A Checklist for Writing an Honors Thesis in Music

A student wishing to write a thesis in music will choose an area of concentration: academic, performance, or composition.  An academic thesis should be 50-60 pages in length, a performance thesis should be 25-30 pages, and a composition thesis should consist of a short performance program and a portfolio. (See below for example topics.)

The performance thesis subsumes enrollment in the Advanced Performance Seminar (Music 344) or in Performing Music (Jazz Improvisation) Advanced (Music 298).  Both the composition and performance theses include a performance of the work(s) discussed in the thesis.  All theses will normally be presented at the Ruhlman Conference in April of the thesis year.  All thesis students can apply for funding from the Jerome A. Schiff Fellowship; additional support is available from the Music Department for those who do not receive a Schiff Fellowship.

March/April (Junior Year)

Provide your potential advisor with a copy of your transcript to be sure that you have a GPA of 3.5 in the major.

April/May (Junior Year)

Once you have obtained permission from your advisor, register for Music 360.  For a musicology or theory thesis, provide your advisor with a working title for the thesis, one paragraph elaborating on the thesis title, and a Bibliography.  For a performance thesis and a composition thesis, you need a recommendation from your teacher and a well-developed idea of the thesis material.

November (Senior Year)

The Music Department Faculty will meet to determine that sufficient progress has been made in Senior Thesis Research (Music 360) to merit continuing into Music 370.  If so, you may register for the Senior Thesis (Music 370).

March (Senior Year)

A working draft of the entire thesis must be handed in to your advisor by the beginning of Spring Break.

April (Senior Year)

Thesis completed by the end of the month and Ruhlman Presentation.

May (Senior Year)

Thesis defense. The committee shall consist of at least the advisor, another reader, and a tenured faculty member from another department as the Honors Visitor.

Examples of Past Thesis Topics

  • Ars Bene Dicendi: Rhetoric in the Music of France and Germany, ca. 1100-1320, Natasha Roule, 2011 (Academic, 72 pages)
  • Redefining the Blues Woman: Melissa Etheridge’s Musical Constructions of Gender Identity, Rebecca Soderman 1998 (Academic, 61 pages)
  • Italianitá in the Home: A Selection of Verdi’s Chamber Songs, Alexandra Kurland, 2011 (Performance, 43 pages)
  • Making History: Creating Dido and Aeneas at Wellesley College, Brooke Bryant, 2003 (Performance, 105 pages)
  • The Margrete Musical: The Process Behind the Creation of a New Work, May-Elise Martinsen, 2012 (Composition, 48 pages)

Further Examples

Students interested in exploring more titles or reading examples of Senior Honors Theses may do so through the Wellesley College Archives. All theses that have been completed since 2012 can be read online, and have been uploaded here: http://repository.wellesley.edu/thesiscollection/. For a catalogue of all Senior Music Honors Theses, some of which can be read online and some of which can be read at Archives, click here: http://luna.wellesley.edu/search~S1/X?SEARCH=(music%20thesis)&SORT=D&b=archv.