Independent Studies

Upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) may choose to undertake an independent study as part of their studies in PPE. This course, PPE 3999 Independent Study, gives students the opportunity to continue honing their expertise in a particular area, undertake a reading seminar, engage in novel research, and so on, depending on the student’s goals and needs.

How to design and complete an independent study in PPE:

1. Identify a topic or set of topics for your independent study.

  • Examples: Reading seminar on moral philosophy, original paper from recently collected data set exploring the relationship between income and participation in political activism, working as a research assistant with a faculty member or postdoc on ongoing and novel research.

2. Secure a willing faculty member to serve as supervisor for the independent study.

  • This could be someone who taught a class you have taken, or someone you know through some other event, club, or opportunity.
  • In addition to standing faculty throughout the University, students may consider PPE Fellows as potential supervisors.
  • CURF has a Research Directory with a database of Penn professors who have expressed an interest in working with students.

3. Develop an independent study proposal outlining your work and goals for the coming semester.

  • Think of this proposal as a syllabus for your independent study. It should include a breakdown of what work you intend to do and when; any material you intend to read or engage with during the independent study (a reading list); any deliverables produced during the course of the independent study and when they should be completed by; and a deadline for the final product, as well as a rough idea of what that final product will be.
  • This final product can take many shapes – a paper, a poster, a blog, an op-ed, a video journal, a policy paper, just to name a few.

4. Complete the PPE Independent Study Application Form.

  • Download and complete the Independent Study Application form.
  • Submit the completed form here.
  • Independent study applications are due NO LATER THAN one week after the first day of the semester. Applications received after this deadline will not be approved.
  • Following review by the Associate Director, you will be assigned a section of PPE 3999 with your supervisor.

5. Submit final deliverable at the end of the semester to the PPE Program.

  • In addition to submitting your final product to your independent study supervisor, you must submit a copy of that final product to the PPE program by the final day of the semester. Email your final product to