Guidelines for Honors Thesis

Junior-year students: please read carefully

To be eligible for departmental honors a student must have a 3.5 grade point average within the department and must have completed a thesis.

The work for the thesis is conducted during the spring of the junior year (MUSC239) and the fall of the senior year (MUSC 259), with additional research possibly conducted during the summer between these semesters. The final product may compete for the annual Honors Thesis Prize awarded by the Music Department.


In the spring of the junior year, take MUSC239, which counts for 0.5 c.u.. During the preceding fall, identify and discuss with the Undergraduate Chair your instructor for MUSC239, who will also be your adviser for the thesis; before signing up for MUSC239, ask the instructor for his or her availability to advise you in the fall of your senior year. During MUSC239 you will identify a topic, start your research, and write a three-page research proposal, including bibliography. With the help of the Undergraduate Chair, you will schedule a meeting with the Head of the Music Library (Liza Vick), together with the other juniors who are researching the topic for their thesis.

Please submit the proposal to both your instructor as well as, in its final version, to the Undergraduate Chair (PDF, by May 20 of your junior year). There are many opportunities to find summer research funding at Penn and we encourage you to apply to as many as you and your instructor/adviser deem necessary. If you are not able to take MUSC239 in the spring of your junior year because you are abroad, please contact the Undergraduate Chair during the preceding fall in order to make the necessary adjustments.


Sign up for MUSC259 for the fall of your senior year, which counts for 0.5 c.u.. During this semester you will complete the writing of your thesis, working with your thesis advisor and meeting periodically with him/her to report on your progress and to exchange responses to your various formulations, hypotheses, and discoveries. Once the paper is completed and approved by your adviser (by the end of the fall semester), one copy (PDF) should be sent to the Undergraduate Chair (by January 10th of the senior year) and one hard copy (bound) should be submitted to the Undergraduate Coordinator by February 1st (contact the Undergraduate Chair for guidelines about printing and binding).


Only standing faculty members of the Music Department can advise the two semester independent study that involves the thesis. In some instances it may be appropriate that a standing faculty member be chosen outside the Department, as approved by the Undergraduate Chair during the fall of the junior year.

The thesis should be finished in one semester, the fall of the senior year. It usually consists of a research paper that should be between 30 and 60 double-spaced pages, excluding bibliography. If in addition to a paper component, you wish to include a film, a documentary, a composition, or a performance, please discuss this option with the Undergraduate Chair and the prospective instructor/adviser during the fall of the junior year.