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Theatre Studies > Academic literacy

What is the understanding the department has of Academic Literacies?

Academic Literacy 1: Performance

  • The department encourages students to attend performances in the local area
  • The department assesses students on their performance from the first year

Aspects of Practice (Year 1) Module Webpage:

"By the end of the module you will have...contributed to the generation and realisation of a number of creative projects through an understanding of appropriate practical skills, techniques and performance vocabularies"

Contemporary Theatre and its Context (Year 1):

"The seminars in the autumn term of this module are based on a series of theatre visits, the details of which are given below"

Performance appears to be an important part of the Theatre Studies course. Students have opportunities to perform throughout the course, which begin in the first year.

Academic Literacy 2: Research/ Understanding the context of Performance

  • Students studying courses such as “Staging Shakespeare” are able to conduct historical research into theatre
  • Students are expected in all modules to have an understanding of the historical or contemporary context of their work

Introduction to Theatre (Year 1) Module Webpage:

"This module seeks to provide a basis for students’ studies in Theatre throughout their degree programme through an exploration of western theatre within its historical contexts"

Staging Shakespeare (Year 3) Module webpage:

"Students are encouraged to use a range of archival material, including slides, photographs and video recordings as well as production notes and reviews in newspapers, journals and periodicals, to compile the evidence on which to base a detailed analysis of productions."

In the first year the focus of courses building historical contexts is on giving the students information, in particular about Western Theatre

By the time students have continued through their literacy journey to third year modules like Staging Shakespeare, there is a greater focus on enabling students to conduct their own historical research when building an understanding of the context behind a particular kind of theatre

Academic Literacy 3: Writing for Performance and Research

  • The department encourages students to write for performance
  • The department assesses students’ writing for performance
  • Students are given strict requirements for the dissertation module in the third year on academic writing
  • Students are given strict requirements for the writing aspects of the practical option in the third year

Aspects of Practice Module (Year 1) webpage:

"By the end of the module you will have...developed skills in written and verbal communication..."

Research Topic Module (Year 3) webpage:


A dissertation in any subject area is an academic exercise in researching, presenting and responding critically to established knowledge or approaches to a particular topic from within the field. In theatre and performance studies this will involve placing your chosen focus (be it textual, on performance forms or conceptual or theoretical ideas) in the context of what has already been established in the field, in the form of a literature review that is imbedded in your work. Secondary literature will be crucial to your own work, be clear, though when you are using others’ ideas that you do not inadvertently fall into plagiarism (copying directly from their work). Avoid this by clearly referencing even source ideas, and making notes of references right from the start of your research.

Part of the data-gathering process is choosing an appropriate methodology or theoretical approach to your topic.

Once you have gathered your research data, you have to select, organise and critically engage with it. This involves being able to separate fact from opinion; and knowing how to appropriately use the first person voice in your research. A solid basis for presenting received opinion can be to quote from relevant and acknowledged secondary sources by appropriate authorities in the field, thus avoiding the “I think that…” tendency

The most obvious literacy journey is from essay writing to a dissertation. The emphasis is not as great in the first year as in the final year, where the research or practical option involves finalists writing a critical piece of work.

What does the department define as departmental skills?

Skill set 1: Performance skills

Skill set 2: Research skills

Skill set 3: Writing skills

Do they define these as generic?

performance skills

  • There is a range of different performance skills that the department wishes to convey to undergraduate as shown by the variety of performance modules in the department, which no other department would offer.
  • Writing skills for Performance are equally varied – students are engaged to interact with a range of playwrights and screen writers

Writing for Performance Module (Year 2) webpage:

"The goal of this module is to introduce students to different dramaturgical approaches and creative processes embodied in a range of textual forms­­—from traditional dramatic writing to performance scenarios."

"(Learning Outcomes) By the end of this module students will be able to: understand the specific nature of writing for theatre and performance and to demonstrate a practical and critical knowledge of playwriting and performance writing in terms of subject and medium, selection of material, dramaturgical techniques and strategies, genre and form, constituent aspects of dramatic text including structure, action, character, dialogue, and space, as well as knowledge of representative examples by notable playwrights/ performance writers."

The department claims that a range of approaches and processes are taken to writing to performance which are specific to the discipline

The department describes features of writing for performance "genre and form,...action, character, dialogue, and space", which set the discipline and this type of writing apart from other disciplines and the types of writing that occur within them

Writing for performance is also specific to the department because they must know "representative examples by notable playwrights/ performance writers", and not just the work of academics.

academic research & writing skills

  • Research skills are used within different disciplines e.g. cultural studies, sociology, economics, history, politics
  • Writing skills for essays/ dissertations might appear generic (e.g. use fo words like structure, argument etc.), but the fact the the Theatre Studies department

Research Topics webpage:

A well presented, coherently structured and clearly argued piece of work that exhibits an excellent grasp of the methodology, concepts and subject matter pertinent to the assessment task/question. The argument will contain original ideas or insights substantiated by an informed reference to, and analysis of, a wide range of primary and secondary texts/sources/materials. These will be properly referenced in footnotes/endnotes and a bibliography. There will be a few, if any, grammatical or spelling errors.

The above is the grading criteria for a first class dissertation in Theatre Studies.

This could be seen as the desired end result of work done with Theatre Studies undergraduates

There is a reference to a need for an excellent grasp of the "subject matter", but other than that, the criteria included appear similar to what we might expect in other departments in the Arts/Humanities faculty

In what formats are they developed?

  • Theatre visits

Contemporary Theatre and its Context Module webpage (Year 1):

"The seminars in the autumn term of this module are based on a series of theatre visits"

  • Presentations by practitioners and workshops with practitioners

Aspects of Practice Module webpage (Year 1):

"In this module we will examine the developing genre of hip hop theatre and performance and explore how to create theatre out of contemporary rhythms, movements, stories, politics and aesthetics. Several leading UK-based hip hop artists, including Jonzi D, Marso (Mickael Riviere), and Soweto Kinch will run guest workshops with students on specific skills such as rapping, breaking, DJ-ing, lyricism, and storytelling."

  • Module lectures and seminars

Introduction to Theatre Module webpage (Year 1) :

"Portfolio 1 of all seminar assignments will be submitted (as a form of ongoing assessment) at the end of the autumn term"

  • Interaction with the community

Community Theatre Module webpage (Year 2) :

"In the final part of the module, the students get to plan, devise and perform a performance or series of workshops within a community context in the Coventry or Staffordshire area."


  • Performance, Writing and Research are key academic literacies in the Theatre Studies department
  • These academic literacies are developed in a unique way through interaction with practitioners and the use of performance in the process
  • Undergraduate research skills are presented in such a way that they seem generic (i.e. dissertations by Theatre Studies finalists may have a similar form to those written