Special Course Work

Independent Study

Independent study, under the guidance and supervision of faculty members, offers challenging opportunities for investigating areas beyond the limits of regular courses. A student may engage in independent study for credit, given the availability and approval of a faculty member knowledgeable in the chosen subject matter.

A total of seven independent study credits, including internships, may count toward graduation. Students are expected to arrange each independent study program before the end of the previous semester. A written proposal signed by the relevant faculty member must be submitted to the Dean of the Faculty for review. Proposal forms are available from the Students tab on my.lakeforest.edu. Independent Studies do not have established meeting dates/times. The learning objectives and academic requirements for these courses are determined by the faculty member and the student, with the expectation that the total work completed shall approximate that expected for a regular semester course, except for partial credit tutorials, creative projects, and research projects (see “Definition of a Lake Forest Credit”).

Students may enroll in half credit independent studies (given the availability and approval of a suitable instructor) on the understanding that the independent study will include half of the expected workload of a full credit tutorial, i.e. half of the typical 160 total hours over 14 weeks, plus suitable work completed as a final exam, paper, project, or performance.  Students can complete the independent study over the course of the entire semester or over a shorter period, as approved by the instructor.

Students may register for a half credit independent study during the add/drop period using the same process as for a full credit independent study, subject to the approval of the instructor and department chair.  If a student wishes to register for a half credit independent study after the end of the add/drop period, the instructor must seek approval on behalf of the student from the Dean of Faculty. Independent studies for other levels of partial credit must be approved by the Dean of Faculty.  Instructors must seek this approval on behalf of the student.

The following are the four basic types of independent study: tutorial, creative project, research project, and senior thesis.


A tutorial is a course on a special topic not covered in a regularly offered course. Students meet regularly, usually individually, with their faculty supervisor to discuss the readings and are normally assigned a number of short papers. Recent tutorials have dealt with such topics as advanced Japanese, New Testament Greek, advanced Chinese, mysticism, European industrial revolution, recent bioethical issues, and song writing. Students may take one tutorial a year beginning with the second semester of the first year, for a total of four tutorial credits.

Creative Project

A creative project is an independent course of work, under faculty supervision, in a creative medium such as painting, fiction, sculpture, poetry, photography, or music. Creative project credits are limited in the same way as tutorials (see above tutorial policy); senior projects in studio art may be approved for a maximum of two course credits.

Research Project

A research project is more specialized and usually more advanced than a tutorial, requiring greater independence and originality on the part of the student. Students conduct scholarly research with a view to producing substantial work in the form of a term paper or report. Among recent projects undertaken were studies involving ethical issues on intellectual property, weblogs and their implications concerning cultural values and global business, the U.S. Social Security system, and metastable hydrogen atom collisions. Juniors and seniors are eligible to undertake research projects. A maximum of four research project course credits is allowed toward graduation, no more than two in a semester and no more than three in a year.

Practicum Project

A practicum project consists of a series of structured experiences that allow students to apply knowledge from their previous coursework in an applied setting on campus, under the supervision of a teaching faculty member. A practicum project is distinct from the practicum courses that already exist in the College Catalog (e.g., ENGL 200; EDUC 315; HIST 399; JOUR 200; THTR 200). Some common practicum projects might involve credit-based work as a peer teacher/mentor/tutor, laboratory technician, research assistant, publication editor, or program director. A practicum project requires a syllabus that details the duties, expectations, learning objectives, and grading criteria of the project. Students do not earn money for completing a practicum project. Students may take a practicum project for 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, or 1 credit, which require 40, 80, 120, or 160 total hours of work, respectively. A maximum of 2 practicum project credits is allowed toward graduation. With respect to the FFC, practicum project credits carry the EL tag (Experiential Learning) and will satisfy the FFC-EL requirement when the number of accumulated EL credits reaches 1 credit.

Senior Thesis

A senior thesis is original scholarly research undertaken in the student’s senior year, usually over two terms. The research culminates in a formal written dissertation and oral examination that is evaluated by a faculty committee. Outstanding theses are awarded distinction at graduation. Senior theses may be undertaken for one or two course credits; normally two course credits will not be awarded in the same semester.