What is an Independent Study Unit?

As you are approaching the upper grades of high school, you may start hearing the term “Independent Study Unit” bandied around in classroom. What exactly is an ISU (or ISP – Independent Study Project) and how can this prepare you for university?

An ISU is an assignment or project that gives you the freedom to choose your own topic within a subject, research it, and then write a paper about it. The project should encourage you to work on your own initiative about a topic that interests you. Some teachers may require periodic check-ins, such as a list of sources and rough drafts, while other teachers might just give you a final due date and leave the rest up to you. Either way, it’s handy to know the important steps to creating an exceptional project.

  • Know your subject: Before you form your thesis statement, make sure you have a good understanding of the subject you’re working on. Ask yourself questions such as: What was the social/political/cultural-environment like during that specific time? Were there any conflicts during that time? What caused a particular event? Who were the leaders at the time? Once you can answer these questions, you will be more prepared to narrow and define your topic.
  • Choose an area of focus: With all of the information you have gathered, you will be ready to choose a topic to focus on. Make sure that you can compile enough information in order to analyze your topic thoroughly, without it being too broad or overwhelming. Usually, a good place to start is by forming your thesis statement in terms of a question.
  • Gather information: Find resources that relate to your topic – academic journals, books, newspaper articles and first-hand accounts are all great sources of information. Once you read through a source, highlight or type out some quotations that support your theory, and make sure you write down which source it’s from.
  • Write it up: Write up your project using your sources and the rubric from your course. Remember to revise it after you finish – a first draft should never be your last draft!

Ruth Rumack has been a full-time teacher and educator since 1996. Visit her Google+ page to find out more about early childhood education.


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