Independent Work

Junior and senior independent work are defining features of Princeton’s undergraduate education. As a student, you will get the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member on a scholarly project you feel passionate about. Your academic pursuits may lead you to conduct library, laboratory or field-based research, travel abroad to collect data for your project, tackle interdisciplinary questions or dive into creative projects. 

As independent work requirements vary widely across the University’s academic departments, you may wish to consult the departmental independent work guides to familiarize yourself with the specific goals and expectations of the departments that are of interest to you.

Junior year is typically a time when you start to become more intimately acquainted with the methods and practices of your chosen concentration. In the A.B. program, junior independent work may include a single long paper or project, or a series of essays or projects. The Junior Project (or “JP”) serves as a precursor to your senior thesis, a valuable training ground where you will receive detailed feedback from your faculty adviser as you learn to formulate and examine ambitious research questions through the lens of your chosen discipline. B.S.E. departments offer opportunities for independent work as well as design courses and similar practical courses in the junior year.

In the senior year, each A.B. student and most B.S.E. students complete a senior thesis or a substantial independent research project. This capstone project gives you a chance to consolidate your work within your major and more broadly across the liberal arts curriculum as well as pursue original scholarship on a topic of your choice under the regular guidance of a faculty adviser. Leafing through the profiles in Quintessentially Princeton will give you a sense of how transformative this experience can be.

Each department, each adviser and each student tailors the thesis process in ways that make sense within the context of a particular discipline and a particular project. At its best, the advising relationship becomes a dynamic and iterative process of learning and assessment as students and faculty members exchange ideas, drafts and data over the course of a year that culminates in the production of an original work of scholarship.

A number of departments and programs across campus have funding available to support independent work projects. We recommend that you become familiar with the available funds as early as possible to ensure that you take full advantage of the available funding opportunities. We also invite you to consult the Office of the Dean of the College's online calendar to see upcoming workshops and visit the resources section of this site to learn more about the many programs Princeton offers in support of undergraduate independent work.

Upon completion, your senior thesis will join the over 63,000 senior theses archived at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. We encourage you to visit the basement of Mudd Library as well as consult the online database of senior theses, which holds information about student works dating back to 1926, when the thesis became a requirement at Princeton. 

The Senior Thesis