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Undergraduate Research

Acquire the tools, knowledge, and contacts to complete primary research while studying abroad.

The Independent Study Project (ISP)—What Is It?

SIT students present their research at the 2016 Notre Dame Human Development Conference

SIT students are prepared to complete an in-depth, field-based project known as the Independent Study Project (ISP). On many SIT programs, the project can take one of three forms:

  • An ISP that addresses a formulated research question
  • A creative ISP that incorporates artwork or a performance
  • A practicum-based ISP

In each case, the project involves conducting original fieldwork, giving a final presentation, and writing a formal research paper. Students are required to examine the ethics of their research and consider its impact on local communities.

Support and Guidance from Start to Finish

The ISP is completed at the end of an SIT semester and is designed to integrate the learning, knowledge, field experience, and contacts acquired from all other components of the program. SIT faculty and staff provide students with relevant coursework instruction, field experience, and guidance from the initial proposal stage through project completion.

Many students enroll in an SIT program with limited, or no, primary field research experience. The ISP is often the first opportunity for students to learn how to undertake a field-based research project. Countless SIT students have cited that learning how to produce a field-based research project is one of the most exciting and valuable aspects of studying abroad with SIT.

Students on IHP/Comparative Programs

The unique nature of the IHP/Comparative programs results in a different form of student research. The approach still emphasizes the multidisciplinary analysis of issues and integrates the experience-based learning of the semester, but it results in a comparative research project on a topic of the student’s own choosing. Typically, the cumulative project involves qualitative research undertaken in each of the countries visited.

SIT Study Abroad Undergraduate Research Award

In 2014, SIT launched a new way to recognize outstanding field-based research conducted on SIT programs through the SIT Study Abroad Undergraduate Research Award. Winners become SIT’s nominees for The Forum on Education Abroad’s Undergraduate Research Award and receive a small monetary award.

2016 Winners

Student: Katherine Hirsch

  • Home Institution: Tufts University
  • SIT Program: Morocco: Multiculturalism and Human Rights
  • ISP Title: A Critical Analysis of the Public Sphere: How the LGBTQ Movement Occupies and Utilizes Space in Morocco

Student: Henry Wilson-Smith

  • Home Institution: Stanford University
  • SIT Program: Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples
  • ISP Title: More Religious and Less Moral: The Changing Face of Religious Coexistence in Ladakh

2015 Winners

Student: Michael Greenwald

  • Home Institution: Wesleyan University
  • SIT Program: Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples
  • ISP Title: Cracks in the Pavement: The Street Boys of Kathmandu

Student: Andrea Carrassi

  • Home Institution: Johns Hopkins University
  • SIT Program: Tanzania-Zanzibar: Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management
  • ISP Title: Assessment of Octopus (Octopus cyanea) Populations in Misali Island, Pemba

2014 Winners

Student: Mamasa Camara

  • Home Institution: Spelman College
  • SIT Program: China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities
  • ISP Title: Imagined Communities: Changing Markets and the Implications for 21st Century Mali-China Migration

Student: Scott Sugden

  • Home Institution: Washington and Lee University
  • SIT Program: Madagascar: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management
  • ISP Title: Plant Community Structure over an Elevation Gradient in Manongarivo Special Reserve
SIT Alumni Recognized by The Forum on Education Abroad

A number of SIT Study Abroad alumni have been recognized by The Forum on Education Abroad for the outstanding research they conducted while on an SIT program. Since 2004, five SIT alumni have received The Forum’s Undergraduate Research Award.

2015 Winner: Shavonne Stanek

  • Home Institution: Oberlin College
  • SIT Program: Tanzania-Zanzibar: Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management
  • ISP Title: The Pelagic Artisanal Fishing of Mangapwani, Northern Unguja

2013 Winner: Madison Stevens

  • Home Institution: Franklin University Switzerland
  • SIT Program: Uganda: Post-Conflict Transformation
  • ISP Title: Lara Ngom ii Acoli: Identifying Root Causes and the Impact of Cultural Cataclysm on Land Conflict Resolution in Nwoya District, Northern Uganda

2009 Winner: Beth Ann Saracco

  • Home Institution: University of Dayton
  • SIT Program: Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development
  • ISP Title: ¡Justicia Ahora! The Movement for Justice in Chile and Guatemala

2006 Winner: Demetri Blanas

  • Home Institution: Columbia University
  • SIT Program: Senegal: National Identity and the Arts
  • ISP Title: The Cultural Implications of Primary Healthcare and the Declaration of Alma-Ata: The Health District of Kédougou, Senegal

2004 Winner: Brian Hoyer

  • Home Institution: Middlebury College
  • SIT Program: Uganda: Development Studies
  • ISP Title: Nike Nikupe: Dependency, Reciprocity, and Paradoxes of Food Aid in Lugufu Refugee Camp in Kigoma, Tanzania