Independent Study Research Paper

Writing the Research Paper

Research papers are usually arranged in the following way with the following section headings:


  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods and Materials
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Literature Cited
  • Ackowledgments


The title must be self-explanatory. That is, anyone reading your title should be able to clearly understand the purpose of your experiment without actually having to read the paper itself.


A one paragraph summary about your entire paper. This would include your hypothesis and your major conclusion. This paragraph is your advertisement and "sells" your paper to the readers.


The introduction is the statement of your hypothesis and contains the background information concerning your problem. This section clearly states your problem or hypothesis so that readers can understand the question or questions that you are trying to answer.


In order to accomplish this, you must provide the reader with the background information or history that goes with your problem. This is usually accomplished by a literature review. And whenever possible, primary sources should be used. All the background information that you include at this point must be properly referenced.
Methods and Materials
This section is a detailed description of how you did your work. This will include a description of the specific materials and methods that were used. Your description must be exact and complete so that anyone who wants to do so can repeat the experiment.


Therefore, this section will include the experimental design, the apparatus, the methods of gathering data, and the control that was used. In addition, if you collected any specimens for the study, you must say where and when the material was collected.
This section describes what happened after you completed your experiment. This is a very straight forward section. The results are simply stated for readers to observe. Do not include any interpretations, conclusions, or value judgments. If possible, the results should be presented in a graph or table. The tables and graphs must be accompanied by narrative text. Each graph or table must contain a self-explanatory title as well as enough information to fully describe the results that are being presented. If tables and graphs are correctly labeled and titled, they should be able to be taken out of the paper and still completely understandable.
In this section, you will explain what you think the results mean. You will describe any patterns that emerged, any relationships that appeared to be meaningful, and any correlations that can be discerned. This can often be accompanied by a statistical analysis of the data.
This section will describe the reasoning and logic that brought you to your conclusion. This includes any explanation as to why you think the results turned out differently (if they did so) from the way you expected, (the timer broke down, you forgot to add a chemical). In addition, the discussion includes any reasons why the results were either different from or similar to any related experiments that have been done by others. This is the time to discuss the complications that arose during your experiment (the cells stopped growing, the silver stain would not take). In this section, you can also include any further research that might be conducted in your general area of experimentation.
This is a summary of the conclusions and important discoveries that you have made while working on your research. In a sense, this section is a recapitulation of the Discussion and Results sections, except that this time you are just making a list of your important conclusions and discoveries without giving the reasons as to why you have reached these conclusions.
Literature Cited
In this section, you will list all the references that you have cited in your paper. These references are usually listed in alphabetical order by author. Make sure that you include only those references that were actually cited in your paper.

This section thanks the people who have helped you with your research. This section is not a necessary section, but is always appreciated.

Independent study enables a student to pursue for course credit a research or other academic topic of interest under the supervision of a faculty member. Independent study is of two types:

  • Independent Study (non-research)
  • Research Independent Study

Courses entitled Independent Study are individual non-research directed study in a field of special interest on a previously approved topic taken under the supervision of a faculty member and resulting in an academic and/or artistic product. Such independent study courses do not bear a Research (R) code and do not satisfy any general education requirements aside from the Small Group Learning Experience (SGLE) requirement.

Courses entitled Research Independent Study are individual research in a field of special interest under the supervision of a faculty member, the central goal of which is a substantive paper or written report containing significant analysis and interpretation of a previously approved topic. Such research independent study courses bear a Research (R) code and satisfy general education Research requirements. One and only one research independent study may be submitted and approved for a Writing (W) code in addition to the R code designation; no other curriculum code designations are permitted for research independent study courses. Students who wish to request a W code for one research independent study course must complete the request for writing code form and submit it to 011 Allen Building by the end of the drop/add period in the semester they are enrolled in the course.


The following policies apply to both types of independent study :

  • Approval—The independent study must be approved by the instructor(s) involved as well as by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the relevant department or program. If the independent study is offered by a certificate program, approval is required by the Certificate Program Director.
  • Faculty appointment—The instructor of record (supervising faculty member) must hold a regular rank faculty appointment at Duke within the department or program sponsoring the independent study. In some cases, there may be an additional instructor who mentors the bulk of the independent study and holds an appointment outside the sponsoring department or program. If this is the case, the supervising faculty member is responsible for submitting the final grade, and ensuring that the instructor adheres to academic standards, policies, and procedures pertaining to undergraduate students in Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.
  • Course Content / Quality—The independent study must provide a rigorous academic experience equivalent to that of any other undergraduate Duke course. Independent study courses may not duplicate available course offerings in the semester or summer term in which the independent study is being taken, nor may independent study be used simply to provide low-level support for other projects or to observe or shadow the work of others.
  • Meeting schedule—In addition to the individual effort of the student, which normally entails ~10 hours per week, the student will meet with the instructor of the independent study at least once every two weeks during the fall or spring semester (at least once a week during the summer).
  • Final product—The student will produce a final academic and/or artistic product to be completed during the semester for which the student is registered for the course.
  • Grading—The instructor will evaluate the work, including the final product, associated with the independent study, and submit a grade by the end of the semester. If the instructor is someone other than the supervising faculty member, the instructor will consult on the final grade with the supervising faculty member from the sponsoring department or program, who will submit the final grade.
  • Credit toward a major, minor or certificate--the DUS or program director will determine whether an independent study course successfully completed will count toward the major, minor or certificate.
  • Study abroad--For policies and procedures related to independent study in study abroad programs, see the Duke Abroad Handbook.

Note:  Though uncommon, it is not prohibited for a student to take more than one independent study course in a semester.  It is also a longstanding policy in Trinity College that students may not receive academic credit for work (e.g., in a laboratory, an internship, etc.) for which they receive monetary compensation.


  • If you wish to register for an independent study or research independent study you must first find and make arrangements with a faculty member having expertise in the desired area.  It is best to begin this process in the semester before you intend to enroll as there will be many details to work out.  
  • You and your faculty instructor should agree on the course title, plan of study, objectives and expectations, as well as on the nature of the final product and evaluation criteria.
  • Then you need to complete and submit any required signatures or forms as required by that department or program.  If the department or program does not provide a form, you may wish to use the form below as the basis of your agreement with your instructor.
  • Your instructor (or the supervising faculty member from a sponsoring department or program) will provide you with a course number, section number, and permission number which you will then use to enroll.  You should complete your enrollment by the end of the drop/add period.
  • If you wish to request a W code for one research independent study course, complete the request for the writing code form and submit it to 011 Allen Building also by the end of the drop/add period in the semester you are enrolled in the independent study.        

Optional Online Form - To be completed if there is no required departmental form

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