Independent Study Semester

Spend an entire semester pursuing your own research!

The Independent Study Semester (ISS) provides an opportunity to participate in independent research under the guidance of one of our faculty.  You can take part in an existing research project (link to research projects page) or propose a project of your own with faculty approval.  


The Independent Study Semester is a series of three, 5-unit courses (BISC 490/491/492), centred around a specific research project.  Each course addresses a different aspect of the research project and is supervised by the same faculty member. The courses are normally taken within the same term, but BISC 490 can also be taken in the term preceding BISC 491 and 492. ISS is required for students completing an Honours degree.

View course descriptions & pre-requisite information

Additional Details

Formation of Supervisory Committee

  • Your committee should consist of the primary supervisor and at least one additional member.  At least one committee member must be a faculty member from the Department of Biological Sciences. Other committee members can include faculty from other departments, adjunct professors, post-doctoral fellows, research associates, or other qualified individuals.
  • Formation of the supervisory committee must take place prior to the submission of the ISS application.

Proposal Guidelines

Your proposal should include descriptions of the following:

  • project framework
  • conceptual backgroud
  • project goals
  • experimental techniques to be used
  • timeline

Proposals are typically between 10-15 pages, but you should discuss the details with your intended supervisor.  

Final Report Guidelines

Your report should be structured as a research paper, with an Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion. Report lengths vary widely. Consult with your primary supervisor regarding expectations for the structure, length, the presentation of data, the inclusion of appendices, etc.

Presentation Guidelines

After submitting your research report, you will present your work to your committee.  Your presentation should provide a summary of your research and any key findings.  A short question and answer session (typically 30 min or less) will follow your presentation.  This gives your committee a chance to ask additional questions and allows you to explain specific points in more detail. 

Student/Supervisor/Committee Responsibilities

There are three main stakeholders (you, your supervisor & your supervisory committee) in your independent study semester.  The responsibilities of each of these stakeholders are described below:

Your supervisor is responsible for:

  • assisting you in identifying an appropriate research project
  • giving you feedback and guidance in writing your proposal and final report
  • providing you with advice and technical help throughout the semester

Your supervisory committee is responsible for:

  • reviewing the final drafts of your proposal and final report
  • attending your final presentation
  • advising your supervisor on your grade

You are responsible for:

  • carrying out the research project
  • requesting assistance when needed
  • being available for consultation during normal working hours
  • organising a submission schedule with your supervisor that allows time for comments prior to the final submission deadline
  • following the schedule and submitting your work on time
  • coordinating with your supervisor and committee members to arrange a time for the final presentation

How to Apply

Step 1

Identify the project you wish to pursue and the faculty member you hope to have supervise.  Write a draft version of your research proposal.

Step 2

Contact the intended supervisor to discuss your proposal and any suggested changes.  Find out whether they are available to supervise your project.

Step 3

Submit the online application form.  *You will be asked to identify your supervisor/ committee members and the term you plan to take each course.