What are ISMs?

What are Independent Study Modules (ISMs)?

  • ISMs, or Independent Study Modules, are modules which provide opportunities for USP students to obtain a personalised specialization on a specific topic. The student is given the freedom to work independently and to design the ISM in consultation with the faculty member to determine the assignments and research required for the module topic. The student is required to write a culminating essay or report at the conclusion of the module.
  • ISMs must be pegged at level 3000 or higher.
  • USP students must read at least one ISM but no more than three.
  • USP students on DDP (between USP partner faculties adn with French Grandes Ecoles), SPS students, SDE students (ARK and IDS), USP Special programmes (Waseda DDP, cultural immersion at LSR/HC), and NOC/ilead who are granted the module waiver of 2 HSS + 2 ST Inquiry modules (including ISM requirement) will not be allowed to read any ISMs (or ISMs ride-on) to double-count towards major/faculty requirements. Please contact USP Office if you have any queries.
  • Individual faculties* have different regulations/guidelines regarding ISMs. Please refer to your faculty for prior advice and approval before embarking on your ISMs.

* All FASS students must read at least one ISM and up to a maximum of two ISMs, each of level-3000 or higher. Students from ELL department should not pursue more than one USP ISM at level-4000. USP History Honours students may not do USP ISMs at level-4000. Students are advised to speak to their department ISM coordinators and administrators on their department’s guidelines on ISMs. Please note that departmental ISMs (those with module codes ending with 4660, eg EC4660, HY4660) are not USP ISMs. You will not be allowed to double-count the departmental ISMs as USP ISMs. Department ISM also precludes Honours Thesis. More info on USP ISMs (for FASS students) can also be found HERE.

Forms of Independent Study Modules

Independent Study Modules (ISMs) may take one of the following forms, as elaborated below.

  • Individual or Small Group Study

    A student can undertake an individual reading, research or project course under the guidance of a faculty member. A mutually agreed-upon proposal must be drawn up between the student and the mentor. This study proposal must state clearly the student’s obligations, the agreed-upon mode of assessment and the relevance of this module to his or her major. The student is required to write a culminating essay or report concerning the findings of the module topic, and should be actively involved in the presentation and discussion of the material.

    A small group of (not more than seven) students may also undertake an ISM collectively but the group ISM must have a significant component of individual assessment. Group members may submit individual reports or a joint report, depending on the requirements of the mentor and the home faculty.

  • Riding on existing modules

    Faculties with a large number of students and insufficient resources may mount ISMs as follows. Existing level 3000 and 4000 modules can be enhanced by a department into ISMs *. Although the student attends the same lectures as his or her non-USP coursemates, he or she participates in separate or additional tutorial sessions with the mentor, covering more material (at least twenty per cent), at greater depth, and involving his/her active participation. The USP student takes the same examination as the other students taking this module, but the examination should constitute a smaller percentage of the USP student's overall assessment. The USP student should be assessed more rigorously in the area of continual assessments, e.g. projects and term papers which pay particular attention to the student's active involvement and independence.

    * ISMs ride-ons are not applicable to FASS and FOE students.


Procedure for ISM / ride-on ISM application

You can start registering for your ISMs in the following manner:

  • Start formulating a topic of interest well in advance and approach your prospective supervisor (with relevant research interests) to discuss and write a proposal for the ISM.
  • Start working on the project several weeks before the start of the semester so as to have sufficient time for any project revision if necessary.
  • Upon agreement with the supervisor, you can apply for an ISM using the ISM contract form (from the respective home faculty website).
  • Obtain endorsement from the relevant departmental ISM co-ordinator (prior to the deadline as stipulated on the ISM application form).
  • Submit the endorsed ISM application form to your faculty Dean’s Office. Please refer to the respective faculties’ website for details on the timeline. You may also refer to the Registration Details for more info.
  • If you encounter any difficulties when embarking on a cross-faculty ISM, you may approach USP for assistance.


Some Common Questions on ISMs FASS Biz FOE FOS
What is the minimum number of ISMs I have to do? 1 1 1 1
What is the maximum number of ISMs I can do? 2* 3 3 3
What are the forms of ISMs I can undertake ?
  • Only Newly-designed ISMs
  • Newly-designed ISMs
  • Only Newly-designed ISMs
  • Newly-designed ISMs
  • Ride-on ISMs
  • UROPs
Must I submit an ISM application/contract form ? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Where do I submit a cross-faculty ISM ?
USP ISM application form
Where do I submit my endorsed ISM application/contract form? Dean’s Office Dean’s Office Dean’s Office Dean’s Office
What can my ISM count or double-count towards (subject to faculty’s approval)? Major or UE Major or UE UE only Major or UE
When is the deadline for submission of ISM application? Please check with your faculty Please check with your faculty Please check with your faculty Please check with your faculty
Must the ISM be at least level 3000? Yes Yes Yes Yes


*Different departments in FASS have different regulations. Please approach your departmental coordinators for department-specific guidelines before embarking on the ISM.

Please note the following:

  • For USP+Law students, the Directed Research will be double-counted towards USP ISM requirements.
  • For USP+SDE students, certain major modules will be double-counted towards USP ISM requirements. Please refer to the SDE website for more information.

ISM Guidelines

Click here to view more

Special Arrangements (ESP and SPS students)

Engineering Science Programme (ESP) Students

  • Student Matriculating From AY2012-2013:
  • For Engineering Science Programme (ESP) students, the following ESP modules can be counted towards an inquiry tier USP Science & Technology module:
    • ESP 2109 or
    • ESP2110
  • Two of the following ESP modules can be counted as USP ISMs in the Science and Technology domain, thus substituting for two more inquiry tier USP Science & Technology modules
    • ESP3901
    • ESP3902
    • ESP3903


Special Programme in Science (SPS) Students

With effect from 2017 cohort, USP students enrolled in Special Programme in Science (SPS) will be granted a waiver of 4 USP Inquiry modules (2 HSS + 2 ST).  The waiver includes the ISM requirement.

  • Students Matriculating From AY2012-13 and onwards:
  • From this AY onwards, USP will be under the revised curriculum. The Advanced Curriculum will cease to exist, and SPS modules will be used to fulfill USP inquiry modules. For USP students matriculating from this AY onwards who are in SPS:
    • Any two of SP2173, SP2174, SP3175 and SP3176 will count as regular Inquiry modules in the Sciences & Technologies (S&T) domain; in addition,
    • SP3172 will count as an ISM in the S&T domain

ISM Coordinator

Each participating faculty in the University Scholars Programme will appoint ISM coordinator(s) for its faculty.

Specific responsibilities of ISM coordinator:

  • To ensure that the department has sufficient ISMs for its scholars for each semester.
  • To assist and advise staff in the department who want to offer ISMs.
  • To answer students' questions regarding what students can or cannot do (regarding ISMs) in their departments/faculties, and to act as student advisor.
  • If possible, to assist the faculty advanced module committee to propose and launch new course based modules. Currently, the departments in a faculty may not fully coordinate their activities with the faculty committee, and hence may not be aware of advanced modules offered and policies at the faculty level. This lack of coordination not only creates confusion within the faculty, but also among the students.

Faculty ISM


Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

For more information on reading newly-designed ISMs at FASS, please go to:

School of Business

For more information on reading newly-designed or ride-on ISMs at BIZ, please go to:

Faculty of Science

For more information on reading newly-designed, ride-on and UROPS-based ISMs at FOS, please go to:

School of Computing

For more information on UROP-based, module-based ISMs, or ride-on ISMs at SoC, please go to:

Faculty of Engineering

For more information on reading newly-designed at FOE, please go to:

School of Design and Environment

For more information on modules read to fulfill ISMs at SDE, please go to:

Faculty of Law

For more information on modules read to fulfill ISMs at Law, please go to:

Sample of ISM Titles for AY2016/2017

List of ISM Undertaken in AY2016/AY2017

1 Nudging donors and promoting micro-donations:  Feasibility study in the Singapore context BIZ
2 Sentiment Analysis and Opinion Mining of Review Based Texts BIZ
3 Analysis open-close bidding under uniform-pricing rule BIZ
4 New Forms of Collaboration and Ownership in the Age of Blockchain BIZ
5 Our Stories on Dignity: Narratives of the Nursing Home Experience.  BIZ
6 The Arts and Happiness BIZ
7 Digital Liveness:  A Study of Intermediality in "#Foodporn" FASS
8 Examining the discourse of incarceration in singapore FASS
9 Search costs in online healthcare price listings FASS
10 State capacity and gender preference in china FASS
11 Second-person narration in undertale and its fanfiction FASS
12 Early amatory fiction and the rise of the novel FASS
13 Negotiating diversity in transnational Chinese films FASS
14 A dual-structure analysis of coordination FASS
15 Writing the gael in 18th century travel accounts FASS
16 Encouraging recycling and waste reduction in Singapore FASS
17 Abuse or use? The historiography of maps of Singapore FASS
18 Moral motivation FASS
19 Portrayals of rationality in Jane Austen's works FASS
20 Curating postcolonial discomforts: Singaporean museums FASS
21 Third parties' emotions in side-taking situations FASS
22 A place for kampongs amongst Singapore's urban spaces FASS
23 Comparing Christian and Hindu prisoner rehabilitation FASS
24 Changes in the size distribution of banks FASS
25 Super(em)powered Women FASS
26 A Suitable Framework for Evaluating the Effectiveness of Secular Reintegration Programmes for Ex-Offenders FASS
27 A study of course allocation mechanism FASS
28 At curtain call: digital archiving with A|S|I|A FASS
29 Fantasy fulfilment in the marvel cinematic universe FASS
30 Feminist revisions of 'the wife' FASS
31 The sentence-final particle sia in singlish FASS
32 Language use and attitudes of Tamil undergraduates FASS
33 Doing long-distance friendships via skype FASS
34 Tracking global growths in conservation volunteering FASS
35 Domestic division of labour in queer households FASS
36 Role of popular culture in global city formation FASS
37 A cultural analysis of the US-Israel relationship FASS
38 Phenomenology of gender transition and trans experience FASS
39 Liberty and happiness FASS
40 China and its human rights diplomacy in southeast Asia FASS
41 Singapore-Indonesia relations in new order Indonesia FASS
42 The emergence of depressive symptoms in animals FASS
43 The effect of state humility on self-judgement accuracy FASS
44 Gratitude and the propensity for risk-taking FASS
45 Attitudes of young adults toward fostering in Singapore FASS
46 Narratives of the 2016 sg elected presidency amendments FASS
47 Capturing modalities in contracting for legal technology interfaces FOE
48 Creating a social impact evaluation framework for Moolahsophy FOE
49 Programming in vertical retirement/nursing homes and development of resident infokit FOE
50 Design and build the next generation micro-sized unmanned aerial vehicle FOE
51 Race car vehicle dynamics design and testing FOE
52 Modeling macroscale fluid-solid interactions using mesoscale techniques FOE
53 Computational Fluid Dynamics Simulation of Bubbling, Slugging and Fast Fluidization FOE
54 An Investigation of Ultralight WIGEVs (Title changed on 4 April) FOE
55 Disabling Disabilities:  Facilitating Interaction between People with Different Disabilities FOE
56 Assistance Systems in Manufacturing:  A Systematic Review FOE
57 The Rhine-Jung Case and the Pre-Falsification Era of Psychology (Title changed) FOE
58 The Resillience of Singapore's Water Management Strategy FOE
59 Uncovering Kalman Filters: Diagnosing Faults in Air-Cons with Kalman Filters FOE
60 Unpacking Particle Filters: Diagnosing Faults in Air-Cons with Particle Filters FOE
61 Investigation on the Impact of the Community Health Angles Mentoring Program (CHAMP) FOS
62 Unveiling the Power of Origami: A Galois' Theory Perspective FOS
63 New Perovskite Semiconductors for Opto-electronic Applications FOS
64 Graphene-Based Electrodes for Molecular Tunnel Junctions FOS
65 Robust Pattern Formation of the Butterfly Wing FOS
66 Molecular Characterization of GOGAT from the giant clam Tricdacna Squamosa, and effects of light on its expression FOS
67 Chromatin Structure and Marks Affecting EZH2 Localisation FOS
68 Magnon-Photon Coupling in Feromagnetic thin Films FOS
69 An Assessment of Current Financial Products and Innovative Solutions for Aging Populations FOS
70 Methods of Sediment Stabilisation in Seagrass Restoration FOS
71 Developing helathcare sector client prototypes and schemas:  Quantitative Approaches FOS
72 Defining a social enterprise and it’s aspects with a prototype example FOS
73 Preventive Law:  Exploring Perfomative Arts FOS
74 Narrative Inquiry of the Singaporean Secondary School Curriculum FOS
75 Integration of Transient Workers in Singapore:  Toward Cosmopolitanism or Not? FOS
76 CaregiverAID (Identification of the current information gaps for Caner Caregives and coming up with a proposed sollutionbased on our findings) FOS
77 The Effects Technological Standards on the Number of Essential Patents FOS
78 Investigation of Arabidopsis poly(A)-binding protein 2 and 8 in controlling flowering time FOS
79 Exploring Modeling Assumptions FOS
80 Single-cell analysis of heterogeneity in cell fate decision FOS
81 Value of health care from patients'€™ perspective: literature review and questionnaire development FOS
82 Introducing Hand-on Chemical Crystallography to Undergraduates FOS
83 Pharmacotherapy III FOS
84 Combinatorial Set Theory FOS
85 Mathematical Methods In Genomics FOS
86 Numerical Analysis II FOS
87 Linear and Network Optimisation FOS
88 Bayesian Optimization SOC
89 Candidate Management System for Garena SOC
90 Building a production quality application on the iOS platform SOC
91 Modular System Development Study SOC
92 Machine Learning for Systems Biology and Translational Medicine SOC
93 Pivot Tuition: A Next Generation Online Tuition Platform SOC
94 A Patient Virtual Assistant on the iPad SOC
95 Enhancing copy-paste functionality in PowerPoint through a PowerPoint plugin SOC
96 Automating Open Source Project Workflows SOC
97 Network Security Analytics SOC
98 Iterative Development for a Static Program Analysis Tool SOC
99 Managing an open-source, cloud-based peer evaluation platform SOC
100 A Pivot - A virtual classroom tuition platform SOC
101 Patient Virtual Assistant - A companion iPad app for hospital patients SOC