50 points)

On the last day of “exam week,” you will submit to me a research paper on a topic directly drawn from (or sufficiently related to) your individualized study. During the course of the semester, we will discuss possible topics, refine a research problem, and discuss the appropriate resources you might wish to consult for your research.

Unless agreed upon differently in advance, the final paper should be submitted in “hard” (printed) form; it should be between twelve and twenty pages long; and should conform to the standards of college research writing.

Scheduling of Readings & Assignments

During the first week of the semester, you must contact me (via email: and provide for me four 15-minute time slots so that we can schedule an initial meeting. At this initial meeting we will schedule a time that we can meet regularly (one time a week) for the remainder of the semester. Please have at that initial meeting your semester class schedule, plus any schedules for extra-curricular commitments (on campus or off).

Nothing of substance will be done at the initial 15-minute meeting beyond the scheduling of our regular semester meeting times.

Unless we have discussed reading in advance, I will have initial readings for you at our initial regular semester meeting. As noted above, readings will be kept flexible to take advantage of shifts in your interests and our discussions.


Application for Guided Study, Independent Research, or Tutorial

Click HERE for the downloadable form that must be submitted and approved by the VWU Office of the Registrar before initiating an Individualized Study course. Please contact me before you submit this form so that we can be certain that it provides accurate information.