How to prepare a nonresearch independent study proposal
This website provides a guide to preparing a proposal for a
nonresearch independent
study course in mathematics. (If instead you are preparing a proposal for a
research independent study course in
mathematics, consult this webpage
instead.)
The necessary material should be submitted to the
Director of Undergraduate Studies in Mathematics no later than the end of
the first
week of classes in which the course is to take place. As applications may be
returned with a request for further information, you are encouraged to submit
the proposal as early as possible during the first week of classes.
General instructions
 The first step is to get a copy of the independent study permisssion form.
This is available towards the bottom of the webpage
http://trinity.duke.edu/undergraduate/academicpolicies/independentstudy
under the heading, "Online Form".
Please complete this form noting the following
modification which is specific to the math department:
 The Description of Proposed Study mentioned in item 1 on
the bottom of page two of the permission form
should be completed on a separate sheet (or sheets) of paper
according to the guide below.
It should be typed.
 The "Supervising Faculty Member" must be a regular rank faculty
member with their primary appointment in mathematics. (Regular rank
means a lecturer, a research professor (of any level), a professor of
the practice (any level), or a tenuretrack professor (any level).)
 Work together with your mentor to write the proposal.
The length of the Description of Proposed Study part
of the proposal will generally be close to one page long.
 Bulletin course descriptions are not good models for
independent study proposals. A complete course syllabus
is an ideal model, something to keep in mind as a goal
to strive towards. However most course proposals will
fall short of the precision of a course syllabus.
 Be sure to communicate clearly. The proposal should
be well organized and carefully written. Ask yourself
if the reader will be able to understand what you are
writing. The reader will be a mathematician who is
generally familiar with the most basic concepts which
appear in standard undergraduate courses, but who
may not familiar with specialized notions in a given
subfield of mathematics. Thus specialized
mathematical terms should be defined. Terms from science,
economics, and engineering should also be
defined if they are not familiar to a broad range
of well educated lay people.
Specific issues to address in your Description of Proposed Study:
 What is the area of mathematics which you will be studying?
Please feel free to communicate any particular motivations you have for
learning this material.
 What background do you have in this area of mathematics?
 What specific material do you intend to learn?
Here you are asked to be quite specific, whereas question 1 above
was rather general.
 What sources will you use to learn the material and what exercises will you do?
In standard courses this question is usually answered by a syllabus which
indicates what material will be read in a given week and what exercises
will be turned in. For an independent study course such a precise
description is not expected. Nonetheless keep the course syllabus in mind
as an ideal response to this question. Communicate in general terms what
material you will be reading when and what exercises you will be working
when. In other words, you should give a pretty good picture of how the
course will run.
 Please proofread what you have typed to be sure that the issues above
have been addressed.
 Turn in your type written sheet (or sheets) together
with the completed independent study permission form to
the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the math department. This
should be done as early as possible during the first
week of classes.
Submission may be done
electronically by emailing an attachment
to dusmath@math.duke.edu. Scanned
signatures are acceptable. Hardcopies may be brought to the office of the
Director of Undergraduate Studies or may be left in his or her mailbox
located in room 117 Physics Building.

The Director of Undergraduate Studies will set up the independent study
course after a satisfactory proposal been received. He or she will email
you a section number and a permission number to enable you to sign up for
the course on ACES. In the event that the proposal needs further work
before it can be accepted, you will be informed by email.
Contact information for the Director of Undergraduate Studies:
dusmath@math.duke.edu
