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2.10 Independent Research

Independent research gives students the opportunity to work closely with a professor on a topic of mutual interest, usually with the goal of the student producing a major or substantial research paper.  Independent research may be supervised by a member of the tenured or tenure track faculty at the Law School, or Visiting Faculty, Emeriti, or faculty members holding the title of Clinical Professor of Law, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Professors from Practice, or Senior Lecturers at the Law School, and tenured University of Chicago faculty with permanent offices at the Law School (but excluding Bigelow and other Fellows and Lecturers in Law) who are in full-time residence at the Law School.  Visiting Faculty may supervise independent research if they are willing and available to work with students until the independent research is completed, which in many cases will be after their visit has ended.  Students who would like to work with a Lecturer in Law on an independent research project must submit a petition to the Rules and Petitions Committee (via the Dean of Students) for advance permission to do so. Students may not enroll in independent research as a replacement for missed work or time in another law school class. Independent research may not be used to make up academic work or instructional time for another class.

Please note that independent research projects default to three credit hours. Any modification of the credit value requires the written consent of the supervising faculty member. Additionally, students only may take four independent research credits with the same professor and are limited to six independent research credits total during their time at the Law School.[1]

Please follow these steps to register for an independent research:

  • Discuss the project with the faculty member;
  • Obtain the faculty member’s written consent to supervise the project via their signature on a properly completed Independent Research Petition (available online at http://www.law.uchicago.edu/students/petitions/independentresearch); and
  • Submit the form to the Office of the Registrar.

Some students use the independent research as an opportunity to attempt to “write-on” to a journal.  A student may receive academic credit for a journal submission only if it meets these criteria: 

  1. The work must be entirely original and written independently by the student. 
  2. If the student has submitted a Topic Proposal to the journal to determine whether the journal is interested in the topic, the student may not receive any research or editorial assistance from journal staff members while the project is in process without prior approval of the faculty member who will be evaluating the paper. For more details please see Section 6.1.
  3. Students may work only with the faculty member during the research and writing stage.
  4. The paper may be submitted to the journal only after it has been accepted for credit by a faculty member. 

Please refer to Section 6.1 (JOURNALS) for a more detailed description of the process of writing onto a journal and the pros and cons of using independent research to “write on.”

[1] J.D./Ph.D students should discuss this limitation with the Dean of Students.