ISP Handbook

Helpful Hints

  1. Start early on the ISP. All too often, students wait too long before contacting at least one faculty member and reviewing possible projects. Also, submitting a proposal at the last minute will cause unnecessary delays as the Electives Committee has to evaluate a large number of proposals all at once.
  2. Be realistic in defining the scope of the project. Committee members must provide their expertise to ensure that the student does not choose a question that is too broad or attempt methods which are not feasible in the time allotted. These problems are normally prevented if the student meets with the committee members early.
  3. Start IRB approval as soon as possible. If you are planning to complete a new project which requires original IRB approval (as opposed to a project connected to existing faculty research for which approval has already been received), be sure to start the process early! Many students have commented on how time consuming the human and/or animal subjects approval process can be.
  4. Keep in touch. Students and committee members should meet regularly throughout the ISP process to keep faculty abreast of the project's development and to provide necessary guidance to the student. Students and faculty should know the best ways to contact each other (e.g., e-mail, telephone, beeper) and should do so frequently.
  5. Make sure elective credit is appropriate. A month of credit for work on the ISP is a commitment to full-time work on the part of the student, and the work accomplished should reflect full-time effort. Elective time for the Independent Study Project is not intended to supplement vacation time or time for interviews in the fourth year. Students must submit a signed add card (296 or 299) for elective time for which they wish credit before they begin work, and faculty must submit an evaluation of student performance after the period is completed.
  6. Write up the project soon after completing the work. Writing up the project promptly means the report will be fresh and the details will be accurate. This will also allow submission of the work for one of the many awards available for ISPs.
  7. Allow sufficient time for review at the end of the project. The student should expect that the report will require revision. Allow appropriate time for review and response to suggestions. The student should communicate with the ISP chair about progress on the project, should establish interim deadlines with the chair, and should keep them. The Chair, Committee members, and the student should communicate about any time constraints or commitments that might hinder timely review of project, relative to the deadlines, so that the student may plan appropriately.
  8. Review of the medical literature. Most of the projects will require a comprehensive review of the current literature. The librarians at the Biomedical Library are available to help construct expert search strategies for UCSD licensed databases and web resources. Contact the reference librarians at to set up an appointment.

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