Independent Studies and Honors Projects: A Student Perspective

In our second installment of articles about students’ individualized learning experiences, we asked Stephanie Freis to share her experiences about her honors project and independent study since she has been fortunate enough to do both.

1. Who are you working with for your independent study?

I am currently working with Dr. Vespia.

2. How did you find out about the independent study and go about getting it?

I was presented the opportunity by Dr. Vespia when we were both in Washington D.C. this summer for the 2011 APA Convention. After talking about it more formally at the beginning of the school year, we decided how many credits worth of work I would like to take on and outlined the major projects I will complete for this semester.

3. What kinds of things do you get to do for your independent study?

I’m gaining better experience in survey methodology and literature research. I will also gain experience in analyzing the data we collect. Before the semester is over I hope to take what we learn from our survey and apply it. The end goal is to profile past PSYCH & HUM DEV graduates on the UWGB website to give students a better idea on what they can do with a Bachelor’s degree.

4. Who did you work with for your honors project?

I had worked with Dr. Gurung.

5. How did you find out about the honors project and go about getting it?

To complete an honors project there is a GPA prerequisite. Since my GPA met the requirement, I was able to approach Dr. Gurung about an honors project and discuss my interests/plans for the semester. I had previously done a Research Assistantship with him so we knew each other’s work ethic and style – I was very happy to be able to continue working with him.

6. What kinds of things did you get to do for your honors project?

In general, I crafted a live discussion activity to immerse participants in a prejudiced Facebook situation. By working through the research challenges from conception, I was able to enhance my understanding of what it takes to be successful in the design, implementation, analysis, and report of a research study. The process also included extensive literary research.

7. What do you see as the major similarities vs. differences for independent studies and honors projects?

I think both an independent study and an honors project take a great amount of dedication as well as a proactive attitude. You need to be able to outline goals for yourself and stay on track throughout the semester. In my experience, I haven’t noticed astounding differences between the two opportunities. I think it matters more who you choose as a mentor and what topic/methods you plan to pursue. Otherwise, the GPA requirement is the main difference between the two.

Editors’ Notes: Independent study is also commonly used to engage in self-directed study with a faculty sponsor of a specific content area. In these cases, students don’t collect data or do their own research, they do more “class-like” work, such as reading and writing papers. They are studying a more in-depth topic of their choice, however (e.g., trauma in female military veterans), and one in which the faculty member has expertise. You need consent of instructor to do an independent study, and we can only sponsor so many of them and those within our content areas. Students interested in this option should approach the faculty member who seems most appropriate with a very specific idea of what they wish to study and how (maybe even with a tentative reading list!). Students interested in doing an honors project should also approach a faculty member who has expertise in an area they hope to study for the project. However, UW-Green Bay requires that students have a 3.5 GPA in the major (a 3.75 for all upper-level major courses) to do an honors project.