Independent study at Wooster is simultaneously an opportunity, a challenge and a graduation requirement. It is unfortunate that the latter aspect often dominates attitudes towards I.S. and generates a negative feeling towards what can be an exciting dimension to your academic career. Before you become absorbed in the details of I.S., let's examine a few of the positive aspects of I.S. with the hope that it will help you form a mindset favorable to an enjoyable and successful project. I.S. provides you with the opportunity to select a subject for study that matches your personal interests. Out of the many areas of inquiry in economics or business analysis you select the economic topic that you prefer.
I.S. presents you with the intellectual challenge that will augment and reinforce those of the classroom. You identify the important issues and you employ economic analysis to reach reasoned solutions. This challenge of focusing on an important economic question and bringing to bear the appropriate economic tools gives you the opportunity to consolidate the knowledge gained in courses and to supplement that knowledge with books and journal articles. To meet the challenge you can draw upon your creativity, selfdiscipline, available resources and the economics faculty in ways not frequently used in the usual coursework.
The potential benefits of I.S. are considerable. You can achieve personal intellectual satisfaction from successfully posing an interesting question and then working at your best level to provide the answers. If you feel you properly concentrated on your project and have sorted out the possible relationships to the best of your ability, you should feel a sense of personal achievement and gratification.
There are more concrete benefits as well. Your problem solving and analytic skills will be sharpened. You will learn to focus on the essential elements of a problem, to form a concrete hypothesis, and then to apply appropriate analytic methods.
Since you must communicate your method and results, you will improve your writing skills. For many, this will be the first large writing project and its completion will benefit your organizational and expositional skills. This has clearly been a major benefit for previous students. Those who have continued on in graduate programs have remarked that graduate projects and papers went much more smoothly after their I.S. experiences. Potential employers have been duly impressed by the scope and magnitude of I.S. projects and have felt them evidence of the ability of our students to research, organize, and present ideas. It is a bit of concrete evidence that other students may not have.
The most successful I.S. projects have been those where the students were personally interested in their subject and viewed the projects as opportunities, not simply as a requirement for graduation. It is the hope of the staff of the Economics Department that you will begin I.S. with a positive attitude and will view the remainder of this handbook as a source designed to help you enjoy a successful experience.