Majoring in Music: Senior Independent Work

Senior Thesis
The senior thesis is a chance to explore a topic of interest in great depth, supported by all of the resources that the department has to offer. The final submitted thesis, if an essay, falls between 65-95 pages, double-spaced. The research essay or composition can address any genre, popular or classical, and any methodology. Majors are encouraged to begin exploring possible thesis topics early in their careers at Princeton. A term abroad during junior year or the summer before senior year is a good time to engage in such exploration. You could, for example, take a specialist course on musical genres not taught at Princeton, conduct fieldwork among musicians or audiences of a music you are researching, visit archives pertaining to your topic, read up on subjects of interest, or familiarize yourself with a repertory.
Thesis Adviser
Princeton University Department of Music

Students are expected to choose their advisers, meeting to discuss potential ideas before forming an agreement. The Director of Undergraduate Studies can help assign the adviser. The department encourages students to work with different faculty members for their junior paper and senior thesis, so that they can be exposed to different modes of thinking about music.

Musicology Thesis with Performance Component
Richardson Auditorium Stage

Music Majors are welcome to include a performance component as part of their thesis. The performance must be directly related to and integrated with the written work, which remains required. Such theses from past years include: Structural Aspects of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 (with performance by Princeton University Orchestra) and The Double Life of Zefirino (with full production and performance).


Independent Work Form Signed by Adviser: October 4, 2019 | Thesis Funding Deadline: November | Thesis Submission: April 8, 2020

Research Funding

is available by application through the Department & Office of Undergraduate Research. Deadlines fall in mid-March and early-November.

Grading of the Senior Thesis

The senior thesis is graded by the adviser and a second reader, who is assigned by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The final thesis grade is the letter equivalent of the numerical average of the two readers' grades. The readers at this final stage will provide comments in a brief report, offering feedback about the central claims of the paper and indicating areas of promise, as well as those for improvement. Though more in-depth feedback is given during the drafting stage, with an aim to improving the final product, it is the final product that is the sole determinant of the grade. 

For a thesis with a performance component, the performance adviser and the academic readers of the written thesis will consult with each other to decide on a weighting of the two parts of the thesis. The final thesis grade is the letter equivalent of the weighted average of the grades for the two components, where the grade for the written thesis is the numerical average of the academic readers' grades.