Senior Research Paper

Guidelines and Schedule

The Senior Research Paper will address a well-defined topic, question, problem, text, object, or other body of materials within the field of Classical Studies or Ancient History. The paper will define an original topic or approach an existing topic from a new perspective or with new insights, make a clear and well-structured argument, analyze primary evidence, engage with modern scholarly literature, and follow the methodological and stylistic conventions of published work in the relevant field.

The main text of the paper must be 5000-10,000 words (20-40 pages with 12pt font, double-spaced) excluding bibliography and any illustrations and appendices, but including footnotes. No exceptions will be made to these constraints. A paper of this length should not be divided into chapters, although it will typically have several sections with their own titles. The paper should be submitted in 12pt font, double-spaced throughout.

In exceptional circumstances, the student may petition the undergraduate chair to be allowed to propose a project that will take some other form, or be in some other medium, than a scholarly paper, so long as it still constitutes an acceptable form of academic research.

The paper must be submitted to the advisor in draft form by December 1, and then in finished form to the undergraduate chair, on or before December 15 in the senior year, prepared on the following schedule:


 A research proposal of 3–5 pages (12pt double-spaced single-sided) must be submitted for review by April 15, 5pm in the junior year, sent to the undergraduate chair as a pdf attachment. Most of the proposal should be devoted to outlining the topic to be explored and method to be employed in researching it, with a preliminary bibliography. It should identify the faculty advisor of the project and briefly outline the schedule that has been agreed upon for successful research and writing of the paper (see below). The student should also list all courses taken thus far toward the major.


At the time when the proposal is submitted, the student must name a faculty member who has agreed to serve as advisor. If the advisor is due to be on leave in the fall, the student may still name him/her as the advisor, conditional upon having had two or more research-consultations with him/her during the spring prior to submission of the proposal; in this case, the official advisor during the fall will be the undergraduate chair.


The student will devise his or her own topic in consultation with the faculty advisor(s). The topic may be developed on the basis of coursework in a regular course during (or prior to) the spring of the junior year or coursework planned for a course during the senior fall; or it may be developed independently of any specific course. In either case, the student should consult closely with the undergraduate chair and potential advisors during the spring, since the approval of the topic will depend not on its intellectual merits alone but also on its feasibility within the present teaching and research program of the Classical Studies department and the School of Arts and Sciences.

Students are encouraged to consider developing a topic in conjunction with specific research opportunities in the department and at Penn. The simplest and most obvious launchpad for a Senior Research Paper is coursework done in a course. In addition, the student may get to know the research profiles of departmental faculty as well as the courses that they offer both at the undergraduate level and in graduate seminars; undergraduates are occasionally admitted to graduate seminars, and they are always welcome to ask for a syllabus and attend a session by arrangement with the professor. Consider also the topics developed by seniors in honors projects from recent years (see below).

Students who plan to make a proposal for the Senior Research Paper should plan not only to consult with potential advisors but also to take advantage of sessions held during the spring semester as part of the department’s calendar of events: these include the undergraduate symposium session on research in Classical Studies and Ancient History (February) and Senior Colloquium (March).

In developing the proposal, the student should work closely with potential advisors and/or undergraduate chair on locating bibliographic resources through the library. An excellent starting place is the Penn Library webpage Overview of Print and Online Resources at Penn and a handy recent guide by David M. Schaps, Handbook for Classical Research (New York, 2011), which is in the Van Pelt collection. Rebecca Stuhr, the Classical Studies librarian and bibliographer, is also available for consultations (

Support for research

The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) lists several fellowships, including the University Scholars Program (applications due by fall in junior year), the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring (PURM) program, which pairs students with faculty mentors who have advertised their interests in advising specific types of project during the summer (often including Classical Studies faculty), the College Alumni Society Research Grant, the Jumpstart for Juniors program (summer funding for research between the junior and senior years), the Undergraduate Humanities Forum (devoted to a relatively flexible topic each year: 2012-13 Peripheries; 2013-14 Violence; 2014-15 Color, 2018–19 Stuff), the World House Student Fellows program and the College House Research Fellows program. The Penn Museum offers Summer Field Research Grants. These programs can provide helpful support for work toward the Senior Research Paper. Note: Any student planning to applying for funding should plan to begin work on their proposal by February, since most deadlines for these fellowships are in February and March.

Course of study

The proposal submitted in April must outline the course of study for the research and writing of the Senior Research Paper. In devising the course of study, the student should consult closely with the undergraduate chair and potential advisors. Here are three typical courses of study for research and writing of the paper:

(1) The student proposes a topic closely tied to the topic of a course being taken in spring of the junior year, or a course taken earlier. Ordinarily the student will complete the regular requirements for that course, while the proposal and Senior Research Paper are developed independently, although they may build closely upon a paper written in the course. (Restrictions may apply in the case of cross-listed courses not taught withinPenn’s Classical Studies department. This option is not open for courses taken abroad, such as in Athens or Rome.) It is envisaged that during the senior fall the student will enroll in ANCH/CLST 4998 Senior Research Paper either with the advisor or with the undergraduate chair and will meet with them as often as is agreed upon. ANCH/CLST 4998 should be counted as a regular course unit and may be counted as one of the twelve courses toward the major.

(2) The student proposes a topic closely tied to the topic of a course that will be taught in the senior fall; occasionally this may be a graduate-level course. The student will either: enroll in the course and complete all regular assignments, except that the Senior Research Paper will be substituted for the final paper of that course (by agreement with the instructor); or audit the course or selected sessions of the course while enrolling in ANCH/CLST 4998 Senior Research Paper with the advisor or with the undergraduate chair and will meet with them as often as is agreed upon. The course enrolled in, or ANCH/CLST 4998, should be counted as a regular course unit and can be used as one of the twelve courses toward the major.

(3) The student will pursue a topic independent of any specific course. In this instance the student will typically enroll in ANCH/CLST 4998 Senior Research Paper with the advisor or with the undergraduate chair. This course may be used as one of the twelve courses needed for the major. ANCH/CLST 4998 should be counted as a regular course unit and may be counted as one of the twelve courses toward the major. 

Review of proposal

The proposal will be reviewed by a faculty committee, who will notify the student by the end of April whether or not the proposal has been approved.

Please note that a student may may not register for ANCH/CLST 4998 Senior Research Paper provisionally, but only after a proposal has been approved in April. Therefore, during the pre-registration period for the fall, the student should initially register in a full courseload and then drop a course if the proposal is approved.

Research and writing

If the proposal is approved, the student is encouraged to begin reading and research during the summer if possible. As soon as the fall semester begins, the student must intensively conduct research and write the paper in time to submit the fully completed paper by the end of the fall semester. The due date is December 15, 5pm. In anticipation of this deadline, the student will submit a near-final draft of the paper to the advisor by December 1.

During the fall, the student must follow the course of study outlined in the original proposal and must consult with his/her advisor regularly and meet any deadlines agreed upon. (As stated above, if the advisor is on leave the undergraduate chair will serve as advisor.)

Avoiding problems

If any problems arise in the research and writing, the student must work with the advisor and the undergraduate chair to resolve these. Please note that commitments to other courses being taken in the fall, or any other commitment such as LSAT or other standardized tests, cannot be allowed to interfere with progress in research and writing. ANCH/CLST 4998 Senior Research Paper is 1 c.u. and should be treated as such in planning the student’s courseload and study schedule.


An informal working group will be assembled by the undergraduate chair early in the fall for all students working on a Senior Research Paper. Depending on the needs of the individual members, this group will be configured to allow for sharing of work-in-progress and other support for research and writing. A library research session will also be held early in the fall.


During the fall, students may also find it useful to pursue opportunities for presenting work-in-progress to external audiences, such as an undergraduate conferences. Often the process of writing up an abstract and presenting to a wider audience can help to advance your research and writing. See below on “Presentation of research”.


Students planning to apply to graduate programs will want to accelerate the completion of their Senior Research Paper so as to have a writing sample available to send with graduate applications, which are generally due in December.

As stated above, the Senior Research Paper is due by 5pm December 15. The paper must be submitted in both hard copy and pdf to the undergraduate chair. (For the hard copy, no binding is required.) A cover page must be included as follows:


    by [Author]

    completed under the supervision of [advisor]

    This Senior Research Paper is submitted on [date], in the [major] major in the Department of Classical Studies of the University of Pennsylvania.

The paper should also be prefaced with a 100-word abstract.

Review of paper

The paper will be reviewed by a faculty committee, who will report on the Senior Research Paper by the end of January and determine whether or not the student will receive Honors in the major. In rare cases, the department may make the conferral of Honors conditional on specific revisions to the paper completed by the end of February; in other cases, it may simply not confer Honors.


Note that completion of a Senior Research Paper does not guarantee that a student will receive Honors. Honors are received only if the paper is judged to meet the highest standards of both research and writing.

Presentation of research

Whether or not the student receives Honors, any student who writes a Senior Reseach Paper is encouraged, both in the fall and especially in the spring after completion, to disseminate the research conducted in the Senior Research Paper. The following forums are suggested for the presentation of research:

Senior Colloquium (March). This annual event in the department is intended to showcase work being done by majors in Classical Studies and Ancient History. In addition to the regular sampling of work by all seniors, students who have completed a Senior Research Paper may be invited to present a sampling of their work.

At Penn, undergraduate work is regularly published on Penn's Scholarly Commons site entitled Senior Research Papers in Classical Studies" or in CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Journal, with the consent of the advisor. Students should also consider making a submission to Discentes, the Penn undergrad magazine in Classical Studies, pubished every semester, or to other undergraduate journals such as Aisthesis at Stanford.

Penn’s CollegeFest Student Research Presentation takes place in the second half of April: a public poster session on College Green with projects from across the School of Arts and Sciences. Contact the undergraduate chair for details, which usually become available before the end of February.

During the academic year, numerous calls for papers to undergraduate conferences are forwarded on the clst-ugrad list serve. These are excellent opportunities to present both work-in-progress and completed work. See especially the regular undergraduate events at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. (in both December and April), at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio (April), and at the University of North Carolina(April). Students planning to travel to a conference should be aware of travel grants at CURF.

A note on the Senior Research Paper and past procedures

The Senior Research Paper replaces the mechanism for determining Honors employed till 2013. That was referred to as an “honors thesis”. The Senior Research Paper, with its more concise format, more precise guidelines, and shorter schedule, has been substituted for the thesis for several reasons: (1) to emphasize quality of the project over length; (2) to maintain the highest standards of research and writing required for the conferral of Honors; (3) to maximize integration of the project into the opportunities for research at Penn, especially existing courses; (4) to ensure coordination with the overall calendar of the department and the funding cycle at Penn; (5) to allow for effective presentation and dissemination of research, both as work-in-progress and after completion; and (6) to ensure that a given faculty member’s unavailability during sabbatical does not necessarily prevent their serving as a consultant on a project during the proposal stage.

The Senior Reseach Paper, however, has many things in common with the honors thesis. The honors theses of recent years, although sometimes on a more ambitious scale than the Senior Research Paper, are still an excellent model for the kinds of topics that have worked well for students working with advisors in the department. See here for titles of honors theses and Senior Research Papers submitted in recent years.