Undergraduate independent study

Many undergraduate students want to focus more on a specific area of interest, and find they can do this by participating in an independent study. Please review the guidelines and Undergraduate independent study application to find out the procedure for applying for an independent study, then contact Dr. Catherine Connon, the Undergraduate Director, at cmconnon@vcu.edu.

Independent Study Guidelines

The following provides information concerning the process for a student to enroll in and complete the Department of Forensic Science’s independent study course.

General information +
  • Class standing – junior or senior.
  • Major – forensic science majors only.
  • GPA – minimum overall GPA of 2.5.
  • Maximum credits – six credits of independent study may be accepted toward graduation.
  • Minimum hours of supervised activity – three hours per week per credit hour (3 credit hour assignment requires 9 hours/week or 144 hours/semester).
  • Grading – a letter grade as assigned by the supervising faculty member.
Enrollment procedure +
  • Students should speak with and identify a supervising faculty member with whom he/she will conduct the independent study. The project and the number of credits during the semester prior to performing the work shall be determined before beginning the project.
  • Students and their supervising faculty mentor must complete the Undergraduate independent study application. Once this is turned in to and approved by the Undergraduate Director, students should request an override in order to register for FRSC 492.
  • Once an override is granted, students may enroll during pre-registration, registration or add/drop.
  • Students must prepare a 2- to 3-page Proposal with advisement from the supervising faculty member. The proposal should detail the work in which the student will be engaged, including 1.) an introduction providing brief background information and the goals and/or objectives of the work; 2.) a description of the work to be performed, including any experimental design and a budget (if no costs are anticipated, please include this information); and 3.) a detailed weekly-timetable for the conduct and completion of the work, including the submission of a final report. If two students will be working on a project, a joint proposal may be submitted, but must contain detailed descriptions of each student’s responsibilities for the overall project.
  • The supervising faculty member will review the proposal and, upon accepting it, the student will email the proposal to the Undergraduate Director for final authorization. The program director will inform the student and faculty member of the acceptance or rejection of the proposal.
  • All proposal requests must be submitted to the Undergraduate Director by 5pm on the tenth day of class for the semester (or fifth day for the summer session). All students registered for independent study who fail to meet this deadline will be dropped from the class the following Monday.
Final report and grade evaluation +

A final scholarly report must be submitted to receive a passing grade. Although the format and contents of the report are left primarily to the discretion of the supervising faculty member, the report should include:

  • An introduction providing background information and the goals and/or objectives of the work with references.
  • A methods or experimental design section.
  • Data with numbered tables, photos or figures.
  • Conclusion and discussion of the work completed with references.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar will be considered.

At least one draft should be given to the supervising faculty member no later than the Wednesday prior to the beginning of final exams. The supervising faculty member will provide feedback on the draft. The final version is due to the supervising faculty member by the agreed upon date. The final report must be emailed to the Undergraduate Director no later than the last day of finals. A submitted research manuscript for publication or an abstract (including the poster or presentation slides) for a presentation at a scientific meeting may be considered in lieu of a written final report. Please consult with the Undergraduate Director well in advance in order to determine if a manuscript or presentation with abstract is an acceptable substitution for the final report.

The supervising faculty member is responsible for assigning the final grade for the independent study. In addition to the final report, recommended areas for assessment or evaluation of the student might include:

  • Time management
  • Punctuality
  • Attitude
  • Self-reliance
  • Productivity


Download the Undergraduate independent study application.