Independent Study is an unusual arrangement that provides students the opportunity to pursue a plan of study unavailable through coursework. It entails the fulfillment of the same requirements as a seminar - that is, an extensive writing assignment, along with regular meetings (normally weekly or every other week) with a faculty member to discuss a predetermined reading list. To receive course credit for an Independent Study, the student must come to an agreement with a faculty member on the nature and requirements of the course before the end of the registration period preceding the semester of proposed study. In order to be approved to register for an independent study, the student must present the faculty member, their graduate advisor, and the ADGS with a full reading list and a detailed proposal outlining the course of study, number of assignments and meetings, and other aspects of the plan. The proposal should explain why the proposed study cannot be fulfilled by regular coursework.

Normally, Independent Study may be undertaken only in the later stages of coursework and no student may count more than one Independent Study (other than that taken in preparation for the Qualifying Exams) toward their 42 coursework credits. For students who are taking an Independent Study while preparing for Qualifying Exams, no more than 25% of the independent study reading list may overlap with the exam readings lists. Students should be mindful that directing an Independent Study is not regarded as a normal faculty responsibility; agreement to direct one is entirely at the discretion of the faculty member.

If approved, Independent Studies are subject to the same coursework deadlines as ordinary courses. This includes submitting the final paper to the Graduate Office by the appropriate deadline.