Independent Study Guidelines

Updated: October 2015

In addition to attending regularly scheduled courses, a history student may undertake independent studies that are equivalent in credit-hour value to other history courses (usually 3 credit hours). Independent studies are suited to the student who wishes to undertake the extensive study of a subject that is not the topic of a formally organized history course in the classroom, and who feels capable of working alone on such a project under the supervision of a faculty member. A student with the appropriate prerequisites may also apply to complete an honours thesis that adds an honours designation to the bachelor's degree.

While these courses offer the chance to study subjects that would not otherwise be available to the student, and to pursue unique topics independently and in depth, students considering them must be aware that:

a) an independent study, as its name suggests, requires the ability and the discipline to work independently, and b) the subject of such a study must be one in which the student has a genuine interest. Most students discover that studies of this sort require more effort and a great deal more research than to what they have been accustomed. Independent studies should not therefore be undertaken on a vague whim or with the plan of asking the supervisor for a suitable topic. Nor should a student register for such a course with the notion that it will be an easy way to earn credit. Keeping these caveats in mind, consult the following paragraphs to learn the specific requirements of study at each level.

Independent Studies

Independent Study Form - Department of History

(a) 2990 Level - Independent Studies in History at this level earn the same credit-hour value as other history courses offered at the 2000 level (3 credit hours). Like other 2000-level courses, they are also meant to be general surveys of a specific area of history. The student may therefore be required to do reading and research that will result in the production of a single paper of approximately 30 pages in length, or a series of shorter essays that add up to a total of 30 pages. Or the student may be set a programme of reading and be tested according to a standard midterm and final examination format. Or, alternatively, the student may develop a project to achieve a similar level of historical knowledge that will be approved and tested in ways to be set by the instructor, but subject to approval by the Department Chair. Examples of courses at this level might be surveys of a state or nation or region that is not the subject of an existing survey course. For example, a student wishing to pursue general studies in the history of Parliament, Nova Scotia, India, the Iberian Peninsula, or South Africa could do so through a 2990 Independent Study. Courses at this level night also be thematic in orientation, again on a theme that is not the subject of an existing 2000 level survey course, for example, the History of the Family.

(b) 3990 Level –Independent Studies in History at this level are intended to be equivalent in value and similar in scope and nature to other 3000-level history courses. They are usually more specific in their subject content than 2000-level, and concentrate on depth of historical knowledge, a grasp of the particular methods and approaches to history in a given field, and an understanding of the type of historical analysis appropriate to it. An independent study at the 3990 level tends to stress analysis in a specific historical topic within a clearly defined area of history. Such a study would require the production of a general research paper of about 35 pages in length, or a series of smaller research papers on the subject. 3990 projects usually also require the analysis of primary historical sources, and often a section describing the historiography of the subject. As with 2990 level Independent Studies, precise requirements will be set by the supervisor of the Independent Study, to be approved by the Department Chair. Examples of courses at this level are Greek Colonization, Women in Medieval England, The Industrialization of Japan, The American Civil War, Peasants and the Russian Revolution, Pacifism in the First World War, and Homicide as a Tool of Mafiosi.

(c) 4990 Level – The 4990 Independent Study is the senior undergraduate independent study. As such, it should embody the highest standards in the quality of work. If presented in the form of a single piece of work, the paper should be about forty-five pages in length, though a number of smaller papers amounting together to that length might also be acceptable. It is entirely possible, however, that the project might consist of an investigation of original source documents that could differ in form from a major paper. As with Independent Study at 2990 and 3990 levels, the precise requirements will be set by the supervisor, to be approved by the Department Chair

The evaluation and final grading of 4990 Independent Study projects in History will be done jointly by the student’s supervisor and an additional advisor. The Department Chair will appoint a suitable Faculty member to act as advisor at the same time as the Chair approves the original proposal while also informing the student of the name of the advisor. After the supervisor has graded the student’s work, the advisor will examine the work, submit written comments on it, and suggest a final grade. Should the supervisor and advisor differ in their assessments, they should meet to discuss their reasons for the difference and attempt to find grounds for a common assessment. In the final instance, however, the supervisor shall determine the grade to be assigned for the whole project.

*History 4990 CANNOT be used to complete either of the two 4000-level course requirements for the History major.

Both Honours Thesis and Independent Study submissions should be prepared in consultation with the supervisor, who will offer assistance and direction to the student. They must be submitted in a neat, typewritten format. The quality of both will be the basis of the decision to grant or deny permission for the Independent Study. At this stage, upon having read the above document, the student who intends to begin an Independent Study should fill in and sign the form below, thereby indicating that he/she fully understands and accepts the terms set out for an Independent Study in History. In addition, applications to begin an Honours Thesis will be submitted to the Chair and must be approved by the Graduate Education Committee.