If you’re an undergraduate at the University of Rochester interested in learning how to run experiments, how to use corpora for language research, or, if you’re interested in language modeling, you can apply for an independent study project. You will be working with a faculty member and other experienced lab members, participate in lab meetings, get started on existing projects (to learn the methods we use) and develop and conduct your own research. Independent studies allow the people you work with to get to know you, which means that they can write informative letters of recommendation for grad school applications.

Have a look at a list of previous independent studies conducted in the lab.

Recent undergraduate direct research projects in the lab have included work on a variety of topics and often lead to conference presentations and/or B.A. theses:

  • Syntactic production:
    • Ambiguity avoidance in production
    • Animacy effects on word order (Butler, Jaeger, Furth, Lemieux, Gomez Gallo, and Bohnemeyer, 2010)
    • Complexity effects on word order
  • Phonological production:
    • similarity and identity effects on unscripted speech (Furth and Jaeger, 2010)
  • Artificial language studies on language acquisition
  • Computational models of efficient language production (Qian, 2009; Qian and Jaeger, 2009)

Work has involved the following languages so far:

  • English
  • Spanish
  • Yucatec Mayan
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Swedish
  • Dutch
  • Artificial languages


  • You can take independent study for 1-4 credits. If you want to run your own study, even if it is a small project, this realistically compares to the workload of 4 credits. However, you can also decide to help out in a project and to just learn some of the steps involved in research on human language processing. In that case, maybe 2 credits are most appropriate. Depending on the number of credits you want to earn, there are different requirements.
  • All independent study students need to create a wiki page. That page needs to list all references to readings (typically about 15-20 papers for 3-4 credits, but it could be less). It can also contain notes about the papers. You can find examples of directed reading pages on our wiki.
  • If the goal is to design an experiment, then you will have to create a second page describing that project. This page will be a log book for your progress, describing the general idea, design choices, items, procedure, etc. of the experiment. There are several examples of such lab logs on our wiki (some are only accessible to HLP lab members). These wiki pages will help you to organize your thoughts, your advisor to assess your progress, and –most importantly, they will help future students interested in similar topics.
  • If you plan to take 3-4 credits, you will also need to give a short (15-20 minute) informal presentation at the end of the semester to either the other RAs in the lab or the entire lab crowd (including graduate students, etc.). It’s a very supportive environment and a great chance to get feedback on your project. There is no requirement for a write-up beyond what’s mentioned above. The wiki pages are the write-up.