Independent Study

The independent study consists of three options to work independently with a faculty member for course credit.

Advising Session

The Independent Study in Communication Studies is designed to give students the opportunity to work one-on-one with a COMM faculty member in one of three capacities detailed below. Students must identify the type of independent study they wish to complete, in consultation with a COMM faculty member that has agreed to supervise the work. The independent study can be for 1-3 credits of course credit and fulfills the “Horizons” category of the communication studies major. Each credit requires 40 hours of labor for all three Independent Study options.

To gain credit for the independent study, students need to have completed COMM 300, have a minimum GPA of 3.25 in the major, and/or obtain consent of the instructor.

The three options are detailed below.

Undergraduate Learning Assistant (ULA)

An Undergraduate Learning Assistant (ULA) is an advanced undergraduate student that assists the professor to increase active and collaborative learning among students and to enhance student engagement. You should think about being a ULA if you did really well in a class and would like to work with the professor again. 40 hours of work = 1 course credit/unit.

At TU, the ULA's role is to help the students in the course. This includes:

  • attending class and answering questions during class
  • running study groups or writing groups, review sessions, and/or problem-solving sessions
  • providing assistance with class discussions
  • presenting a short guest lecture on an area of interest during the semester
  • offering weekly office hours for students

This does not include:

  • grading
  • teaching a class without the professor present

You can sign up for 1-3 credits. Check out the ULA COMM 495 form for more details.

Research Assistant (RA)

A research assistant (RA) is an undergraduate student that works directly with a professor on the professor's research project. Normally, an RA is a junior or senior level student — but we've also worked with some really great sophomores! 

An RA will work the professor to develop a plan of hours that you will work on the project. This work could include:

  • transcription of data
  • coding 
  • performance assisting 
  • annotation of literature
  • assisting in data collection (for example, note-taking during focus groups or interviews)


  • You must complete the student/minimal risk IRB module. Your professor will set this up for you. 
  • If you are interested in working as an RA, check out what some of our faculty are doing and reach out.

After discussing a project with a faculty member, please complete the RA COMM 495 form.

Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Project based learning (PBL) independent study is your chance to venture out on your own and apply the work you’ve done in the classroom. You cannot use this option to take a class that is already offered. The PBL option could be anything from using one of the tools of rhetorical analysis to understand a political campaign, to designing an organizational strategy for your future non-profit, to writing an autoethnographic performance. If you can think of a project — you can do it! 

Most of the time, students build on projects they started in classes — but don’t let that limit you. Contact the professor you are interested in working with to start designing your project.

After discussing a project with a faculty member, please complete the PBL COMM 495 form.