History of Art Independent Work Guide

A Guide to Independent Work in the History of Art: The Junior Paper and the Senior Thesis


Director of Undergraduate Studies

Professor Basile Baudez

[email protected]

Undergraduate Coordinator

Jonathan Finnerty

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The Field of Art History

The discipline studies artwork in historical perspective. Its subjects include drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, architecture and the built environment, ceramics, lacquer, metalwork, glass, and textiles; and a wide range of images and phenomena or experiences shaped by artistic craft, including cinema, performance, print culture, urbanism, scientific illustration, and mass media. While scholars' terms of analysis have focused on the visual components of artwork from the beginning of art history's history as an academic discipline, contemporary practice in the field attends to the full spectrum of elements that bear upon art's making and its apprehension (including sound, smell, texture, motion, etc.—all in historically situated context).

Art historians pursue their work in many different ways and through various means; the sheer diversity of art historical methods and approaches, and ongoing debates about them, is part of what makes the field exciting and vital. Some art historians focus on the history of style, others on the lives of artists, and yet others on the historical fabric of which a given work of art was a part, including consideration of the social, political, philosophical, economic, scientific, or religious history of a particular period, culture, or region. Art historians might explore the relationship between art and other forms of representation, such as literature; they might examine the role that art or other kinds of images played in historical change or transformation, including scientific and political revolutions. Most often, the art historian focuses on many or all of these aspects in order to provide a thorough account of their object of study. Art-historical study is by nature interdisciplinary, for it draws on the ideas, information, theories, and resources of all branches of the humanities and the social sciences, from classics, history, and political science to anthropology, comparative literature, and philosophy. Art historians collaborate with scholars in the sciences—particularly when addressing questions based in a work's material composition—and art historians often work closely with art conservators, who are responsible for the care and preservation of works of art and possess relevant scientific expertise. Studying artwork can be exhilarating precisely because it necessarily involves the investigation of so many different facets of history and society. As a result, work in the field often yields a host of profound, often unexpected insights about human cultures and experiences.

Independent Work in the History of Art

Independent research is integral to undergraduate education at Princeton, and the Department of Art & Archaeology takes the University’s independent research requirements very seriously. Independent research is essential to developing proficiency in the discipline of art history; it is also an essential part of mastering the capacity for critical analysis and original thinking that is fundamental to Princeton’s educational mission and a key stepping stone to accomplishment, intellectual and otherwise, beyond the college years.

In a world that has seen exponential growth in the production, consumption, and analysis of images of all kinds, understanding the history and workings of artistic crafts and visual culture has assumed increasing importance. First in coursework and then through their independent work, students in the department learn techniques for analyzing artworks and locating them in time and space. They also investigate the factors that influence the form and direction of artistic change (such as religious beliefs, economic constraints, patronage demands, technological change, and so forth). And as studio artists, they engage in the creative transformation of these observations and experiences into works of art. Like any social scientist or humanist, they must evaluate evidence (documentary, textual, or pictorial), form hypotheses, test their data, and draw conclusions. Art & Archaeology majors cultivate the translation of sensory perceptions into linguistic or material expression, develop their visual memory, and make connections with a wide array of other historical evidence. Above all, they acquire and hone observational, analytic, and documentary tools by which to investigate and describe the essential role of art making in history and culture. By extension, they develop the ability to analyze critically and perceptively the products of human civilization and thought. In their independent research, majors explore how art offers not just a window onto the past and present but also how it has played and continues to play a vital role in shaping our world and the ways in which we see and understand it.

Independent work in Art & Archaeology begins in the junior year with a year-long project, initiated during ART 400, the required Junior Seminar, and continues into the spring with a faculty adviser. It consists of a research paper of approximately 30-40 pages on any topic related to material culture. Assignments in ART 400 help students conceptualize and implement their research agendas. Students determine with whom they wish to work on the JIW during the fall semester in consultation with the DUS. The department recommends that when seeking advising, students approach faculty members with whom they have taken a course, or with whom they share research interests. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with the DUS about how the themes and media they wish to study align with faculty interests and expertise. The DUS will facilitate advising matches as needed.

The thesis consists of a year-long research project of approximately 60-80 pages on a topic selected by the student and developed in conjunction with a faculty adviser. The student selects a faculty adviser in the spring of the junior year; as for JIW the department recommends that when seeking advising, students approach faculty members with whom they have taken a course, or with whom they share research interests. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with the DUS about how the themes and media they wish to study align with faculty interests and expertise, and the DUS will facilitate advising matches as needed. Students should be prepared to discuss their nascent thesis plans at the spring Majors' Colloquium (first day of Reading Period), and to apply for summer research funding in the late spring of their junior year. A calendar of deadlines for the phases of the thesis is published each year in the Undergraduate Handbook and distributed at the fall Majors' Meeting.

In general, most independent work in Art & Archaeology begins with the selection of an object or objects or a theme on which to focus. The student then develops an original argument about this material—one that employs modes of reasoning or methods that reflect original thinking—based on examination of the object of inquiry, review of the secondary literature, archival research, primary documents, and examination of other relevant or useful literature from other fields. A student’s particular course of research will be determined by the nature of their topic.

All seniors sit for the Senior Comprehensive Exam during the University's designated two-day period at the end of the spring semester. The one-hour oral exam consists of two parts: 1) a thesis defense in which students summarize their findings and field questions about their thesis work from a committee of three faculty members (the two thesis readers and a third faculty member) and 2) an examination based on the student's coursework in the department.

The comprehensive exam complements a student’s independent work. It provides an opportunity for the student to receive feedback about the thesis and to discuss the topic, methodology, and significance to the field of art history of their thesis work. It also requires the student to return to the content of their coursework and to synthesize and bring new perspectives to this material—independently, without the oversight of a faculty member—in preparation for the faculty examination. For details on the format of the Comprehensive Exam, see the Undergraduate Handbook.


Independent work in the department mobilizes skills learned primarily in coursework toward students' own practice in the field. Independent work emphasizes students' definition and development of topics, their research work toward understanding those topics, and their effective presentation of evidence and formulation of arguments about primary and secondary sources in the final written thesis.

Color coding indicates how the stated goals correlate to assessment priorities. The interlocking highlights in the “Research Process” and “Written Thesis” categories of the assessment paragraph should demonstrate the close relationship between research and writing.

Overall Goals

  • Develop advanced skills of research and primary source analysis, including proficiency with material artifacts, primary documents, archival sources, and secondary literature.
  • Use evidence toward an argument meeting high scholarly standards.
  • Develop expertise and make a contribution in a particular subject area.
  • Assess the place of one’s own work in the larger field of art history by understanding its relationship to previous or current studies of related material to enter into scholarly debate.

Goals for Project Conception

  • Identify problems, puzzles, and conundra in the field that merit further discussion and analysis.
  • Form viable research questions.
  • Identify different forms of evidence, and determine how they relate to one’s topic.

Goals for the Research Process

  • Gather and assess evidence of varied forms (visual, material, textual, e.g.) according to the developing questions of the project.
  • Engage deeply with primary and secondary sources.
  • Experiment with the process of forming a hypothesis to understand how a hypothesis might change or transform during research and writing.
  • Explore multiple methods and ways of thinking, including those that are unfamiliar or that may seem contrary to one’s own prior convictions about argumentation and evidence.

Goals for the Written Thesis

  • Formulate, organize, and defend a compelling argument.
  • Through the writing process, develop the capacity to consider one’s own arguments and the evidence on which they are based.
  • Write expressive and convincing prose.
  • Understand and communicate both the historical and the conceptual/theoretical significance of one’s work and its contribution to the field.
  • Develop a scholarly voice influenced by—but not identical or beholden to—that of one’s adviser or other scholars.

How these goals relate to assessment

A thesis in the A range advances a convincing and original argument, well supported by robust research.

An A-range thesis demonstrates well-developed research methods in art history and effective academic writing. It is thoughtfully and effectively composed; adopting a logical structure throughout. It clearly articulates the significance and contribution of a study that is supported by substantial analysis of well-chosen primary and secondary sources. This thesis analyzes primary evidence in depth and with great insight; productively draws on but does not overuse or recycle the arguments of the secondary literature; and convinces the reader that the argument and conclusions of the thesis advance the understanding of a particular area in the discipline of art history.

The Process

Coursework Preparation

In preparation for conducting independent research, Art & Archaeology majors take ART 400, the Junior Seminar, in the fall of their junior year. This course serves as a cohort-building introduction to the department, and to the discipline of art history even as it builds on the training students have received in their previous coursework in art history or other humanities fields. It also guides students through the initial stages of developing a research plan. Students examine different methods that have been used to identify and explain works of art and other artifacts, and they read and evaluate key texts incorporating or critiquing such methods. Emphasis is placed on developing and honing research and critical analysis skills, formulating viable research questions and crafting original arguments, and productive utilization of resources such as the library, museum, archives, guest scholars, and digital databases.

Selecting an Adviser

Senior thesis advisers are selected in the spring of the junior year and JIW advisers are selected in the late fall of the junior year.

Department of Art & Archaeology faculty normally do not direct more than two independent projects, so you may need to consult more than one faculty member in order to find a supervisor. The DUS will facilitate advising matches as needed. Faculty members in the Program in Visual Arts do not serve as advisers for History of Art theses and JIW. Full-time visiting faculty and Lecturers in the Department of Art & Archaeology may serve as senior thesis advisers, but part-time faculty (teaching only one course) do not.

It is not always possible or necessary to have an adviser whose area of expertise coincides with your proposed thesis research. More important is that you find an adviser interested in your themes, questions, and topic. You should also plan on consulting with other faculty in the department about your topic and research, as there might be several individuals that can offer advice or expertise related to your particular project. It is best to e-mail the faculty member in question in order to request an appointment; in your e-mail, identify yourself, sketch your interests, describe your thinking about a topic thus far, and suggest your rationale for wishing to work or confer with them. It is recommended that you develop a topic on which you have had some prior coursework with an adviser who has already taught you in a class.

Once you have approached your adviser and they have agreed to work with you, plan to meet with them promptly to discuss the timeline and expectations for your independent work. Discuss expectations concerning deadlines and drafts, and set a framework for meetings during the course of your research (the number can vary across a semester or a year). There is no “right” way to ensure a productive adviser-advisee relationship, but it is important to establish goals, expectations, and ways of proceeding at the outset so that you and your adviser are on the same page. Also, be sure that both of you are aware of department deadlines so that you can meet them accordingly. Above all, stay in touch with your adviser; don’t disappear, don’t stop e-mailing, do not expect your adviser to check in or to find you. It is up to you to maintain contact and keep your adviser apprised of your progress. This is independent work, which means you are in the driver’s seat.

Formulating a Topic

The first step in pursuing independent work, and often the most challenging one, is the formulation of an appropriate and viable topic. Consider what ideas or questions have most interested you over the course of your career at Princeton thus far as well as material about which you are keenly curious but have yet to explore. At this point, your ideas may not be overly specific, and you may have in mind only the name of an artist, a particular work of art, a question raised in one of your classes, or something you found puzzling yet captivating. In many cases, you may find that doing preliminary reading, thumbing through a survey text, looking over your notes from previous classes, or visiting a museum will spark ideas about possible topics. Visits to various campus collections (listed below under resources) might also inspire ideas about a potential topic. Try to figure out what it is about a particular subject or idea that interests you the most. For example, if you have always been interested in landscape painting, identify what about landscape painting appeals to you or what questions it raises for you. You should also think about why these things might matter to someone other than yourself—will paying attention to them and writing about them potentially add something new to the general understanding of landscape painting? Your topic should have import and significance beyond your own interest in it; that is, it should promise to make a contribution to the scholarly literature.

Then try to turn your thoughts into a question, ranging from the specific (how can we explain the set of scenes that appear on a particular Roman sarcophagus?) to the general (how does a society’s perception of time influence the kind of art that it makes?). This question is your preliminary topic (not “Manet” but “Why did Manet frequently allude to previous works of art in his own pictures?”), and it will frame and guide your research. This question may also change as your research proceeds and it will most certainly lead to other queries. Formulating your topic as a question is the most effective way to organize the beginning of your research plan.

Consider the state of the scholarly literature on your topic. Is there a scholarly literature on this topic? Is it miniscule, vast, or somewhere in between? Is there room for new ideas? Do you feel that you might have something to contribute? Is there a need for new thinking about this topic? What gaps or problems exist in the literature that might be addressed? Knowing what has been said but also what has not been said about a topic will help you refine the subject and scope of your project. You may find it helpful to return to your notes from the freshman year Writing Seminar and to discussion of “motives” for crafting a project.

Think concretely, and as part of the formulation of your thesis plans, about the particular artworks and other types of evidence that you will study in order to address your research question. Ask yourself, "what are my primary sources? What do I need to do in order to understand them?"

Your research question will inevitably change over time as you do more work and learn more about both your topic and the literature on it. Remember to build time into your research and writing process to assess your working outline, and re-calibrate it according to how your work is developing.

It is essential that you work with your adviser to narrow down your question/topic to a problem that you can assess in the time and space allotted to you, and to determine that you will be able to conduct your research using the facilities and resources available (libraries, archives, museums, objects, and so forth).

Developing a Research Plan and Bibliography

After formulating your topic in consultation with your adviser, the next stage involves reading as much of the literature (primary and secondary) on your topic as you can. Consult with your adviser for advice about sources but also ask for help from the Marquand or Firestone librarians, who are expert at identifying relevant material for a wide range of research topics. Learn the basic information about your topic and also identify the major scholars, arguments, and controversies as well as the major methodological strains that constitute the literature on your topic. As you do so, revise or refine your topic accordingly, and keep a list of the key issues, questions, and sources you wish to address, given what you have encountered in your reading. It is important to compile your thoughts, ideas, and queries as you go, so you do not forget them along the way. Keep an open mind at this stage and be willing to entertain multiple even contradictory ways of seeing and considering your topic. Remember that particular types of sources and/or finding aids will not serve all topics equally well. Do not rely solely on internet searches; diversify your modes of research.

Ask yourself throughout the research process: In order to answer my questions, what primary documents or archives might I need to consult? What kinds of evidence might I look for or examine? Where might answers or productive new directions lie? Where will I find new information? Relevant commentary, analysis, or contextualization? An original argument will arise only from a combination of existing scholarship and primary-source research. And, if you determine that little or no evidence exists, you will know that you need to revise or change your topic.

Your examination of relevant primary and secondary sources will help you bring more specificity and focus to your topic and it will also guide you to additional sources; in the course of your reading, you will encounter new or unexpected material or ideas that you can now investigate, and references or citations you can follow up. You will also begin to understand that your topic might be illuminated through consulting sources that are seemingly off-topic. For instance, if you are researching an aspect of the Black Arts Movement, you might want to read recent theoretical writing on race or identity, even if this writing is not about art. Or, if you are writing about portraiture in the Renaissance, you might wish to read interesting or innovative writing about portraiture from other eras or geographic regions or writing that considers portraiture in other media, such as literature or music. You could also consider thinking about the self or the nature of humanity in your period, including philosophical and religious writing about personhood. In other words, your research and thinking should be equally historical and conceptual, attuned to the particulars of your subject and period but also attentive to larger themes and concerns as raised by your strategic and wide-ranging reading.

Think of your reading as a “T” – you want to read and research broadly and extensively: the top bar of the “T.” And you also want to burrow deep into your topic: the foot of the “T.”


By the time you begin to write, you should have a firm idea of what you wish to argue, but you should also bear in mind that your thinking and thus your argument may change as the writing progresses; this is a typical and exciting part of the process, and why it is so important to start early. Oftentimes it is not until one puts thoughts to paper that those thoughts synthesize and congeal into a concrete and focused analysis or interpretation. This may necessitate that you do some further reading and research to clarify certain points after you commence writing, which is also typical—all the more reason to begin writing as soon as possible.

There is no “right” place to begin your writing. In general, formulating a question and an outline of an argument will prove useful as a starting point.

For the thesis, it is recommended that you write your introduction and your conclusion last, so as to incorporate how your thinking develops as you write your chapters as well as your reflections about the project after you have drafted the bulk of it. Most theses have 3-5 body chapters; you might consider beginning with the chapter for which you have the most research and the best idea about what you want to say, or the one in which you are most interested. It helps to think of each thesis chapter as an independent term paper (such as one you would write for a seminar), with its own, self-contained thesis that relates to the larger topic and argument of the whole.

One cannot emphasize enough the importance of leaving ample time for your adviser to read a draft or drafts and for you to revise. The more you revise, the better your thinking and writing and, thus, your argument will be. For the thesis, be sure to budget time after you have completed each chapter for reconsidering the project as a whole—its subject, scope, purpose, and significance—and for drafting your introduction accordingly.

All independent work should include the following in the main body of the text, although the manner of its presentation will vary pending the organization of your writing and your adviser’s suggestions:

  • A description of your topic and your research questions (i.e., the problem or puzzle)
  • A description of why your topic and your questions are important and what contributions your analysis and your approach to the material will make
  • An orientation to the existing literature on your topic and how your analysis relates to this literature
  • A discussion of the methods or approaches taken in your analysis, including the types of evidence on which you will base your claims
  • The analysis itself, including your conclusions
  • A brief discussion of possible future directions of research

JIW Timeline

You will complete ART400 with a research prospectus that will be the starting point for your further development of the project in consultation with your JIW adviser. Advisers should be confirmed by early December of the fall semester and topics should be fully developed by early February. Each student should meet with their adviser before the end of the fall term to set a timeline for research, writing, and draft review; at this point, students should discuss with their advisers a potential schedule of meetings and confirm the due date of the JIW. You should also discuss with your adviser any potential need for funding for research-related travel. Departmental funds are available for this purpose (at a more modest level than for senior thesis research, but still); also remember that funding for trips to local collections is available to all majors (see the Undergraduate Handbook), and these may be used to support your independent work.

Senior Thesis Timeline

Summer and Fall Semester

Your advising should be arranged and your topic identified in the spring of your junior year. The summer between junior and senior year is an excellent time to begin your literature review and engage in primary research—particularly if this involves travel. Note the departmental deadline for summer research funding (generally in late April) and other sources of funding if need be (Office of Undergraduate Research, minor/certificate programs, PIIRS).

During the fall semester, you should aim to complete the bulk of primary research for your thesis, produce a chapter outline, gather your examples (remember to assemble image files as you go), and begin to write your first chapter (or more, if possible). This means that you have about two months to identify the relevant literature on your topic and digest it, although many students begin over the summer and thus afford themselves more time. You will need to do bibliographical searches for articles and in some cases request inter-library loans or visit museum collections. In short, you should count on spending about ten hours per week just on your thesis, which is more time than you would spend on a normal course. You should also schedule regular appointments with your adviser; the frequency varies, but many students and advisers meet every two weeks, which is adequate for discussing and assessing progress. Meetings might occur with more frequency in the spring semester in order to discuss drafts and deadlines.

Remember that during the Museum renovation Marquand Library is operating with reduced hours and off-site storage for most books, and plan accordingly. Speak to Rebecca Friedman if you wish to set up a storage shelf for your books in Marquand's temporary space in Firestone Library (C Floor).

By the posted fall semester deadline (see the Handbook), you must submit to your adviser a brief (half-page) abstract of your thesis topic addressing its key question(s), scope, and significance. By the next posted deadline, you must submit to your adviser a detailed outline of your chapters (normally 2-3 pages) and an annotated bibliography (approximately 4-5 pages), which will be used to evaluate your first-semester work. At this time, advisers will complete a fall semester Senior Thesis Progress Report that will be sent to the DUS.

Intersession and Spring Semester

Concentrated writing of the thesis should continue during intersession. In addition, you may need to travel to collections and libraries during the winter recess or intersession. Note funding deadlines: there will be fall application periods for funding by the department and OUR. By the beginning of the spring semester, you should have submitted at least one chapter to your adviser, and by the end of February, you should have largely completed your main text. Remember that your adviser needs at least a week and often longer to read and comment on any text you submit, so please plan accordingly and discuss submissions with your adviser in advance (e.g., if they will be occupied with a conference from Feb. 4–5, plan a chapter submission for Feb. 6 instead of Feb. 3, and stay on schedule). If you know that you have difficulties with writing and organizing, then you need to complete a draft even earlier so that you can substantially rewrite. Every thesis will benefit from going through more than one draft, and your hard work will be rewarded in the end.

Your hypothesis and your argument will inevitably change as you write. Researching, writing, and thinking are interlocked, interrelated, and mutually constituting exercises. Your research will generate writing, and as you write, you will realize where you need more research.

The month of March should be spent editing the draft and completing the footnotes, bibliography, and illustrations for your thesis. Please see the “Department Style Sheet” (available as a PDF on the department website) for details on the required style and mode of presentation. Please note that your thesis must not be longer than 100 pages (not counting the notes and bibliography), and in most cases should be between 60-80 pages of main text.

Submission of the Thesis

One unbound copy of the thesis, in a temporary binder (notebook, binder clip, etc.), and one electronic copy in PDF format are due in the departmental office at the April date and time published in the Handbook. No extensions will be granted, and all materials (including illustrations) must be complete. The electronic copy will be transmitted to the University Archives.

Standards and Evaluation

Style Guide 

For information about the style and formatting of independent work, please see the Department Style Sheet for Written Work. For help with document formatting, contact Julie Angarone

Evaluation & Grading 

All independent work (JIW and Senior Thesis) is due by the deadline set by the department. Extensions can only be granted in exceptional circumstances and with the approval of a college dean. The penalty for submission of the thesis after the Departmental deadline in the absence of a confirmed extension is 1/3 grade subtracted from the final numerical grade for each day or part of a day that the thesis is overdue (including the weekends). Theses submitted past the University deadline all receive a grade of F on the transcript. Submission for readers’ grades remains possible in consultation with the Deans; both the original failing grade and the readers’ grade will appear on the transcript.  

The comprehensive exam cannot be rescheduled. If a student does not attend their comprehensive exam, they will need to sit for it the next year.  

JIW will be given a letter grade by the student’s JIW adviser. 

The senior thesis is read and graded by your thesis adviser and a second reader assigned by the department (the list of second readers is kept confidential until the senior oral exam). The final thesis grade is the numerical average of the two readers’ grades (except when their grades are more than ten points apart, in which case the department assigns a third reader and the final grade is the average of the three grades). The adviser and second reader each prepare a reader report that includes a detailed summary and evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the thesis (approximately 1 page, single-spaced). The two reader reports and the final thesis grade are given to the student immediately following the Senior Comprehensive Exam.  

All seniors sit for Senior Comprehensive Exams during reading period of the spring semester. The one-hour oral exam consists of two parts:

  1. a thesis defense in which students summarize their findings and field questions about their thesis work from a committee of three faculty members (the two thesis readers and a third faculty member)
  2. an examination based on students’ coursework in the department. The grade for the oral exam consists of the average of the grades given for the exam by the three faculty examiners.  

See the Undergraduate Handbook for full information on the Comprehensive Exam

Grading Standards for Written Work 

The grading standards for History of Art independent work (the junior paper and the senior thesis) are as follows: 

A: A thesis in the A range advances a convincing and original argument, well supported by robust research. This thesis demonstrates well-developed research methods in art history and effective academic writing. It is thoughtfully and effectively composed, adopting a logical structure throughout. It clearly articulates the significance and contribution of a study supported by substantial analysis of well-chosen primary and secondary sources. This thesis analyzes primary evidence in depth and with great insight; productively draws on but does not overuse or recycle the arguments of the secondary literature; and convinces the reader that the argument and conclusions of the thesis advance the understanding of a particular area in the discipline of art history. 

B: A thesis in the B range resembles an A-range thesis in certain ways, but exhibits drawbacks such as the following: a promising or potentially interesting but ill-defined, unclear, or inconsistently articulated main argument; a functional but elusive or insignificant focus or motive (it is clear why the thesis author chose their topic and main argument but the importance or significance of the topic and argument is less clear); a logical but somewhat disorganized or unsystematic structure; well-chosen but under-analyzed evidence; interesting but unsubstantiated claims; a secure grasp of but also an overreliance on secondary literature; ungrammatical or clumsy prose in places or throughout. 

C: A thesis in the C range resembles a B-range thesis in certain ways, but exhibits problems such as the following: a confusing or overly simplistic main argument; more description and summary than analysis; a trivial or nonexistent focus or motive (it is unclear why the thesis author chose their topic and main argument and why the project was undertaken); lacks a coherent and logical structure; fails to present substantial or adequate evidence to support the author’s claims; the evidence that is presented is insufficiently analyzed or not analyzed at all; uses secondary sources illogically without explaining why they are necessary or relevant or uses the arguments of other scholars as evidence; writing is unclear, ungrammatical and/or technically flawed. 

D: A D thesis (there is no D+ or D- at Princeton) resembles a C-range thesis but exhibits problems such as the following: the thesis is purely descriptive in its approach; there is no argument or the argument is entirely generalized, e.g. “Manet painted modern life” or “Gothic cathedrals symbolize the religious beliefs of their builders”; displays an unfocused, confusing, or rambling structure; utilizes little or no evidence to support claims and relies mainly or solely on secondary sources; reflects little understanding of the task of researching and writing a thesis; reflects little awareness of the nature of art-historical research and writing or the basic conventions of academic discourse and style, but does show an effort to engage with the requirements and demands of writing a thesis. 

F: An F thesis is similar to a D thesis but addresses the topic only superficially, exhibits a fundamental lack of proficiency in art-historical research, argumentation, and writing, and may be significantly shorter than the assigned length. 


Department Research Support 

JIW Funding 

A limited amount of funding is available to students to support spring JIW research. There must exist a pressing need for such funding (e.g. essential travel for archival research) and the JIW project must be original and significant. Applications should be made to the DUS in consultation with one’s JIW adviser; the application consists of a 1-page rationale and budget, and an adviser's note of support. Awards will be decided on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the quality of the proposal and project and the availability of funding from year to year. 

Senior Thesis Funding 

The Department of Art & Archaeology awards grants on a competitive basis for support of research travel for the Senior Thesis. Students applying for funds for research travel during the October or January break periods of the senior year or the summer prior to the senior year should apply through SAFE (see the Handbook for the names of funding opportunities). Department travel grants are normally limited to $2,000 maximum and are for air and ground transport and lodging only (not meals); students may apply to other sources of funding across campus through SAFE, as well. The number of awards given each year will depend on the availability of funds and the quality of the applications. Travel monies normally are only payable upon the presentation of receipts, including boarding passes for air travel. Students are required to travel coach class, make their own travel arrangements, and register the trip in Concur. Please confer with Jonathan Finnerty if you have procedural questions. 

The Writing Center 

Located in Lauritzen Hall, The Writing Center offers free one-on-one conferences with experienced fellow writers trained to consult on assignments in any discipline. Special conferences are available for JP and Senior Thesis writers, who may sign up to work with a graduate student fellow from the department of their choice. The Writing Center also holds regular conferences seven days a week, and drop-in hours Sunday through Thursday evenings. Since the Writing Center does not discuss grammar, the Department suggests that students read the appropriate manuals (see the Style sheet). 

Princeton University Faculty

Your adviser will be the most important and involved interlocutor during the process of completing your independent work. But you should also make use of the expertise of other members of the Department of Art & Archaeology as well as the expertise of faculty and other members of departments across campus. Your research will be more strategic and productive and your thinking will be richer and more nuanced if you discuss your work with a range of scholars with relevant but varying expertise, perspectives, and approaches. Check departmental websites for professors' posted office hours, or write to ask for an appointment. 

Marquand Library 

Established in 1908, Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology is one of the oldest and most extensive art libraries in America. It serves the Princeton University Community and scholars from around the world. The non-circulating collection of some 500,000 volumes covers Western and Eastern art from antiquity to the present, including rare book holdings. Marquand supports research in the fine, decorative, and media arts, photography, architecture, and archaeology. 

During the renovation of Marquand's permanent space in the Princeton University Art Museum, the library is housed on C Floor of Firestone Library. Each senior in the Department of Art & Archaeology may receive a storage shelf in the library upon application. Junior majors may receive shelves as well, pending availability.  

Visual Resources Collection 

The Visual Resources Collection (Green Hall, second floor) administers the collections of digital images, slides, and photographic prints to support the departmental teaching curriculum and to provide resources for study and research. Digital images are available in ARTstor and several university-specific archives that are accessible to the Princeton University community for teaching, research and study purposes. The VR staff are extremely knowledgeable in the processes of locating images: if you cannot find a view of a work that you need, e.g., do not hesitate to consult with them. 

Photographic prints and materials from the Princeton-sponsored archaeological expeditions can be consulted as well. 

Index of Medieval Art 

The Index of Medieval Art was founded in 1917 by Charles Rufus Morey, then chairman of the Department of Art & Archaeology. Located in Green Hall, second floor, it is a unique repository of considerable use especially for students of Western art history. It offers, in text and image formats, over 28,000 subjects in medieval art from the Early Christian period to the middle of sixteenth century. The Index is currently available in both manual and electronic formats, with approximately one third of the holdings available on the electronic database. The Index also offers a small non-circulating library as well as several electronic publications not available elsewhere on campus. Do not hesitate to contact the Indexers for training in using the database, or for help with specific queries.

Princeton University Art Museum 

The permanent collections of the Princeton University Art Museum range from ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America. There is an outstanding collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, including ceramics, marbles, bronzes, and Roman mosaics from Princeton University’s excavations at Antioch. Medieval Europe is represented by sculpture, metalwork, painting and stained glass. The collection of Western European paintings includes important examples from the early Renaissance through the nineteenth century, and there is a growing collection of twentieth-century and contemporary art. Significant loans amplify the collection in many areas. Among the greatest strengths of the Museum are its collections of Chinese art, with important holdings in bronzes, tomb figures, painting, calligraphy, and pre-Columbian art, with remarkable examples of the art of the Olmec and Maya. The Museum also has important collections of old master prints and drawings and a comprehensive collection of original photographs. African art is represented, as well as Northwest Coast Indigenous art, the latter on loan to the Museum from the Department of Geology. 

All Princeton students can make appointments to see original works of art not on display by contacting the curators of the respective areas (see the Undergraduate Handbook or the Museum website for contact information). During the Museum's renovation, study rooms exist in Firestone Library for prints and drawings, photographs, and manuscript holdings; objects may be accessible by appointment in the off-site study location on Forrestal Campus. The Museum’s online database catalogs a majority of its holdings. Students can access museum and object files by contacting the museum registrar’s office or a curator. 

Tang Center 

The P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for East Asian Art was established in 2001 to advance the understanding of East Asian art and culture. A sponsor and facilitator of scholarly exchange, the Tang Center brings together scholars, students, and the general public through interdisciplinary programs, including lectures and symposia, film series, publications, graduate education, museum development and exhibitions. Building on Princeton University’s long history of activity, scholarship, and leadership in the field of East Asian art, the Tang Center supports and encourages continuing inquiry into those issues that help to shape East Asian art. 

Firestone Library 

Most students know Firestone Library as the place to go for research materials, but many are not aware of its extensive holdings in the visual arts. Manuscripts, prints, photographs, and even some paintings and sculptures are located within the department of Rare Books and Special Collections, which are normally consulted in the reading room located on the C floor. Normally, materials that appear in the on-line catalogue for Firestone Library can be immediately consulted, although it is often helpful to request materials in Rare Books and Special Collections in advance; materials in the Cotsen Library, as well as uncatalogued materials, can be consulted only by prior appointment. Some of the most important collections for Art & Archaeology majors are the following: 

Manuscripts Division 

The Manuscripts Division contains 8500 linear feet of materials ranging from 1300 cuneiform tablets to Man Ray photographs. It has the largest collection of Islamic manuscripts in North America (11,000 volumes) as well as very significant collections of Western textual and illuminated manuscripts ranging in date from the 9th to 16th centuries, with special strength in the English, French, Italian, and Byzantine world. Other particular treasures are the photographic albums of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), some 700 items; 900 Middle Eastern photographs by Felix Bonfils; 130 Beardsley drawings; and the Sylvia Beach Collection. 

Graphic Arts Collection 

The Graphic Arts Collection includes artists’ and private press books, as well as materials for the study of paper and papermaking, printing, calligraphy, printmaking, fine binding, typography, and book design. Of special interest are the Sinclair Hamilton Collection of American Illustrated Books; 18th- and 19th- century British artists and illustrators (particularly George and Robert Cruikshank, Thomas Rowlandson, and William Hogarth); and the Charles Rahn Fry Pochoir Collection. The collection includes reference works on the history of the book and printing. Among the primary source materials are over 20,000 drawings, prints, paintings, and photographs related to the history of book illustration, vintage printing presses and type, approximately 350 blocks and plates for printmaking, and 100 linear feet of printed ephemera such as bookplates, trade cards, and postcards. 

Cotsen Children’s Library 

An unusual collection of illustrated children’s books, manuscripts, original artwork, prints, and educational toys from the 15th century to the present day, the Cotsen Children's Library has over 60,000 items dating from the first primers to the latest anime cartoons. For anyone interested in the history of childhood, popular culture, and the often forgotten involvement of fine artists such as Kandinsky, El Lissitzky, and Edward Steichen in children’s book illustration, this is a treasure trove. 

Western Americana Collection 

The Western Americana Collection includes prints, photographs, paintings, and illustrated books of the Western territories and states, including amateur albums by explorers and early settlers. 

Numismatics Collection 

Twenty-five-thousand objects with particular strengths in Greek, Roman, and medieval coins reside in the Numismatics Collection

Other Princeton Resources for Art History Majors 

Seeley G. Mudd Library is home to the Princeton University archives, which contain historic photographs, prints, and portraits relating to Princeton. Other libraries on campus that contain original drawings, prints and photographs include the School of Architecture Library and the East Asian Library and Gest Collection, with over 102,000 early string-bound Chinese books. Films and videos by leading directors are found in the Humanities Resource Center (011 East Pyne).