Biological Science Independent Research Course Rules and Regulations

Clinical Research

Research involving clinical trials and patient studies falls under a different classification of independent studies, and students need to follow a different process to register for these types of courses.

Independent studies should be registered under the 391-course number instead of the 395-course number. Visit the CCAS handbook for independent studies page for more information on policies and instructions on how to register.

Please note that students are not required to use the independent study form to register for a 391. Additionally, approval from the biology undergraduate office is not required for 391 courses. Intending biology majors should be aware that 391 coursesdo not apply to biological science tracks and should consult their advisor for further clarification if necessary.

Course Prefix and Titles

The course prefix is determined by the instructor's department of their primary appointment. The course title will appear as “Independent Research” on student transcripts.

Contact Hours

Students can register for independent study courses in increments of half, one, two, three or four credits.

Time commitment is dependent on the number of credit hours the course will be taken for over a 15 week semester or a different number of weeks as long as an equivlaent amount of contact hours is devoted to the course.  Students should plan to devote at least 3 hours for each credit the course is registred.  See guidline below:

  • Four credit hours: 180 hours, 12 hours per week for 15 weeks or equivalent 
  • Three credit hours: 135 hours,  9 hours per week for 15 weeks or equivalent 
  • Two credit hours: 90 hours, 6 hours per week for 15 weeks or equivalent 
  • One credit hour: 45 hours, 3 hours per week for 15 weeks or equivalent 
  • a half a credit hour:  23 hours2 hours per week for 15 weeks or equivalent

*Contact hours may include lab time, academic work, and activities spent outside the lab doing things like literature reviews, lab meetings, presentations, and final reports.

All forms must be submitted by the drop-add deadline of the semester they are taking the course.  Spring 23 (February 8th).

 See the University’s credit hours policy and compliance for more information.

Credit Limitations

The number of independent study credits you can take are limited both by semester and by instructor:

  • Per semester: Students can only take one four-credit independent studies course per semester.
  • Per instructor: Students can take no more than eight credits of independent research with the same instructor unless approved.
Deadline to Request Registration

Students Biological Independent Research Registration Request Form needs to be submitted with approval of the instructor by the last day of the drop/add period of the current semester, even if the course has not started yet.

Final Report and Poster Requirement for all 395 Courses

Students must create and upload a copy of a final report or poster into Blackboard by the last day of exams each semester a 395 course is taken.

Students taking more than one semester of 395 credit should know that it is acceptable to note work from past semesters, however, it should include explanation of the experimentation to answer the course's scientific question that was done in the current semester

Those who elect the poster option may use presentation software to create the poster and upload a copy of the file into Blackboard instead of the report at the end of the semester. Please note that slides must fully explain the research findings. Slides with one-word bullet points are not acceptable.

Ideally, the poster options will allow students the flexibility to create materials they can use to present in scientific events such as the UPBM Poster Session in October as well as the Undergraduate Research Expo or other annual conferences organized by the Office of Undergraduate Research during the spring semester.

Please note that the report or poster is needed for record purposes. The undergraduate biology administrative offices do not grade the papers.

Final Report all 395W Courses with Upper-Level Writing Emphasis

Writing is an essential component of undergraduate education. A student who chooses to register for 395W must work with their instructors to produce a high-quality final report that is well written and effectively communicates the scientific justification and results of their research. The writing process involves communication between the student and mentor and extensive document revision.

Upper-level writing reports must be at least six pages in length. Ideally, students would submit the paper to mentors at various stages of development for their suggestions for improvement so that students may fully benefit from the writing experience. Students should plan to submit a final draft to faculty at least three weeks before the semester ends so there is sufficient time for evaluation.

When experimentation does not yield enough data to write extensively about or runs out of time, the student or faculty may email the biology undergraduate office to request the removal of the writing component "W" by changing the course registration to "BIOL 395".

Although the instructors for 395w courses will assign a final grade, the decision to permit the course to fulfill a writing requirement for the student's major is determined by the advisor of their intended or declared program of study.

At the end of the semester, students must email a copy of their final reports to their intended or declared biology major so they may review them for application to the major. Please, note this is not an automatic process.

Students taking two semesters of independent research with writing (BIOL 395w) should know that it is acceptable to reference the experimentation done in previous semesters but should include at least six new pages of content for the second semester. When requesting advisor approval, students must email a copy of the paper from the first and second semesters.

Additionally, the department requires students to upload a final draft of their final report to Blackboard by the last of finals at the end of the semester.

Students may not select the poster option if the course is taken for upper-level writing credit (BIOL 395W).


Students and their faculty supervisor are expected to agree on how they will evaluate the course before it is taken and appropriately noted in the BIOL 395/395W Registration Request Form.

Students cannot take independent research courses on a pass/fail basis.

The course instructor is responsible for entering a letter grade into UR Student (Workday) by the last day of the marking period. Faculty who do not see their student in their UR Student (Workday) should email the biology undergraduate office. 

Information regarding when a grading period opens and closes is available on the University Registrar's website


Students will not be allowed to register for another BIOL 395 course until any courses with incomplete grades from a previous semester are resolved. 

Those considering taking an incomplete for the semester should consult The College guidelines for incomplete contracts before making this determination to ensure the reasons comply with university policies.

Instructor Eligibility

Members of the University "teaching faculty" or faculty who are authorized by their department chair may supervise independent studies. A list of authorized faculty is now available online so that students may check to see if their faculty are eligible. See our list and instructions for requesting to add new faculty.

Instructor Approval

Bioscience Independent Research Request for Registration Forms will automatically forward to the course instructors for their review and signature. Be sure to enter accurate email addresses as incorrect addresses could delay submission. The system will automatically send daily reminders to the instructors until it is signed. Notification will be sent to students once their PI approves the form.

All students, including those who have registered 395 in the past, need to consult their instructor each semester on the course details. Hence, there is a mutual understanding of expectations. Scroll to the bottom of the form and print out a copy to review with your faculty.

Monetary Compensation

Students cannot get paid for research for which they also earn academic credit. However, a student may hold a paying job within the same lab but must keep their work separate from their research project.

Requesting Registration

Students may request registration through the online Biological Science Independent Registration Request Form. The deadline for form submission with instructor approval is the last day of the drop/add deadline for the current semester.