Art History Senior Thesis

The senior thesis is the culmination of four years of college work. It can be used as evidence of excellence in applying for jobs or graduate school. The thesis constitutes a large research paper of approximately 30 pages. In order to do well, the student must gather information together, share the information with the professor, write and rewrite the paper, approximately four times, and ultimately defend the project. The paper itself must show evidence of an entire semester's work and cannot, therefore, be done in a matter of days or weeks, but must evolve and grow through fruitful exchange of ideas between student and professor. The paper must be well-researched and well-written, and attention to detail, spelling, grammar, proofreading, correct footnotes, bibliography form, illustrations, and neat presentation are all important.

Although students begin their research and writing during the spring semester of their junior year (in ARTH 487 - Art History Research & Methods), the thesis is completed by the end of the fall semester of their senior year. At the end of that semester, students present a synopsis of their major arguments to the art and art history faculty and invited guests in a public presentation. At this time students read a shorter version of their thesis and illustrate it with accompanying slides. Although the thesis generally establishes the grade, students who either do not attend the public presentations, or do an extremely careless and thoughtless presentation, may receive a much lower grade or an F for the course.

  • Research paper of approximately 30 pages. Student should consider that the senior thesis paper must be longer and more thorough than a short paper or term paper done as part of the requirements for a course. The final paper must show evidence of extensive work. The paper must be well-written and well-presented. Students should expect to rewrite the paper several times.
  • Evidence of extensive research through bibliography and footnotes/endnotes. Students should show their familiarity with a variety of research sources, including an extensive use of books (not text books) and articles. Students should show familiarity with the major scholarship on their topic and be able to relate it to the theory covered in the course.
  • Footnotes and bibliography must adhere to correct art historical form. Students are advised to refer to S. Barnett, Writing About Art, or The Chicago Manual of Style. 
  • Paper must be typed, double-spaced. Quotes of more than two lines should be indented and single-spaced.
  • Paper should be proofed for typographical errors, spelling mistakes, etc. Correct grammar is essential. Students with writing problems should have their papers proofed by the Writing Center.
  • Paper should be accompanied by title page, list of illustrations and illustrations. Illustrations should be accompanied by typed identifications.
  • Student should submit two copies of final paper. One copy will be placed in the Visual Resource Center for future reference.
  • Student will give a formal presentation to the faculty in the fall semester of the senior year. Presentation will be 15 to 20 minutes in length, followed by a 10-minute discussion. Presentation must be accompanied by slides.Grade on senior thesis will be held until after presentation. Part of the grade is based on the quality of the presentation and the ability of the student to defend the thesis; however, the substantial part of the grade is based on participation during the course, ability to take criticism and restructure the paper, and the content of the final paper. 
  • Grade will be based on student's ability to gather information, analyze the information and then critically interpret the information. Students should show familiarity with art historical methods and theory. Description of works, acknowledgment of influence, visual analysis of works, comparison with other works of art or literature are all important. The student should draw on the history of art already discussed in various classes that the student has taken. The student should be able to place the artist and work in a social, political, historical, cultural and critical context.