In the future, I think I am going to have to insist on specific conditions for independent studies. Because the subject matter varies from project to project, as does the process, I am thinking in terms of general guidelines. The basic problem is a lack of willingness on the part of the student to get ideas on paper until time has run out, after which I am presented with an ill-formed torso of a paper.
The way I am thinking about it is as follows:
1. 10-15 pages of drafted, revised, and carefully edited writing for each credit assigned to the course (which varies from 1-3).
2. A written outline and bibliography for the project, to be presented at the first meeting (subject, of course, to later revision).
3. A writing sample of substantial length (such as a term paper from a previous course) to be presented at the first meeting and/or a writing sample pertaining to the topic of the independent study that demonstrates a provisional concept for the project (separate from the outline and bibliography).
I will plan to refrain from issuing a permission number for enrollment in the independent study until the abovementioned conditions have been met. If the student is unable to meet my conditions, no permission number will be issued and the independent study will not take place. It is much easier to refuse a student enrollment in an independent study course than it is to deal with an awkward situation after the student has already enrolled.
For my part, whenever I make a suggestion or require an element to the project (such as proper citation of sources, reference to particular books or articles, etc.), I will document my suggestions and/or requirements in an email to the student and keep a hard copy of the email on file. At the following meeting with the student, I will write a short report in which I document the student's response to the suggestions and/or requirements.
If satisfactory process is not being made during the semester, it will probably be necessary to be in contact with the student's principal adviser.
I have so far avoided the formality of producing a syllabus for each independent study course, but if I can commit myself to a general outline such as this, I can at least have a template from which to work.