Organizing an Independent Study (PSYC399)

To pursue an Independent Study, students typically begin exploring PSYC399 options during advance registration the semester preceding their Independent Study. Spaces in each lab are limited so please organize your PSYC399 in a timely manner.

Here are the appropriate steps:

  1. Identify the semester you intend to pursue an Independent Study (PSYC399). Start investigating research options during advance registration in the prior semester.
  2. Read the available research options here.
  3. Identify a potential faculty mentor. It is best to identify a mentor after taking their class or working in their lab as a research assistant, though this is not always possible. (If you would like to pursue an Independent Study in Psychology with a researcher outside the Psychology Department, you must discuss this with the Director of Undergraduate Studies ( Having an extra-departmental mentor typically occurs when a student has already established a relationship with the mentor via a research assistantship in their lab.)
  4. Arrange a meeting with your potential mentor to identify the suitability of completing your Independent Study with them. In advance of this meeting, read some of their relevant publications to get a sense of their research. Also, read through the PSYC399 application to help focus some of your discussion in this meeting.
  5. During this meeting, identify if you will complete a one- or two-semester Independent Study. Two-semester PSYC399s can run Fall to Spring (one academic year), or Spring to Fall (starting one academic year and finishing the next). Discuss the intended research project to ensure you have similar expectations, and construct a broad timeline of the anticipated research project. You will need to address some items from the PSYC399 application, such as anticipated statistical analyses. In some cases, it is appropriate to have a day-to-day supervisor who is a post-doctoral fellow in Psychology, etc. If appropriate, please meet with this day-to-day supervisor.
  6. If this process has been unsatisfying thus far, review the research options again to identify a more suitable research project.
  7. Complete the Independent Study (PSYC399) online application. Bear in mind most students have discussed their Independent Study with their mentor well before this deadline. All applications will be reviewed after the deadline by the Director of Undergraduate Studies ( and, if approved, your PSYC399 will appear on your worksheet prior to the Add deadline.
  8. You will be added to the Independent Study (PSYC399) Canvas site. This site has information for current Independent Study students and mentors. If you are not added to this site after your PSYC399 is approved, please email Caroline Connolly ( with your PennKey and student number.
  9. If you pursue a two-semester PSYC399, you are required to complete an Independent Study Progress Report early in the second semester of your Independent Study. 


If you have any questions about the process for enrolling in one of these opportunities or if you want guidance about the selection process, stop by to see one of the psychology advisors during walk-in hours.