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TH329 - Independent Research Option 2014-15

Autumn/Spring/Summer Terms 2014/15

Overall module convenor:
Dr Susan Haedicke
Written dissertation convenor:
Dr Margaret Shewring
Professor Jim Davis

Practice-based convenor: Dr Susan Haedicke

Supervisors: all members of staff in the department

Technical Support: Ian O’Donoghue

Module Description

The Independent Research Option (IRO) is a compulsory module for third year single honours Theatre and Performance Studies students. Joint honours students are not required to take this module but can choose to do so in exceptional circumstances. The module offers students two routes towards undertaking a substantial piece of supervised research during the course of the third year. These routes are convened separately so as to take into account methodological differences in each instance, but there are also some shared aspects in the programming and running of the module as a whole.

The two basic routes are:

1. Written dissertation (100% of assessment), convened by Margaret Shewring and Jim Davis. This route enables students to complete an individually written dissertation of 10,000 words on a research topic of their choice and based on their investigation of primary and secondary sources. Each student taking this route is allocated a single supervisor and the topic must be one that can be appropriately supervised by a member of staff in the Department. The written dissertation must be based on clear historiographical, dramaturgical, and/or theoretical/conceptual principles. It should make apparent the context of the research, the research methodology involved and the research questions it is posing. Under certain circumstances and subject to negotiation the dissertation can include curatorial work (including recording what has happened in the past or organizing an exhibition), historical performance reconstruction or applied practical work undertaken as research (for instance, a series of workshops in the community or in educational contexts).

2. Practice-based project (practice 60%, critical review 40%), convened by Susan Haedicke. This route enables students to use forms of practice as the primary research methodology. The practical work can take several forms, including (but not limited to) live performance, performance installations, site-specific performance, video work, multi-media work, the writing of plays, curatorial work (including recording what has happened in the past or organizing an exhibition), historical performance reconstruction, space and/or costume design, organizing and running participatory workshops, and video documentaries. For the practice-based project, students will usually work in groups of between two and five members, though it is possible under some circumstances to undertake a solo project. Each group following this route is allocated a single supervisor and the nature of the work must be such that it can be appropriately supervised by a member of staff in the department. Practical processes must be informed by clear research imperatives and based on theoretical/conceptual principles. Projects should make apparent the context of the research, the research methodologies involved and the research questions being posed.

Spring and Summer Term 2015 Procedure (2nd year students)

All 2nd year students begin giving serious consideration to the 3rd year IRO module from the point of the meeting convened in Week 8 of the Spring Term onwards. Students who wish to work practically are advised to think carefully about forming working groups and agreeing on a practice-based project that will sustain the interest of the group’s members. Students are encouraged to make preliminary decisions and commitments in this regard before the Easter vacation of the 2nd year commences.

All 2nd year students finalize groups (if applicable) and consult with a member of staff in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies who they think may have expertise in the area about their IRO ideas during the first few weeks of summer term. Students will then submit a fairly detailed research proposal form by Week 4 of the Summer Term. The link to this form can be accessed on the Department’s website under 3rd Year Independent Research Option. Practice-based groups need submit only ONE such form per collaborative project. On the basis of this form the Department decides whether the proposed research is viable and whether appropriate supervision can be offered. Individual students and groups must name the tutors with whom they consulted on their forms. This tutor may also turn out to be a viable supervisor, but there is no guarantee of this since supervisions need to be distributed equally amongst staff. Joint students must consult and name someone who is a member of the Theatre and Performance Studies Department rather than their home department.

Supervisors are assigned to dissertation students and performance project groups in the Summer Term of the 2nd year and an initial meeting with the supervisor will take place before the end of summer term to discuss the proposal in more detail and to plan strategies for preparatory research to occur over the summer vacation.

General Learning Skills and Outcomes
• Development of independent research topic
• Capacity to undertake independent research
• Capacity to organise and structure research findings
• Ability to make independent judgments
• Skill in researching, presenting and responding critically to established knowledge or approaches to a particular topic from within the discipline of theatre and performance studies
• Engage in an extended period of research to generate an original performance or media-based product or written dissertation


  1. Written dissertation: 10,000 words (100%) ESUB2015
  2. Practice-based project:
    practical component (60%, group mark) +
    4,000-word or equivalent critical review (40%, individual mark) ESUB2015

Written dissertations and critical reviews are due in Week 5, Summer Term on the day listed on assessments deadlines (online). Students should take note that the word count for these written components should not be more than 10% over or under the total stipulated for each assignment. Feedback and marks for all IRO assessment components are returned at the same point after the exam board towards the end of the Summer Term.

 Written dissertation students are required to present their research (1) as work-in-progress in either Week 1 or Week 2 of the Spring Term and (2) as part of a conference panel at a festival event being held alongside practice-based performances at the beginning of Week 2 of the Summer Term. The Spring Term work is designed to provide useful feedback from peers and staff and is, like the festival panel presentation, not assessed.

 Practice-based groups are expected to prepare a summary of their research plans (15 mins), which they will present orally to staff and students on the Wednesday afternoon and evening of Week 7 (+ Wed evening Week 8 if all groups cannot be accommodated) in the Autumn Term. This is followed by a work-in-progress showing of their practical research for performance on the Friday of Week 6 (Reading Week) in the Spring Term. This work is not assessed. It is an opportunity to give a taster of the performance work being developed by groups at early and more advanced developmental stages and to receive feedback from student peers and staff. Students should expect to spend Reading Week of the Spring Term preparing for the work-in-progress performance event. Final performances will be presented at a festival event to be held on Monday and Tuesday of Week 2 of the Summer Term and will be assessed at this point. The content of certain performance projects (for instance, a series of workshops in the community or in educational contexts) may require an alternative assessment timescale and it is possible in such cases that assessment will take place at an earlier – but certainly not a later – point in time.


The IRO module is premised to some degree on the assumption that all students are essentially engaged in related theatre and performance research activities. The module has a weekly timetabled slot, which is Tuesday 9-11 in G53 (Millburn), though meetings are occasional rather than weekly. Written dissertation and practice-based option convenors may introduce separate meetings not indicated here. Some meetings in the Autumn and Spring Terms involve all IRO students; others are specific to written dissertation students OR practice-based dissertation students. You are required to attend ALL sessions relevant to your type of dissertation (written or practice-based).

An essential aspect of the IRO module is that students demonstrate their supportiveness of their peers and so anyone taking this module is expected to attend all festival events in the Summer Term (ie. both practice-based and written dissertation students). It is recommended that all IRO students attend the written dissertation work-in-progress (Spring, Weeks 1 and 2) and the practice-based work-in-progress (Spring, Week 6).

The prime point of contact for all module takers is, in all cases, the allocated supervisor and students should ensure they set up regular consultations with their supervisors as appropriate. In addition, practice-based dissertation students (with some exceptions) must reserve a time-tabled three-hour per week studio time slot (booked on departmental calendar) for the entire year (mostly evenings).


Autumn Term 2014

Week 1
Tue 9-11am, G53, all IRO students.
Introduction to the Independent Research Option module
(Jim Davis and Susan Haedicke)


Week 2
Tue 9-11am, Library seminar room (Floor 2), all IRO students.
Research Tools and References
(Richard Perkins)


Week 4
Deadline for any solo practice-based students contemplating a switch to a written dissertation (in consultation with supervisors and module convenors). Any switch will entail a change of registration.


Week 5
Tue 9-11am, G53, written dissertation students.
Research Methodologies
(Jim Davis and Margaret Shewring)


Week 7
Wed 1-10pm, practice-based students
Presentation of research: Summary of research plans (10 mins) presented orally to staff and students


Spring Term 2015

Week 1
Tue 9-11am, G53, written dissertation students.
Presentation of research: Work-in-progress presentations of research (10 mins) presented orally to staff and students


Week 2 (cont. from Week 1, if necessary)
Tue 9-11am, G53, written dissertation students.
Presentation of research: Work-in-progress presentations of research by written dissertation students.
NB. If necessary, the presentation sessions in Weeks 1 and 2 may be extended slightly in order to accommodate all students.


Week 3
Tue 9-11am, G53, practice-based students.
Meeting to plan space and technical needs for work-in-progress rehearsals and presentations in Reading Week.
(Ian O’Donoghue and Susan Haedicke)


Week 6 (Reading Week)
Practice-based students to spend week preparing for work-in-progress performances at the end of the week.
Presentation of research: Work-in-progress performances/presentations (20 minutes) on Friday, all day.


Week 7
Tue 9-11am, G53 and G56, all IRO students.
Structuring and Presenting Research in Writing (dissertations and critical reviews)
(Jim Davis and Susan Haedicke)


Week 8
Tue 9-11am, G53, practice-based students.
Meeting to plan space and technical needs for Festival preparation and performances in Week 2 of Summer Term.
(Ian O’Donoghue and Susan Haedicke)


Week 10
Tue 9-11am, G53, written dissertation students.
Meeting to plan panels and scheduling for Festival event in Week 2 of Summer Term
(Margaret Shewring and Jim Davis)


Summer Term

Week 1
All IRO students to prepare during week and weekend for Festival taking place on Monday and Tuesday of Week 2.


Week 2
Mon/Tue Festival performances and panels.
All IRO students and staff to attend the whole Festival.


Monday Week 5, all IRO students:
Submission of written dissertations and critical reviews



All written dissertation students are permitted to spend up to £50 on expenses arising in the conducting of their research activities, eg. to fund archive visits or material for exhibitions. Students can make the case for a modest overspend on this figure relating to costs incurred in any practical presentation of work. Practice-based group budgets begin at £50 for a solo project, increasing for groups on a sliding scale of £25 extra per person. All students incurring expenses must retain and present receipts as well as a formal list of spending (using the form below) at the end of their projects. Spending is subject to approval by supervisors.


Ethical approval/CRB/DBS checks

The Department and the University are committed to ensuring high standards of research at all levels. To ensure that research complies with the University’s ethical guidelines, all students who wish to undertake research involving human participants and their data must obtain appropriate ethical approval. Normally, successful completion of the Department’s Undergraduate Research Ethics Review Form, available on the department website, will confirm such approval. Your research supervisor will tell you whether this is necessary and will provide assistance with the form. It is the responsibility of this tutor to ensure completion and submission of the form to the Department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (Tim White) before interviewing or other fieldwork commences. A consent form template for interviewees is also available on the department website.

Students seeking to undertake work with children or young people in educational contexts may have to undergo a so-called CRB or DBS check. Students should be aware that this procedure costs money (£45 approx.) and should consult the Department’s administrator Sarah Shute for advice on how to proceed should it prove necessary.