Independent studies


Independent studies are an important part of Swedish tertiary education, and the way you will go about these studies may not be entirely clear for those not used to the Swedish tertiary education system.

You will almost certainly have a part of your course where you have "independent studies" - you use this time to write your paper, thesis or project work. There are little to no scheduled classes and you have the freedom to divide up your time in whatever manner you see fit, as long as you hand in your paper before the deadline. This document will help explain what is expected of you and how you can avoid the pitfalls that many students fall for and get the best result for your studies!

Choosing your supervisor

As mentioned in the article about approaching your supervisor, you will often have a range of different supervisors that you can choose from. The supervisors will often have a particular field of expertise or interest. This means that you should have a good idea of what you want to write about from the very first day of your course. If you are really stuck for ideas talk with your course coordinator as soon as possible and get some inspiration!

Once you have been assigned/chosen your supervisor it is time to get down to the real work. You should maintain a good contact with your supervisor and work and rework ideas and plans. It is generally not the role of the supervisor to correct a completed thesis or project, instead they should be there to challenge your ideas, give you new ideas, to help with appropriate theories and structures and to help you get the best from yourself! it is possible that you may not be allowed to hand in your essay if you have not had proper contact with your supervisor.

The process of writing a paper or doing a project often leaves a lot up to the individual. It is expected that you will choose your own topic, in consultation with your supervisor. It is not common that you will be given a question and that you will then have to answer and that's the end of that! If you do get a question at all it will often be quite open, and you will need to narrow down the topic and choose a specific angle. The point is that it is an interactive process.

It is also common that you will undergo a course on methodology as a part of your independent studies - so don't take the phrase "independent studies" too literally! There is a very specific way of writing project work in Uppsala and it is during these courses on methodology that you will find out about how it is expected that you will present your ideas, how you should go about your work and so forth.

Handing in your paper

It is possible that you will have to defend your paper. For this process to work there are a number of steps you need to follow. It is best to check with your department, but here is a general guide that will give you some idea of how things happen.

1) There will be a date whereby all theses must be submitted. This deadline is absolute. If you miss it then there is in all likelihood no way to correct this. Check in which format you have to submit your paper - often you will have to have a special login code and you will upload it to your department's system.

2) There will be a date where you must hand in a paper copy of your paper. Check how many copies you need, but it is most likely three copies. Again this date is absolute. If you miss it you will not be able to defend your paper. There are three distinct aspects to defending your paper - you will have to do each. 1) the paper is presented by the author 2) the paper is debated. There are two parts to the debating of the paper: one student is responsible for conducting the debate; all students are responsible for having read the paper and being able to contribute in the discussion. It is during this session where you will be given a schedule for this process - you will know when your paper is going to be debated and you will also know when you are expected to lead the debate over someone else's paper. One of the copies of your paper will go to your "opponent".

3) During the course of a number of days you will be a part of the presenation and debate of a number of papers. It is expected that you take part actively in this and that you have read and understood your classmates' papers.

While not all subjects follow this pattern it is at least representative of the manner with which many papers are presented.