Princeton University Senior Thesis Catalog

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Many undergraduates spend much of their senior year researching and revising their papers, which can total hundreds of pages. Actress Shields’ 1987 thesis compared "Pretty Baby," the Louis Malle film featuring one of her most famous roles, with an earlier Malle film, "Lacombe Lucien." Her 124-page paper includes a transcript of her own interview with the filmmaker.

Michelle La Vaughn Robinson was candid in her thesis — "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community" — about her struggles as an African-American on a largely white campus in 1985."Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second," the future Michelle Obama wrote.

Tom Kean, who would later become New Jersey’s governor, wrote his 1957 thesis, titled "Niemcewicz," about the count who married his great-great-grandmother.

Kean, whose family history in New Jersey dates to the founding of the country, noted he used many of the papers housed in his family’s historic houses during his research.

Many aspiring teachers will read Kopp’s thesis before applying for the highly competitive program. For those who can’t get to the university, the library offers to send photocopies by mail, for a fee.

But most of the theses can be read for free in the reading room of Mudd Library, at wood desks under brass reading lamps.

Linke, the university archivist, says many people come to the library to study decades-old theses for clues about the author’s true beliefs and personality."How much do these really reflect a person’s mind-set 20 years later? Princeton began requiring all undergraduates to write a senior thesis nearly 85 years ago.

Students work one-on-one with a faculty member to develop their ideas.


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