UW School of Medicine III Requirement

UW School of Medicine–Independent Investigative Inquiry (III)

**Please note, the information on this blog pertains to the E17 class and earler. Information for the E18 class will be posted soon.

The purpose of the Independent Investigative Inquiry—the III requirement—portion of the curriculum is to engage students in activities that will foster the skills of life-long learning essential for practicing physicians in the 21st century.

Objectives of a successful completion of the III include:

  • Obtaining first-hand experience in the acquisition and synthesis of new knowledge
  • Understanding a health-related issue in depth
  • Fostering a mentoring relationship with a faculty member outside the usual course structure
  • Summarizing the experience or findings in a written document

Complete List of III Goals and Objectives

Each student is strongly urged to select a topic of particular interest, and is required to investigate the subject independently, following the advice of a faculty advisor and other resources in the WWAMI community. This is a unique opportunity for students to choose both the content and the form of their learning and to pursue an interest that may not be included elsewhere in the curriculum.

Students typically conduct their research over the summer between their first and second year of medical school. They must complete their III and be awarded credit prior to moving to clerkships in the spring of year two.

There are five options (Selectives) to choose from when fulfilling the III requirement. Each has its own expectations, procedures, and deadlines. View the 2017-18 III Information Session slide presentation or watch the recording of the III Information Session from October 2017.

The Health Sciences Library has a guide to resources and writing in support of your III work.

Note: Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) students do not have to complete the III as the requirement is fulfilled via their PhD dissertation.

Selective 1: Data Gathering/Hypothesis-Driven Inquiry

This selective takes the form of a basic laboratory study, a survey, secondary analysis of an existing data set, a chart review, a qualitative study, or a prospective clinical trial. The student has an independent role and makes an intellectual contribution to the project. Students selecting this option can expect to learn the steps and logic involved in trying to resolve an empirical question through data collection and analysis. This type of research may entail students learning how to conduct research that conforms to human or animal use regulations.

Students may undertake research as part of a funded program such as Harborview’s Injury Prevention & Research Center (INSIGHT), Medical Student Training in Aging Research (MSTAR), or other UWSOM-approved fellowships. Learn more about Research Funding Options.

*The MSRTP is a very particular type of Selective 1 project, having its own application, deadlines, etc. Visit the Selective 1-MSRTP page to learn all about it.

Documents you need to read and complete for a Selective 1 (excluding MSRTP) project:

  1. Selective 1 Guidelines
  2. Selective 1 Proposal

Visit the Selective 1 Process page for all the details.

Selective 2: Systematic Literature Review

Students conduct a systematic review of the literature which involves developing a hypothesis and using published material to explore the issue in depth. An unresolved scientific question is posed, relevant to the practice of clinical medicine. Students who choose a Selective 2 can expect to learn and develop the skills involved in designing an answerable question, systematically searching medical literature, and critically reviewing and evaluating said literature. Students will also gain an understanding of research methods and design.

It is ideal to design a PICOS question for a III literature review:

A Population (or problem) receiving an Intervention (test, treatment, or placebo) as Compared to another test/treatment/placebo producing an Outcome (disease or improvement) associated with research Study designs.

Some examples of Selective 2 research:

  • The Efficacy of Yoga Interventions in Reducing Salivary Cortisol in Adults: A Literature Review
  • Communication in the Interpreted Medical Encounter, with a Focus on Rapport Development: A Review of Study Design
  • Systematic Literature Review on Malaria Vaccine Efficacy

Documents you need to read and complete for a Selective 2:

  1. Selective 2 Guidelines
  2. Selective 2 Proposal

Visit the Selective 2 Process page for all the details.

Selective 3: Experience-Driven Inquiry: RUOP

The Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (RUOP) is a four-week immersion experience in community medicine. During their rotation, students live in rural or urban underserved communities throughout Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, or Idaho (WWAMI). They work side-by-side with local physicians providing health care to underserved populations. The program is administered by the UW Department of Family Medicine.

The Selective 3 project can take several forms, including a community needs assessment, a plan for a community health intervention, or an evaluation of a service delivery project. The process to apply for a RUOP experience, as well as fulfillment components, are managed directly through the UW Department of Family Medicine.

Selective 4: Special Simulation Selective: WISH (Note: Selective 4 may be on hold for the 2018-19 academic year; more information to follow soon)

Working with members of the staff at the WWAMI Institute for Simulation in Healthcare (WISH), students have the opportunity to research and develop the content for one or more simulated patients when they choose this selective. The WISH Simulation Module exists to provide introductory knowledge and support to the ever-expanding enterprise. First-year medical students within the program, under the supervision of WISH Faculty, will have the opportunity to participate in simulation training sessions as well as to aid in the development of WISH’s educational content.

WISH students will contribute to the development of innovative educational materials, which may include:

  • Formal needs assessment
  • Online modules for skills training
  • Creation of low-cost, distributable “task-trainers” for skills training across WWAMI
  • Simulation scenario design and development

Applications are due in early January. As with RUOP, the process to apply, and the III fulfillment components, are managed directly by the WISH program. If you’re interested in applying for the WISH III selective, please contact Bridget Kovach.

Selective 5: Promoting Community Health in Developing Countries: GHIP

Students who participate in the Global Health Immersion Program (GHIP) develop an experience-driven investigation of an issue as they spend a minimum of eight weeks in a developing country working to understand and help improve the local health communities. GHIP is an intensive, academically rigorous program for students who want to gain a first-hand understanding of the health challenges facing people in low- and middle-income countries. GHIP aims to provide medical students interested in global health with a transformative experience that will deepen their understanding of the causes and impact of illness in developing countries.

Countries where a student may spend the summer include: Senegal, Nepal, Peru, India, Uganda, and Vietnam.

Visit the Department of Global Health to read about the requirements of the program, and how to apply. Contact Rachel Lazzar, MSW, if you would like to learn more about the Selective 5.

Completing the III

Each selective involves specific components and requirements that need to be met in order for III credit to be awarded.

  • Proposals: Each selective has a process, involving an application or proposal, that must be followed in order for projects to be officially approved as a III. Students must submit proposals even if they have been awarded a fellowship or been accepted to other specific summer scholarship programs (e.g., INSIGHT or INBRE). Proposals/applications are reviewed and approved by the appropriate party in the winter/spring of each academic year.
  • Poster Session: Medical Student III Poster Sessions are held across the WWAMI sites between October and November. Students who are doing a Selective 1, Selective 3, Selective 4, or Selective 5 project must present a poster; students completing a Selective 2 project have the option to present a poster in addition to the required paper.
  • Final paper and faculty evaluation: Selective 2 projects require that a final paper and faculty evaluation be submitted in the month of March following the summer of research.
  • Other types of final projects may be due upon completion of specific programs.


Students who meet at least one of the following criteria are eligible for a waiver for the Independent Investigative Inquiry (III):

  • Master’s degree with a thesis in a discipline basic to medicine;
  • PhD degree with a dissertation in a discipline basic to medicine;
  • First author of a published paper in a peer-reviewed medical or scientific journal;
  • MSTP students fulfill the Independent Investigative Inquiry with their PhD dissertation.

Abstracts and papers used to fulfill requirements other than those noted above do not meet the criteria. Only a dissertation or thesis is sufficient.

Petitions for waivers must be submitted by January 2 and approved no later than January 31 of the first year of medical school. All students must have a commitment to an Independent Investigative Inquiry (III) project by the end of winter quarter of the first year of medical school.

Waiver requests, including evidence of scholarship/publication, should be sent to Curriculum.

Western Student Medical Research Forum (WSMRF)

We encourage all second year students to participate in the Western Student Medical Research Forum (WSMRF), held every January in Carmel, CA. For interested students whose projects are selected, WSMRF is a great opportunity to present their work at a regional conference and have an abstract published. In August, students are sent communication about submitting an abstract for consideration and all other details related to the conference.


It’s very important that you monitor timelines and stick to deadlines. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, extensions are generally not granted. The Curriculum team does its best to communicate deadlines well in advance, and sends reminders frequently through the fall and winter about III due dates. Be sure to keep an eye on your UW email account! If you ever have a question about a deadline, don’t hesitate to reach out to the appropriate contact.

As previously mentioned, each selective has its own set of deadlines. View specific information at III Timelines .



Clinical Research Methods Course FAQs


There are many resources at your disposal that can aid in your research project! Listed here are just a few of them.

  • Library Resources for Your Research: Through this link you’ll find efficient background, research, and writing guidance about your topic. Your School of Medicine librarian (Nikki Dettmar) is available to help with brief in-person, phone, Skype, and Google Hangout consultations, from the start of your project—to save hours of time later—and assist with additional searching strategies if you are not finding the best results.The computers in the Commons have SPSS (a software package used for statistical analysis) available on PCs and Macs. The Commons is at the west end of the upper level of the Health Sciences Library (3rd floor, T-wing).
  • UW Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology: This service allows off-campus use of certain statistical programs. Check out this list to see supported software.
  • UW Department of Biostatistics: University of Washington faculty, staff, and students can receive limited, free statistical consulting from the Departments of Biostatistics and Statistics. To schedule an appointment and get more information, please visit the Statistical Consulting Program.


Your first point of contact for general questions about the III is Curriculum. For specific Selectives, feel free to contact the following individuals:

  1. Selectives 1 and 2: Curriculum, 206.543.0922
  2. Selective 3: Toby Keys, 206.616.7832
  3. Selective 4: Bridget Kovach, 206.598.2710
  4. Selective 5: Rachel Lazzar, MSW, 206.685.7418