Conducting an Independent Study (PSYC399)


In an Independent Study (PSYC399), a student completes an empirical research project and then writes a report about this project. This project is completed with assistance from a faculty mentor. Like any one credit course at Penn, this is expected to demand 10 hours of work per week from the student.

During the PSYC399, the student familiarizes herself/himself with existing relevant research, collects data, analyzes data, and reports these data. At the end of the PSYC399, the student submits a report of this to the faculty mentor and the undergraduate department. This report should involve the empirical assessment of a psychological hypothesis. It should review relevant literature, present data collection methods, and present results of this project with descriptive and inferential statistical analyses (with supporting tables and/or graphs as needed). To read research reports from previous Independent Studies, please go to Claire Ingulli's office in Levin 120 where there is a collection of past student papers for students to peruse. The grade for the PSYC399 is based primarily on this written report as this is the only explicit requirement of the course. The faculty mentor grades this report. 


Anticipated structure

The faculty mentor should provide you with a syllabus outlining the Independent Study. Below are typical timelines for a one-semester PSYC399 and a two semester PSYC399. Two-semester PSYC399s can run Fall to Spring (one academic year), or Spring to Fall (starting one academic year and finishing the next). The timeline below presumes a Fall to Spring PSYC399, but this can be applied to Spring to Fall PSYC399s.


                                 One-semester Independent Study

Month (Fall or Spring semester)                 Activity
September/January Literature review, refine research ideas, IRB
October/February Research design, develop measure or pilot, collect data
November/March Collect/analyze data
December/April Analyze data, write report


                              Two-semester Independent Study

Month (academic year*)                               Activity
September Literature review, refine research ideas, IRB
October Research design, develop measure or pilot, collect data
November Collect data
December Collect/analyze data
January Analyze data, follow-up measures if appropriate
February Analyze data, follow-up measures if appropriate
March Analyze data, write report
April Write report, prepare presentation


Two-semester PSYC399s

Some PSYC399s are one semester (1 CU), while others students choose to pursue a two-semester project (2 CUs). A student completing a two-semester PSYC399 thesis is expected to perform a markedly more in-depth study than a one-semester PSYC399. This is not merely completing a one-semester project over two semesters, or collecting data one semester and writing a report the following semester. 

All two-semester PSYC399 students must submit a progress report to the Director of Undergraduate Studies at the beginning of their second semester and a more substantial thesis at the end of the second semester. Students are also required to present their thesis research at our Spring poster fair as part of our Undergraduate Research Symposium. Note, if the two semesters straddle two academic years (Spring-Fall), the student must still present a poster in the poster fair following completion of the project.

Please be advised that any student who writes a two-semester thesis can compete for the research awards given by the department in the Spring. To be considered for these departmental awards, students must submit their reports to Claire Ingulli's office in Levin 120. Students who plan to give a research talk at the research conference should contact Claire Ingulli stating your interest and the title of your project. Please see the Independent Student Canvas site for the deadlines associated with these events.


* Students can pursue two-semester Independent Studies that span the Fall to Spring academic year, or they can straddle two academic years with a Spring to Fall project.