Directed study: overview and requirements

The directed study is a thesis project that you design in consultation with a faculty member, making sure that it integrates theories and concepts from both of your academic concentrations equally. Research projects vary in structure and presentation depending on your concentration areas and interests, but you can expect to complete the equivalent of a 135-hour research project. This option is best for students who already have a particular issue to research or a meaningful project to share. The Directed Study experience offers students the opportunity to apply their education through analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Course learning outcomes

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Specific learning objectives will be established with and assessed by a directed study mentor who is a full time member of ASU’s faculty.
  2. Demonstrate an ability to find and secure a faculty mentor and coordinate the completion and assessment of a substantial research project with that mentor.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to complete a substantial research paper—typically about 30 pages in length—that demonstrates the ability to gather, interpret, and evaluate evidence, OR Completion of a directed study project as defined by the mentor that requires the equivalent of 135 hours of study.
  4. Demonstrate an ability to integrate the student’s concentration areas expressed in the product of directed study.


A scholarly research project involving analysis that is presented in written form. This thesis represents a commitment to research, critical thinking, and an informed viewpoint of the student. Think traditional research paper.

Creative project

A project that combines scholarship and creative work in which the primary outcome consists of something other than a written document but includes a written document that supports the creative endeavor and involves scholarly research. Past examples of projects include: educational curriculum, screenplays, art shows, business plans, sustainable architecture building re-design, etc.

Steps to begin your directed study

Step 1: Explore your research interests

This is the most important step—finding the right research project will help you develop your skill-set for the next step in your career. It is imperative to start with creating a project proposal. This will make finding a faculty to work with much easier. To get started, please review How to come up with a thesis for a paper (without divine intervention)This video was created by one of your IDS professors, Paul Cassell, to help you begin thinking about your directed study project.

Ideas to get you started:

  • What classes have you most enjoyed?
  • When people ask you why you like your major, what do you say?
  • Whether you are an online or ground student, The ASU Library is a good place to start!
  • Check out ASU Libraries’ tutorial on topic selection
  • Make an appointment with a subject librarian at one of the ASU Libraries to discuss potential thesis/creative project ideas.
  • What articles and books do you find interesting? Check out the ASU Library Research Guide for your major.
  • Try completing the Directed Study Planning Worksheet!
  • Reflect on past experiences to determine interests.
  • Talk to faculty about topics that are interesting and relevant to coursework, major, career interests, or from ongoing faculty research.

Step 2: Identify possible research mentors

Here are a few suggestions to get started: 

  • Ask fellow students if they are involved in research and which faculty member they are working with. Ask faculty if they have any research positions available, or if they can refer you to other faculty.
  • Find lists of faculty by discipline and specialty using The Directed Study Faculty Mentor Search.
  • Review The College of Integrative Sciences and Arts research website – review research projects, faculty bio pages, and other ASU department and school research pages as well.
  • Look for faculty or departments offering research aide or lab aide positions on the ASU Student Employment website.
  • If you are a Barrett Honors College student, ask your faculty honors advisor for referrals.

Finding a faculty mentor

Students will be responsible for finding their own faculty mentor. Students should select a mentor who has experience or expertise in their proposed project or thesis topic. There are many instructors here at ASU to assist you in completing a Directed Study project. The experience you gain networking with faculty to find the best fit is great practice for job/internship searches!

Students do not need to have any prior relationship with faculty prior to asking for their mentorship on IDS 401 [BIS 401 prior to fall 2019].  Meeting with faculty members can be done in-person, through Zoom, by phone, or by email.  Most faculty are willing to assist students with projects.  In order to increase the chances of securing a faculty, follow the best practices guide below.

Step 3: Prepare to talk with faculty

Once you have identified a faculty mentor you’d be interested in working with, learn all that you can about the project and the subject matter. 

  • Read faculty bio pages, CVs, research center websites, professional journals related to your major and the research project, and review the appropriate college research page and other ASU websites.
  • Update your resume to include transferable skills (prior research experience, leadership, relevant coursework, etc.), and contact the ASU Career and Professional Development Services for assistance.
  • Have the Directed Study Planning Worksheet or project outline completed.

Step 4: Making contact with faculty members

Many faculty are willing to discuss possible directed study opportunities with students, especially for motivated and prepared students. Always have a project idea in mind before you contact a faculty mentor. The 401 coordinator is available to meet with you to help you generate project ideas, or you can check out ASU Libraries’ Tutorial.

General tips

  • If you are using email, be concise. Include your resume, academic transcript, and why you are interested in working with that faculty in particular. Show how you are prepared to complete a project under their guidance.
  • If you would like to meet in person, stop by their office hours or email the faculty member to set an appointment. Come prepared with your resume and be on time! Respect the faculty member’s time and commitments.
  • To discuss:
    • Potential projects: Pitch your project idea or multiple ideas if you have more than one.
    • The structure and format of your project.
  • Key points on how to construct a professional email:
  • Clear Subject line: Seeking Research Opportunity, Prospective Honors Undergraduate Researcher, and/or interested in examining any given subject.
    • Tell the contactee how you found them: Perhaps you met them at a student organization or found their profile on a faculty website.
    • Do your homework: Make sure you have looked over their faculty profile, and are prepared to explain why this faculty member would be a good fit for your project. 
    • Highlight uncommon commonalities: If you have something in common with them, highlight that. Don’t make it up.
    • Make sure the request is specific (short but sweet): Let the faculty member know what it is you want to be working on and why. Do not just ask for his/her help.  Make sure to mention your availability, and ask when their office hours are.
    • Express gratitude: Always thank the faculty mentor for their time, and ask if any additional information is needed on your part.
    • Provide more background information: Help faculty see what skills you have to offer and your “train-ability,” which could be your resume and academic transcript.
    • Do not assume the faculty will know what IDS 401 [BIS 401 prior to fall 2019] is, or what will be expected of them.  Be prepared to explain this course.  If faculty have administrative questions that you are unable to answer, please direct them to the 401 coordinator.

Step 5: Complete the application process

Once you have a commitment from a faculty member who has agreed to mentor you on your directed study project, you and the faculty member will complete the Directed Study Application found below.  This application should be based on the planning sheet or outline that you and your mentor have already discussed. This application should serve as a mini syllabus for your project. You and your mentor will work collaboratively to create a list of assignments, due dates, and a grading scale.

Once completed, email the application to the 401 coordinator at before 4 p.m. Mountain Standard Time/Arizona Time on the application deadline noted below in the 'Application deadlines' section.

Download directed study application

Step 6: Submit your application

Submit your application to please allow 5 business days for the application to be processed.

Your application status will be communicated to you via email. If you receive a confirmation email that you have been enrolled please check your MyASU to confirm. If you have received an email that needs corrections on the application please review the corrections and return the revised application in the email chain. 

Application deadlines

Sessions Deadline
Summer A: 5/16/24 – 6/26/24 Due April 15th, 2024
Summer C: 5/16/24 – 7/10/24 Due April 15th, 2024
Summer B: 7/1/24 – 8/9/24 Due June 10th, 2024
Fall B: 10/16/24 – 12/6/24 Due Sept. 23, 2024
Fall C: 8/22/24 – 12/6/24 Due July 29, 2024