Honors Guidelines

Second-semester sophomores who have completed superior work in PMA and related subjects may consider admission to the departmental program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honors in PMA. Requirements include a GPA of 3.5 in PMA major courses, an average of 3.0 in all courses and completion of specific, recommended courses in the student’s area of Honor’s study. Potential Honors students must consult with their Honor’s advisor in the spring of their junior year about the Honors program and complete and submit to the Director of Undergraduate Studies their advisor-approved, PMA Honor’s Project Proposal. Honors projects are possible across the spectrum of creative and analytical work. Projects in performance, film/media production, and design also require a written analytical component related to the creative work. The PMA Director of Undergraduate Studies encourages interested students and new PMA majors to meet about specific courses recommended for a degree with PMA Honors. 

Honors Committee

Students need to secure one faculty advisor to chair their honors thesis committee, and at least one additional faculty member to serve on their committee. Students may ask a third faculty member to serve on their committee, especially if they are double majors, or work across disciplines. Students need to have secured an honors committee to register for the honors courses.

Honors Research

Students register for 4 credits of PMA 4950 in the fall, and 4 credits of PMA 4951 in the spring of their senior year. Students receive a grade of "R" for the fall course if they continue with PMA 4951. If a student decides at the end of fall semester not to continue with the honors project, or if the advisor determines that the student has not made satisfactory progress, PMA 4950 will be turned into an independent study course, and the advisor will assign a letter grade for the work done.

Honors Symposium

In years where there are at least three May degree students working on honors theses, the Department will hold an honors symposium during spring semester. Each honors student will present his or her project for 20 minutes. Thesis writers may read a paper and show some visuals; students doing a performance or a film project will show visuals and make a verbal presentation, bringing in the analytical component of their thesis.

Oral Defense

After they have submitted/presented their thesis, students need to schedule an oral exam with their committee members. Once the date and time have been determined, the student must see Donna Miller to schedule a room.  The day of the defense, student must pick up Honors form from Donna Miller for their committee members to complete with level of honors. Form must then be returned to Donna Miller for processing. After this exam, committee members will determine the level of honors (no honors, cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude) and assign a grade for PMA 4950/4951.

Honors thesis examples and components

Honors theses are possible in the following fields. Students should consult with their advisor about what course work they should complete in order to prepare for their honors project. Students interested in more interdisciplinary work crossing the subfields below should consult with their advisor.


  • At least 30 minutes choreography with public performance component, plus 20-30 pages of expository and analytical writing

  • Original scholarly essay of approximately 60 pages


  • 15-30 min. narrative, documentary or experimental film, plus 20-30 pages of expository and analytical writing

  • an installation, plus 20-30 pages of expository and analytical writing

  • Long short film (30 pages) or feature screenplay (90-110 pages), plus 20-30 pages of expository and analytical writing

  • Original scholarly essay of approximately 60 pages


  • Directing a show, plus 20-30 pages of expository and analytical writing

  • Original one-act play (30-50 pages), a full-length play (90-110), plus 20-30 pages of expository and analytical writing

  • Performance: original monologue with performance, plus 20-30 pages of expository and analytical writing

  • Designing a fully produced PMA production, plus 20-30 pages of expository and analytical writing

  • Original scholarly essay of approximately 60 pages

Timeline for Performance and Installation-based Theses

Students wishing to pursue a performance- or installation-based thesis (e.g. choreograph a dance concert, direct a play), and wishing to secure a slot on Department's production calendar are held to a special timeline. They need to meet with a PMA honors thesis advisor by October 1 of their junior year. This initial meeting is to help the student prepare a proposal to the Performance and Events Committee (P&E). (This proposal currently requires at least one production lab to have been completed as well as a course sequence of a sufficiently advanced nature, which will have to be done prior to start of junior year). P & E proposals are usually due October 15. Students will be notified by December 15 if their proposal has been accepted, and by the end of March if their performance/installation will take place during fall or spring semester.

If an honors project is chosen for a slot on the Department's production calendar, the student needs to follow production schedule deadlines and parameters given by the Performance and Events Committee. Not all performance-based honors projects are assured a spot on the Department's production calendar. Students can also choose to present work elsewhere. If they choose not to apply for a slot on the PMA calendar, or if their project is not chosen for the department calendar, they must either look elsewhere for a space for their presentation, or decide to alter the scope of their presentation. 

Timeline for All Honors Projects

April 15 of junior year: Meet with your advisor and present material (some may be from other courses) that will inform the honors project, and secure the advisor's approval. The advisor may suggest or require adjustments in the scope or nature of the research/exploration in order to achieve a more fully and deeply developed project.

May 15 of junior year: show your advisor the revisions made after the April 15 meeting and establish a schedule for senior year.

Beginning of senior year: fill out this form, secure your committee members' signatures and bring the form to Donna Miller, so that she can sign you up for PMA 4950.

Fall Semester of senior year:

At this point, thesis students are registered for honors research and required to establish a regular meeting schedule with their advisors. That schedule should include deadlines. All students need to make satisfactory progress to continue with honors research in the second semester.

  • For scholarly honors theses: students need to have done substantial research, accumulated a substantial bibliography, and have at least one chapter written by the end of fall semester.
  • For live performances (dance, play): all the core research will have to be completed by the beginning of the semester of the presentation. If the performance is in the fall, substantial work will thus have to be completed over the summer. The weeks leading up to the presentation are for revision and additional research not for creating new unexplored material.
  • For plays or screenplays: a draft needs to be completed by the end of the first semester.
  • For films: the script, treatment, and project proposal needs to be completed; the advisor will determine deadlines for pre-production and filming.

February 1 of senior year: a complete outline of the remaining work due to the committee.

March 15 of senior year: full draft due to the committee. Exceptions will be made for thesis projects with a late March or April performance slot.

April 1 of senior year: edits/suggestions received from committee

May 1 of senior year: final draft/product due. Oral exam to be scheduled and completed by May 15th.  Thesis should be sent digitally to the Department Registrar at dm246@cornell.edu.

Model Honors Theses

Samples of honors projects are available for review. Please see Donna Miller, Graduate/Undergraduate Field Asst., in 223 Schwartz Center. 


Glora Majule '17 Life Sentence (full-length play) and essay, "Defying Patriarchy: An Analysis of Life Sentence"

Alana Sequira '17 Black Box (short film) and essay, "Dance & The Female Body on Screen"

Black Box short film: https://vimeo.com/218025237 Password: PMA