Reading Courses

Reading courses are arranged between a student and professor. If you are interested in taking a reading course, you will need to find a professor who is willing to supervise it. This should be arranged well in advance of the beginning of the academic semester.

Reading courses can take different forms. Some professors give the student an existing syllabus (for example, a syllabus for a course the professor is not teaching at that time or a course that the student cannot fit into their schedule). The student works through the reading list on their own time, meets periodically with the professor to discuss the material, and usually produces at least two papers (a literature review and a more substantive research paper), in addition to any other requirements that the professor deems appropriate. Some professors will assign a grade for participation and discussion during the periodic meetings and require a final exam. It is important for students to understand that the workload for a reading course is as heavy as a regular course.

Another approach is for the student and professor to design a new reading list on a topic that the student is interested in studying and the professor is willing to supervise. This approach puts the onus on the student to come up with a preliminary reading list, which the supervisor will review and expand on. The requirements are otherwise similar to those described in the previous paragraph. If you are interested in a reading course requiring a new reading list, you should provide the professor with: a brief summary of what you would like to study (i.e., what specific issues, debates, and literature you would like to address), an explanation of why you want to study with that particular professor, and a preliminary list of readings.

A third option is to structure a reading course around an experiential learning opportunity, such as an unpaid internship or participation in a Model United Nations conference. In such cases, student assessment may involve a combination of assignments offered in regular classes (e.g. essays, presentations) and the student's performance in the experiential activities associated with the course. You must receive approval from a professor in advance; do not wait until after the placement or activity has been completed. Note that paid employment cannot serve as the basis for a reading course.

Professors may have slightly different approaches and requirements, but most reading courses follow one of these templates.