Thesis & Independent Study

Thesis in Art History

Candidates for Honors in Art History complete a senior thesis with two units of independent study (ARTH 360 and 370) during the Fall and Spring of the senior year.

A senior thesis requires substantial, independent, year-long research on an original topic; it will result in a polished and informative paper of approximately 100 pages in length, on a previously unpublished and unexamined subject. For a student who has a clear idea of what she wants to investigate, a well-considered plan of research, and both the willingness and the ability to accept the responsibility of working independently over the course of the year, a senior thesis can be a rewarding experience. But a thesis will not necessarily enhance acceptance to graduate programs. Many graduate schools will look instead at the range of classes you have completed, and the research you have undertaken at the intermediate and advanced levels, when deciding on admission. If you are considering graduate school, you should have a conversation with your advisor about your options.

Admission to the Honors program in the Department is open to students who complete the following requirements before Fall of their senior year:

1.     a 3.5 GPA in the major

2.     a minimum of five units in Art History above the 100-level. Four of these five units must be taken in the Art Department, and one of the five units must be at the 300-level in the Art Department.

3.     at least one of the courses completed at the 200- or 300-level must be with the faculty member who will advise your thesis.

4.     foundation work appropriate to the thesis topic.  This may include a 200-level course in the chosen area and the languages necessary to conduct the required research.

An Assistant Professor or Senior Lecturer may advise one 360/370 thesis project each year, and an Associate or Full Professor may advise up to two 360/370 thesis projects each year.  The Art History Thesis Committee will make the final decisions on all thesis work; this Committee will evaluate your progress three times over the course of the year (as described below), but it may also be called in by your advisor to assist with any questions or concerns at other times, too.

PLEASE NOTE:  Beginning with the Class of 2015 the Art Department will use the following calendar for thesis work in Art History.  A thesis is a complex and multi-faceted project, and it requires careful adherence to the deadlines detailed below for the greatest success. These deadlines will allow your work to be evaluated regularly by both your advisor and the Thesis Committee; they will provide structure to your senior year.  They will be strictly enforced to ensure fairness to all; any deviation from them will need to be approved by your advisor in consultation with your dean.

During Spring of your junior year:  Meet with your potential thesis advisor to determine if your topic is viable and whether you meet the Departmental requirements.  It is your responsibility to seek out an advisor; he or she must be someone with whom you already have a strong working relationship from a previous 200- or 300-level class.

Before the last day of classes in Spring of your junior year:   Submit a two-page thesis proposal, a preliminary bibliography, and your academic transcript to your potential advisor as email attachments.  She or he will forward these attachments to the Art History Thesis Committee.   This Committee will then convene to review all proposals.  Hard decisions may need to be made; your chosen advisor may already have the full number of allowable thesis students, or the Committee may feel it you would benefit from additional 300-level seminars instead of a thesis. You will be informed by the end of the exam period whether or not you have been selected to enroll in ARTH 360 for the Fall semester. 

Summer:   Once the decision is made, and before you leave campus, you and your advisor must have a conversation about your summer plans.  You are expected to conduct considerable independent research on your thesis topic over the summer.

By the first day of Fall classes:  You will submit a revised proposal and bibliography to your advisor, taking into account your summer research.  This proposal will be reviewed by the Art Department Thesis Committee to ensure you have made progress and are ready to undertake this project.  The Committee will inform you of the outcome of their deliberations before the Add/Drop period ends.

During the Fall semester:  You should plan to meet with your advisor on a regular basis.  It is up to you to schedule these meetings; come prepared to discuss your research and any questions you may have. 

Before the end of Fall Break:  You will submit a draft outline of chapters, as well as a revised proposal and bibliography, to your advisor.  At this point you and your advisor will decide which chapter you will write this semester.

Before the end of Reading Period: You will submit a complete, fully footnoted and illustrated chapter, a detailed outline of all chapters, and a thesis statement to your advisor, who will forward it to the Art History Thesis Committee for review.  Based on this chapter, the Committee will determine whether or not you will be invited to continue with a unit of ARTH 370 in the Spring; if that is the case, you will earn a grade of TBG (to be graded) on your transcript for ARTH 360.  If you have any questions or concerns about your future grade at this point in the process you should initiate a conversation with your advisor.  In some cases, the Thesis Committee will recommend that your work be concluded.  If that is the case, you will earn a graded ARTH 360 credit for advanced independent research for the Fall semester and you will not continue on to a 370 in the Spring.

January:  You are expected to work full-time and independently on a second chapter over Wintersession.  

By the first day of Spring classes:  You will submit a second completed, fully footnoted and illustrated chapter to your advisor.

During the Spring semester:  You should plan to meet with your advisor on a regular basis.  It is up to you to schedule these meetings; come prepared to discuss your research and any questions you may have.  Continue to submit new or revised chapters based on a mutually agreed upon schedule.  You and your advisor should discuss the composition of your thesis committee; once it is settled, you should seek out your committee members for additional advice on your work.

By the first day after Spring Break:  You will submit a full draft of your thesis to your advisor, including footnotes, bibliography, and illustrations.

By the third week of April:  Your completed thesis is due and must be submitted to the College on the date and in the format indicated.  Neither the Art Department Chair nor your thesis advisor can grant extensions to this College-wide deadline.

Reading Period:  Your advisor and the members of your thesis committee will convene to examine your thesis with you and pose questions regarding its contents and structure.  This committee will discuss your grade and decide whether or not you receive Honors in the Art Department for your work; the decision to award Honors is determined separately from the final grade.  After your examination you may be asked to make minor edits to your text prior to final submission, again by the date and in the format indicated by the College.  Based on your work over the course of the year, your advisor will either submit one grade for ARTH 360/370 or she or he will grade each semester separately.

Independent Study in Art History

An independent study project consists of one semester of self-directed research under the guidance of a faculty advisor who knows this subject (and you) well. Ideally, your advisor should be a regular member of the faculty with whom you have already taken advanced courses and have established a good working relationship. An independent study project may involve more than one faculty advisor, may involve collaborative work, and may be structured to earn a full or half credit.