Independent Study

The School of Public Health offers a number of undergraduate independent study courses which allow students to earn credit for research, readings or project based work with an SPH faculty member. These courses are open to all University of Michigan Ann Arbor undergraduate students. 

Independent Study Courses

PUBHLTH 477: Readings in Public Health allows undergraduate students to review literature or directed readings on a selected topic related to one or more areas of public health. By the end of the term, students should be able to find and appropriately interpret and critically evaluate the findings in peer-reviewed scientific literature.

PUBHLTH 478: Practical Projects in Public Health allows undergraduate students to explore community-based public health settings. The project should serve the needs of the organization, have an on-site supervisor, and be developed in consultation with a faculty advisor. Students will write a paper reflecting on the organization's role in the public health system and critically reflecting on their experience. As part of this course students will consider the following concepts: 1. Health promotion at a population level 2. Community dynamics and the cultural context in which public health professionals work 3. Organizational structure and dynamics, including the organization's role in the public health system 4. How to operate professionally in a public health organization (including but not limited to: personal work ethic, professionalism, teamwork, and leadership)

PUBHLTH 479: Independent Research in Public Health allows students to conduct independent research on a specific public health topic under the supervision of an SPH faculty member. After completing this course, students will: 1. Understand how to form a research question; 2. Be able to identify relevant literature or data sources to address a research question; 3. Better understand the role of data in understanding public health problems.

How to Enroll in Independent Study

Independent study courses provide the opportunity for students to pursue public health topics of interest in depth by designing an individualized academic experience in collaboration with a faculty member. Interested students should begin by reviewing the Independent Study Guidelines and Application to learn more about the expectations for earning academic credit for independent study. An overview of the process for enrolling in an independent study course is listed below. Please see the Independent Study Guidelines and Application for additional details. 

It is up to the student to identify a possible research, readings or practical projects topic and a possible supervising faculty member. An independent study is intended for students and faculty who have common public health interests.

Often, the student and faculty member already know each other. Students in search of a faculty supervisor can review faculty profiles to identify someone with similar interest or experience in the intended topic area. Current public health undergraduate students interested in a research based independent study should go to the SPH Careers Gateway to view any existing opportunities submitted by SPH faculty members. 

Note: the Careers portal is only open to current SPH students. 

Meet with your supervising faculty member to discuss your research or project. You should also discuss your deliverables, weekly schedule and deadlines. 

In your own words, write a 1–2 page proposal for the project, which must include a description of the scope of the research or project, learning objectives agreed upon with the faculty member, how you will complete the project (methodology), and deliverables after discussions with your supervising faculty member. You are required to submit a paper or final product that reflects the appropriate rigor, sufficient workload for the requested credit, and the projected length is to be indicated in the proposal. 

Other suggested information to include in the proposal: a list of duties, how it will contribute to your learning, proposed weekly/meeting schedule, description of external partners involved (if applicable).

The faculty supervisor must review and approve the proposal before signing the application form. Guiding questions for your faculty supervisor to consider when reviewing your proposal draft can be found on page 6 of the Independent Study Guidelines and Application form.

Complete the independent study application form, pages 4 and 5 or the Independent Study Guidelines and Application form, and have it signed by your faculty supervisor. The independent study supervisor must be a faculty member in the School of Public Health. Graduate students and non-SPH faculty do not qualify to support you on PUBHLTH 477-479. 

Submit the completed independent study application form and project proposal to Jillian McConville ( You will receive information needed to register for the course once your application has been processed. Tuition will be charged for the term in which you are registered for the coursework. You must register for independent study credits during the term in which the work is completed. 

What if my faculty supervisor is not a School of Public Health faculty member?

  • A student wishing to enroll in an independent study course under the direction of a faculty member in another school/college of the University must obtain approval from a faculty member in the School of Public Health, who agrees to serve as co-sponsor before beginning the project.   
  • A prospective co-sponsor will verify that the proposed independent study meets all of the criteria outlined in the Independent Study Guidelines and will confirm that the project/research is focused on public health.  

Credit Limits

Undergraduate students may elect one independent study course per semester for 1 to 3 credits and may not exced a total of 6 credits in public health independent study courses. This limit includes independent study courses offered by the SPH graduate departments.