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Welcome to your senior year in Classics! This year, working under the guidance of a faculty member, you will research and write a senior thesis on a topic of your own choosing.

The senior thesis is your chance to embark on a major project of your own: follow your curiosity and passion for the ancient world and its legacy, and devise a research project that captures your interest and imagination. 

Writing a thesis is a big undertaking, and you will draw upon all the skills of research, analysis and writing that you have been building over your first three years at Princeton. Start early! You will need to meet several deadlines over the course of the year for your thesis proposal, proposal defense, first chapter, and final copy. Before beginning your work, please consult the Independent Work Guide for full guidelines and advice about the thesis-writing process, including advice about how to choose a topic, how to conduct research in Classics, how to develop a good working relationship with your adviser, and how to go about writing the paper. The IWG also contains information about grading standards and deadlines. The list of deadlines can also be found here.

Independent Work in Classics 2020–2021

Thesis Information

Timing and organization are key factors in completing a successful senior thesis. Start at the beginning of your senior year, working regularly and in an organized fashion. Get your books early, keep track of your bibliography throughout your period of research, and – ideally – plan to have a complete draft ready for spring break (i.e. by around the Ides of March). That will give you plenty of time to revise the whole and make sure that your overall argument makes sense. You will also need to take time to proofread your final manuscript carefully.

You should remain in regular contact with your faculty adviser at every stage of the process. Do not hesitate to ask questions, if you are ever unsure about a source or an argument. Remember, too, that you have access to a wide range of people and resources you can go to for help. For bibliographic help in particular, and for assistance in thinking through your project, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our bibliographer for Classics in Firestone library, David Jenkins, and check out his page on Library Resources for Classicists . Make an appointment to see a peer tutor in the Writing Center  at any time during the writing process, and plan to join the Department’s senior thesis workshop – a weekly meeting run by Classics graduate students to help seniors share and get feedback on their thesis work-in-progress.

Past copies of senior thesis can be found in East Pyne 161, the Classics Seminar Room, when that room is not being used for classes. A list of past senior thesis titles, and bibliography recommendations are posted below in PDF format.

Please be aware of the deadlines over the course of your senior year.

Past Thesis Titles
Bibliography Recommendations

Senior Comprehensive Exam

Classics Track: One three hour exam in Greek literature, history, culture and Roman literature, history, and culture is required. See Dates & Deadlines for exam date.

Classical Studies and Ancient History Track: A three hour examination designed by the thesis adviser, but intended to cover the entirety of the student’s program of study. If the thesis adviser is not a member of the Classics Department, another Classics faculty member will be appointed to set the examination. See Dates & Deadlines for exam date.

All Comprehensive Examinations consist of two parts:

 Part I (30 mins, 25 points) consists of terms for identification, of which the candidate chooses 5.
 Part II (120 mins, 75 points) consists of essay prompts, of which the candidate chooses 3.

Students have 30 minutes for planning and revising their work. 

The breadth of knowledge across disciplinary boundaries is a necessary and defining aspect of the intellectual profile of classics as a field of study. For this reason comprehensive examinations form an essential part of our curriculum, balancing the specialized research of the senior thesis and Junior paper. Of course no one can know everything, and any definition of comprehensive must be relative, especially in a program that is also designed to accommodate and encourage the development of particular interests. Therefore we do not expect students to demonstrate mastery of every facet of classical studies. However “comps” do provide a valuable opportunity to bring together what has been learned in individual courses and research projects, to reflect on larger issues within the fields that you have worked in, and to fill any important gaps in your basic knowledge of those fields. 

The course requirements for the Classics track insure that students have taken five upper level classes in at least one of the classical literatures as well as at least one survey course in history, whether Greek or Roman. This should provide the basis for each student’s preparation as it does for our expectations of the exam. Thus the comprehensive examination for classics students will offer IDs and essay topics drawn from each of the four major fields of the discipline: Greek Literature, Greek History, Latin Literature, and Roman History. Students will be offered twenty (20) terms for identification, from which they choose five (5); and eight (8) essay questions, from which they will choose three (3). They are asked to demonstrate breadth of knowledge in their answers, and not to repeat information from other parts of the exam, or from their senior thesis.

Classical Studies track students will take an exam designed to cover the field identified as their interest when they entered the program. They will be offered ten (10) terms for identification, from which they choose five (5); and five (5) essay questions, from which they will choose three (3). These questions will allow the student to draw on the methods and comparative material acquired in the courses taken outside of the department. In preparation for the exam, students should consult with their thesis adviser, who will also be responsible for making up and grading the examination, to review the parameters of their interests and expertise and to discuss preparation strategies.  Note that this is still a comprehensive exam and not to be based on the specific subject of the thesis. As in the case of Classics students, Classical Studies students will be expected to learn basic information about their field that they have not had the opportunity to study in their course work or research. 
For students in the Ancient History track, the comprehensive examination provides an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge within the core fields of Greek and Roman history and to apply the understanding they have gained of methods of historical analysis and the use of material evidence. Students will be offered They will be offered fifteen (15) terms for identification, from which they choose five (5); and six (6) essay questions, from which they will choose three (3), ensuring that they address both Greek and Roman material in their answers. In addition to the criteria for grading discussed below, an A exam must incorporate either evidence based on material remains or a comparative argument based on the analysis of another pre-modern non-classical culture in at least one answer.

The best way to prepare for comprehensive examinations will be to review the material from the courses you have taken, including the majors seminar, refreshing your knowledge of the facts about what you read and learned and reflecting on their larger significance and the most important issues of the subject. Your advisor can be helpful in pointing you to important areas for further study. If you realize that there is some important aspect of the field that you have not studied in class, you should try to bridge that gap by acquiring a basic knowledge of the field such as you would find in a reference work like the Oxford Classical Dictionary.  It is also an excellent idea to consult past exams on file in the Department and to write your own practice essays.

A satisfactory answer for comprehensive exams in any track will demonstrate that the student possesses sufficient knowledge of the subject of the essay to make a convincing argument about it. This will be the criterion for a good (i.e. B) essay; arguments that demonstrate particular originality or breadth of knowledge will receive higher grades. Excessive repetition of material among the different essays will be penalized.