Students with a GPA of 3.5 or better in the major at the end of the junior year are encouraged to write an honors thesis and apply for departmental honors. 

Students who choose to write a thesis will declare the general area of their topic with their advisor in the spring of their junior year, carry out the research in the fall term of their senior year, and bring the paper to conclusion in the spring term. (See Thesis Schedule). Students must register for ARTH 398 in the Fall and Spring semesters of their senior year.

Departmental honors are awarded to students whose thesis receives a grade of A- or higher. Students may also submit their theses in the annual competition for the College Alumni Society David M. Robb Prize in the History of Art.


Students wishing to pursue an undergraduate honors thesis project must apply to do so, according to the guidelines given here. Students must have at least a 3.5 in the major.

All applications must be submitted to the Undergraduate Chair. Please limit your application to one page.

Please include the following information in your application:

  • Your name and contact information: please include your Penn email address.
  • Proposed topic area: describe your topic as clearly as possible, keeping your discussion to one paragraph. Here, you want to provide answers to the following kinds of questions: What are you considering as your main subject? What art historical materials will be under consideration? What do you see as your main points of interest? What do you hope to achieve in this project?
  • Preparation for this project: describe your preparation as clearly as possible, keeping your discussion to one paragraph. As above, please provide answers to these kinds of questions: What courses have you taken that relate to this project? Have you done previous work, such as a term paper, on this subject? (If so, please include the paper title and the course information.) What other experiences (travel, museum experience, and the like) have you had that might pertain to this project?
  • Faculty affiliation: In advance of submitting your proposal, be sure to consult with the Undergraduate Chair about your topic and your possible faculty advisor. Please nominate two faculty members for consideration of your proposal.

All thesis projects must be concluded in fall semester with a grade of Satisfactory (S) and in spring semester with an A-level grade in order to qualify for acceptance as an honors thesis. Those projects that do not achieve these grades will be credited as independent studies courses.

*The Undergraduate Chair will notify students of the deadline for proposal submission in the Spring semester*