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IRO Written Dissertation Handbook

WHAT IS A WRITTEN DISSERTATION?

The Written Dissertation route enables you to pursue an individual extended research project in consultation with a supervisor and with support from a series of tutor-led sessions.

CHOOSING A RESEARCH TOPIC

When you come to choose a topic, the range of choices is ultimately enormous. So, where should you start? Students decide to do a Research Topic for a number of reasons. Some students decide to do a Research Topic because they have been excited by a particular area of theatre and performance (a practitioner, historical period, movement, focus, etc) they have encountered during the first two years of their degree and they decide that they want to extend their knowledge of this area further. Other students get excited by a particular theoretical/conceptual/thematic framework (feminism, postmodernism, historiography, postcolonialism, etc) and decide that they want to find out more about the relationship between theory and practice in a particular field of theatre and performance. Whatever your motivation it is important to consider the following when choosing a Research Topic:

Will the subject area hold my interest for the full duration of the Research Topic? You will be working on your own for the majority of the time and this requires a great deal of self-motivation and you need to be sure that you are passionately concerned with the area you’ve identified to keep you going.

Have you chosen a valid area of research? It is important that you find a distinct question or focus for your research. It is no good choosing an area that is so well covered by pre-existing literature that you will never be able to do all the reading required to get on top of the subject; neither is it appropriate at this stage in your academic career to choose something that has absolutely no prior coverage. It is also important to bear in mind the criteria for assessment and to honestly assess whether your chosen topic gives you enough scope for detailed discussion, analysis and the development of a defensible argument.

Is there a suitable supervisor for your research? It is crucial that there is a supervisor who feels confident that they know enough about the area you have identified to be able to help you develop your research.

 

 

THE EXPECTATIONS OF AN UNDERGRADUATE WRITTEN DISSERTATION IN THEATRE AND PERFORMANCE STUDIES

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 embedded 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.

To develop your opinion and your analysis during your research process ask yourself all or some of the following questions:

  • What do I think about xxxx?
  • Where am I in relation to xxxx?
  • How do I respond to xxxx?
  • What am I really trying to say?

See later detailed section on this aspect of your process.

 

RELATIONSHIP WITH SUPERVISOR:

Your supervisor’s role is to help you develop your ideas. At the outset of your research your chosen topic may be very wide and your supervisor can help you narrow your field of enquiry and give you advice on how you might focus and structure your research. Your supervisor may suggest reading that could develop your thinking and will give you feedback on your progress as you begin to submit work. In order get the most out of meetings with your supervisor, it is important that you prepare for them. This preparation could mean submitting the annotated bibliography or a piece of writing to be discussed or simply identifying questions that you would like to be addressed. It is your responsibility to maintain regular contact with your supervisor and you should alert them immediately if you are encountering difficulties. Above all, don’t suffer in silence – if you come up against a block and cannot see your way through, talk to your supervisor – they are there to help you.

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of keeping in touch with your supervisor. Students who fall behind with their dissertations often become too anxious to make contact. Some even start missing other classes in order to avoid being in the same room as their tutor! Remember that your supervisor is there to help, and so please maintain contact even if (or, especially if) you run into difficulty.


STAGES OF RESEARCH:

 

Reviewing Existing Literature

A literature review establishes the current state of research in your chosen field. Reference to previous research is an important element of dissertations. Making specific reference to other people’s work and ideas, in a variety of forms, and making general reference to the area(s) of research or field(s) of knowledge in which you are situating your work gives credibility to your thinking by showing where your work responds to, develops and discusses existing work on similar themes and also substantiates factual detail presented, as well as showing the research process you have been through.

 

It thus enables you to:

give background and context to your project

determine to what extent the issue or research question has been previously researched

judge how it will add to the current body of knowledge

allow you to compare your own findings with those of previous researchers

 

Sources: Books, journals, e-journals, newspapers or other print media, personal communication with relevant experts or other people with whom you may have consulted, had interviews etc.

 

Often a bibliography is a major source for future, more relevant books, articles, journals etc. so check these carefully.

 

Remember: You are not trying to list, or refer to, all the material published on your topic, but to evaluate what you find, and use appropriate material according to the guiding concept of your research question.

 

In order to select material you have to clarify three things:

your research objectives – what do you want to show/ look at in your research?

the precise issue or topic you are researching: how the material relates specifically to your topic

the depth and range of literature you are looking for (National/ international, types of journals, etc.)

 

Defining an Area

We usually start out with a broad idea or topic, for example Shakespeare. This must be narrowed to your specific focus or question. For example, you might focus on how the social context affected the development of roles and performances, the depiction of women, how space has affected performance, etc. etc.

 

You narrow your topic by framing a research question, or statement that you will critically test out. A useful strategy is to choose examples against which you shall test your ideas – specific plays characters, performances, etc. Use these to plan chapter and section breakdowns. The bibliographic exercise will also help you, insofar as it helps you quickly make choices about reading, and thus focus.


Strategies for social research

Surveys

Case studies

Internet research

Experiments

Action research

Ethnography

Phenomenology

Grounded theory

 

Methods of social research

Questionnaires

Interviews

Observation

Documents

 

Some theoretical approaches

Performance theory

Gender studies – Feminist or post-feminist

Developmental theory

Post-colonial

Marxist

New historicist

Cultural studies

 

Developing an Argument

Inevitably a first draft tends to be descriptive – saying how things are, or what specific critics, authors, performers think or do. From there you have to answer the question – so what? Why are you telling us this? What do you want to do with this material?

 

It is at this point that you begin formulating an argument – shaping the material to debate a topic, and develop a point of view. This you have already done in essays. The difference with a dissertation is the length – which means you have more scope to develop a more subtle argument, possibly from more than one point of view.

 

Analysis

There are two primary ways of approaching material: Quantatively and qualitatively.

 

Quantative research comes from a scientific or social science paradigm, and is based largely on drawing conclusions from measuring things. In the Humanities this means using questionnaires and statistics.

However, this on its own is not enough. The material usually needs further analysis. This takes us to the other approach....

 

Qualitative research demands that we explore what our findings mean. From a particular point of view (feminist, Marxist, postcolonial) we explore the significance of our discoveries about the texts, performers, performances, etc. and come to some conclusions about what that means for the area of the subject as a whole, for theorists and practitioners. In this way we move the body of the field of knowledge forward.

 

 

Writing tips

 

Remember writing is not new to you: reflecting on your strengths, and observations from tutors can help you before you embark on the blank sheet…

 

Writing is an ongoing aspect of your work, not something to leave entirely until the end. You should set yourself achievable short-term goals during your process alongside those suggested by the staff team.

 

Try not to be over-critical of yourself so you can’t get started or keep going, but be prepared to redraft work. Writing your dissertation is different from an essay, which you may be accustomed to doing in one draft, but the process of writing is not dissimilar. You, not your supervisor, will set the questions you intend to respond to in your chapters however.

 

WRITING STYLE

 

Defining Style

By ‘style’ in writing we mean the mode of communication adopted by the writer. Such modes have characteristics; different ways of communicating their messages. The context in which we communicate and the way in which our work is going to be received will both affect decision on style. As well as ‘academic’ style, we all have a ‘personal’ style. The important thing to remember is that the overall style that is uniquely yours, needs to communicate clearly. These notes are not concerned with ‘ rules’ about structure, grammar, spelling or presentation, which are dealt with elsewhere and quite fully in your handbook already. Rather, they are to help you reflect upon, and decide a position, with regard to the scope and nature of subjectivity in your writing voice.

 

Style is affected by your intention and expected audience: someone who is reasonably informed about your topic, coming to your dissertation for the first time. Your reader needs to be told what your overall intentions are, what your overall design or structure is, how you have gone about researching the project and why. He/she also needs to understand how each part he/she is reading fits into that overall design.

 

Academic style can differ enormously in different publications and across different fields of study. Find models for yourself from your review of relevant resources and discuss these with your supervisor. It may, for example, be relevant to consider whether to match your ideas with your writing style; for example, whether to signify a feminist methodological approach in your use of language.

 

Whatever style you adopt for any part of your work, remember that your aims must be expressed clearly – otherwise your readers may not understand your intentions.

Please discuss with your supervisor what is most appropriate for your particular topic and type of enquiry. We advise you that clarification of appropriate writing style can best be obtained through tutor feedback on drafts of written work.

 

Academic conventions

Conventions about what is appropriate academic writing style vary between subjects, and even within single subject areas. In the world of professional publishing, different publishers and journals also adopt different views. The reasons for this are primarily because different sorts of projects and types of research vary on the question of how far it is relevant to bring opinions into academic work. As a rule of thumb, it is more likely to be acceptable to bring the first person into your work if you are sure why you are doing it.

 

Guidance on the Use of 1st Person

Many readers and writers of academic work fear and shy away from using the first person, or ‘I’. In theatre and performance studies we do not forbid you to use this expression or to write from a personal perspective, but we ask that you do so appropriately in keeping with the subject matter and topic you are dealing with. This brief guide is designed to assist you in finding a suitable writing style, which enables you to express yourself and to produce convincing academic work of quality.

 

The following passage from Gina Wisker’s The Postgraduate Research Handbook provides a useful starting point for this topic:

 

…there is a great difference between using ‘I’ when you are just asserting an opinion and using ‘I’ when you are recording the research you have actually carried out. ‘I interviewed three people in order to discover…’ ‘we carried out a series of surveys of…’ are much better than, for example, ‘a series of surveys were carried out to discover…’, which sounds a little distanced from the actual experience, not as active (it is the passive form), and rather formal. It gives the impression that the words have been written by an unseen third person who observes and knows all. (2001:281)

 

In the early stages of drafting work, your voice will probably be represented in the first person (I think …), and appear ‘messy’ and colloquial; parts are likely to be unacceptable as they stand as academic writing, but the tone and characteristic of your own voice will be present. From here it will become much easier for you, and your supervisor, to judge whether you are using an appropriate ‘voice’ and ‘style’ for your project and its aims.

Whatever you decide, remember that your project needs your voice – a strong, authentic, informed opinion which has digested and can respond intelligently to the opinions, interpretations and analyses of others. But consider carefully whether the use of the personal voice is assisting the communication of the ideas. The danger in writing using the first person continually is that the project can appear to be about you, and not your topic. Is this what you are intending the examiners and your readers to receive? Consider whether you could assess your project if it is presented overwhelmingly from a personal perspective against the criteria set for the module?

 

Consider the aims of your project and your relationship to the research process and the project.

 

What type of project or research are you doing?

 

In projects in the areas of community and applied drama work which use action research and techniques of participant-observation and in some feminist –influenced research, the first person is used as a sound device, particularly ‘if you are using yourself as a case study in your own work, or researching your own creative or performative work in relation to theory’ where it make little sense ‘to hide this with a third person record’ (Wisker 2001: 281). However, most students write about more text or performance-based topics, for which this is a less sound academic choice of voice.

 

Are you analysing texts you have experienced at first hand?

 

If you are reviewing performance which you have seen live and reporting on an event, you cannot avoid situating yourself in the resulting analysis and are advised to do this consciously by clarifying your own ‘subject position’ (who you are, where you come from, considering how this informs and shapes the impressions that you have). Many critics in the present and the past speak as if they are authorities, speaking for whole audiences, for example, when really they speak for themselves. You may even decide that analysing the subject position of a critical voice on a text is relevant to your analysis of a body of critical reception.

 

Remember also, however, that it is very unlikely that performance or screen texts have had no critical exposure and reception from others, and you will be expected to contextualise, and historicise your response, especially if what you are dealing with is not new work.

 


FURTHER READING

Cottrell, Stella The Study Skills Handbook 2nd Edition (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2003)

Creme, P. & M.R. Lea, Writing at University: A Guide for Students (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1997)

Fairbairn, Gavin, Reading, Writing, Reasoning: a guide for students (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1996)

Wisker, Gina The Postgraduate Research Handbook (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001)

 

 

Organising Material

There are always a number of ways that a project can successfully be presented. Different ways will, however, communicate different aspects. Once you have decided on a clear plan (including chapter and section breakdowns) and discussed it with your supervisor, try to stick with it. A useful tip early on is to set out the objectives that you aim to achieve in a working introduction. These objectives will stem from the key research questions you are posing. If you are able to develop a working introduction successfully now, then the project will be more likely to work its way through these with a sense of purpose, developing an argument and arriving at a conclusion which makes sense of what has gone before.

 

Structure

A typical dissertation will have an introduction, and some three, and at most five chapters (with sub-headings) and a conclusion.

 

There are a number of models available which will be introduced and discussed in group sessions. Your material and methodology, together with the ‘orientation’ of your work, will to a great extent reveal and construct the most suitable structure. Regular discussion and submission of draft written pieces will give you confidence that you have an appropriate structure for your individual approach. There is no one ‘right’ way: you must select an appropriate format to deal with your topic. Devising such a framework is part of the task that makes the dissertation ‘independent, self-directed study’.

 

1. Building up an introduction

 

(i) Always keep in mind, and refer back to, your aims and your methodology which you should write up in continuous prose at the outset of your project; even though these inevitably will change along the way. This might start out as a series of statements from your proposal, or reworked notes from a conversation with a friend or tutor about your project’s scope and territory and how you are researching and doing the work, or it might be your first draft chapter.

 

(ii) Keep any drafts you make of the ways you might start your project and date these drafts: you may need to return to them later for ideas or to revisit where ideas that are not developing as you expected. There may also be sentences or paragraphs which can form the start of chapters or go later into your conclusion.

 

(iii) Keep a note of choice quotes, anything particular which you read which initially sparked your imagination, as these might add a personal touch to your introduction.

 

(iv) Often good introductions are written last, but you also need to have a ‘working introduction’ so that you can keep track of where you are heading and what your methodological approach or critical framework consists of.

 

(v) Make sure you leave time - before the final printing of your work - to rewrite your first 5-10 pages, making sure that you have actually achieved what your working version promised (if not, then adjust the introduction), adding in anything crucial to your basic argument which writing up has brought to light or given greater prominence than you expected initially. It is also a good idea to try to finish your final draft a week early, give it to a friend or relative to proof-read, then re-read critically, noting down any key summary points or clear statements of achievement in simple note form. You will then find that these points might need to be highlighted in the introduction or even moved into the introduction. Often, writers find that concluding remarks are where they finally say what they think and it can be wise to flag up these key points to your introduction. This can demonstrate the sense of leaving the introduction to the end, since through writing up you have actually pinned down your subject and your own opinions. However, it is important that you do not confuse the intentions of the introduction and conclusion. The introduction is the point the way of your research, and the conclusion to draw findings and their implications out of the research. However, it is important that you do not confuse the intentions of the

 

(vi) Give serious thought to allowing someone to proof-read your essay. You might be surprised at how many points that you thought were clear and obvious in your argument are not to someone coming to the work without any prior knowledge of it. You will also find that, as you work and rework your material, you become blind to errors that can only be spotted by a fresh reader.

 

(vii) Look at some good introductions from books on your topic. Analyse their key features. Where do they place their central aims?

 

(viii) Simplicity is clearer than complexity, so don’ t try to be too clever in your opening. Say what you go on to do, not what you think you should be doing.

 

2. The Chapters

 

(i) There is no set rule for the number of chapters. You may prefer sections or parts. Aim for roughly even length and have a sense of why you have chosen to sectionalise it as you have; explain this logic in your methodological section of your introduction.

 

(ii) An overall plan, a chapter plan and a topic plan for part of a chapter can usually help with beginning writing and keeping going.

 

(iii) Can’t get started? Try 10 minutes, see what you come up with. Don’t stop once you’ve finished a chapter and are reasonably satisfied. Start the next bit. Always leave your work at a point you will easily be able to get back into it... so that starting the next day gets easier. Leave your notes out if you can, so you don’t have to spend time finding them again.

 

(iv) Can’t concentrate? Take a break, go for a walk, do some exercise, or get a proper sleep. Begin again by reworking or rereading to get back into it. If all else fails, start writing up a different section, and then go back to the previous problem - or cut that bit out - maybe you are trying to do something which won’t work.

 

(v) Although there has to be some kind of narrative flow, some kind of order, you don’t have to start at the beginning and work through to the end. So long as you can make it work in the last week, start where you feel most inspired.

 

(vi) However fine your prose, remember there are always more sentences - try not to dwell too long on congratulating yourself or reworking before you’ve got the main body of your text down in first draft. It doesn’t matter how rough your first attempt is, because you are going to reread it and rewrite some parts.

 

(vii) Expect to have to redraft - be your own editor.

(viii) Remember the golden rule of plagiarism; “if in doubt, reference it.”

 

(ix) Consistency in referencing technique is more important than perfection.

 

(x) Link other people’s ideas in smoothly. Remember paraphrasing is a useful tool. Remember, though to both introduce and comment on your quotes.

 

(xi) Do your references or footnotes as you go along and keep a running bibliography which is a list of all those sources (not a general background reading list). This is far easier than searching through your notes at the end.

 

3. Writing the conclusion

 

(i) You should provide a conclusion which is a short summing up, returning to the ideas opened up in your introduction.

 

(ii) Beware of too much repetition. Simple restatement is not enough, you need to draw out the implications of your findings and ideas.

 

(iii) A conclusion need only be short, or it can be a whole chapter.

 

(iv) Strictly speaking a conclusion ‘concludes’ or finishes off or punctuates, it does not move forward. However, many writers like to show not only what they have learned or discovered but where it has taken them, and where it might take them, or someone else who might continue their work.

 

(v) It makes sense to see your Introduction and Conclusion as a pair and to work on them both at the end of your writing-up process.

 

(vi) It is therefore essential to plan ahead and make sure you are not still writing a chapter in your last week before submission. If this is the case you might better leave the chapter and increase the length of the other already-composed chapters, alter your aims slightly, and then reflect. A good project can damage its own prospects for good communication by neglecting its beginning and end.

 

(vii) There is always room for self-criticism and self-doubt but try to keep these negative feelings in proportion. Try not to unnecessarily undermine yourself with apologia in the conclusion.

 

 

Presentation

(i) Your work should be typed or word-processed; spelling and punctuation checked and proof read. [Your grade will be affected by sloppy presentation as this impedes good communication].

 

(ii) Two copies are required to be submitted.

 

  1. Make sure the binding is adequate as your work will be passed between examiners and needs to be reasonably protected.

 

  1. Pages must be numbered, consecutively from the first page, excluding title and contents page.

 

(v) The Dissertation must have a title page stating:

Your name

Your student number

Your degree title

Your project title

The date

The name of your supervisor

 

(vi) The title-page must be followed by a table of contents, with page numbers for chapters/sections etc.

(vii) You may need to include a list of illustrations

(viii) You may need a further page to list any abbreviations you are regularly using in your project, for example, frequent reference to one edition of a Shakespeare play.

 

(ix Print on one side of the paper only.

 

(x) Use one and a half -spacing, with indented quotations (in the case of long quotations) and notes single-spaced.

 

(xi) In the text of your dissertation titles of published texts - books, journal titles, videos, public performances, websites - should be underlined or italicised; titles of chapters in books, articles in journals or on websites, or reviews from newspapers should be enclosed in single quotation marks. Sources need to be fully described in your project. For example, where and when you saw a production and the name of the company. See later for further details on referencing.

 

(xii) Notes and quotations should be set out using one consistent method - see section of this booklet which looks at presentation according to the Harvard method in more detail.

 

(xiii) It is vital that you include a bibliography. [Failure to do so will affect your mark as demonstrating the research you have undertaken is a requirement within the assessment criteria].

 

(xiv) Stick within the word limit. [Footnotes, appendices and bibliography need not be counted in your final word count].

 

 

Referencing, Footnotes and Bibliography

1. Referencing

 

It is extremely important that where quotations, definitions, ideas or interpretations produced by other people are used in your dissertation that they must be referenced in the text, with the full source given in thebibliography. It is important because you cannot claim personal ownership of ideas which are not your own.

 

Plagiarism is any form of non-attribution of other people’s work, and is seen by examiners as a form of cheating. It is vital that in preparing written work you read extensively because the greater the use of contemporary research the greater credence your work will have. In the same way, it is an important skill to know how to attribute other people’s work in a professional manner.

 

Several different referencing systems are in current use, and you may adopt any recognised system provided it is used accurately and consistently. The Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) Style Guide is recommended by the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies. Ask your supervisor if you are unsure. Tutors will help you when marking first drafts, do not ignore stylistic or referencing corrections, as you will repeat (and learn) bad habits. Whatever you do, stick to one way of doing it – do not mix two systems!

Paraphrasing

 

Paraphrasing is a way of expressing another person’s ideas in your own words. It is more sophisticated than summarising because it involves an element of interpretation where you are the ‘mediator’ between the original author and the reader. Paraphrasing is a really useful way of livening up your writing. Avoid mechanical word for word substitution or replicating exactly the sentence construction of the original author – you might as well quote directly if you are doing this. Make sure that somewhere you specify in your paraphrase where the idea has come from.

 

Summarising is to present a succinct version of the original source, restated in your own words where possible, which presents the author’s main idea or main argument only.

AVOIDING PLAGIARISM

When you present the words or ideas of another as if they were your own you are plagiarising. Plagiarism is cheating. When you quote directly or summarise in your own words the ideas of someone else, you must acknowledge this. You do so by making a citation or reference within your text to your source materials.

Frequently asked question

 

What do I do if I’m writing about something that is common sense or I think everybody/my readers will know?

 

Statements of fact fall into this category and therefore may not need to be acknowledged, unless there is a controversy to report about the date or location of a particular occurrence in which case you are dealing with interpretations of fact or arguments which must always be acknowledged.

 

Remember the ‘GOLDEN RULE’ of Plagiarism: IF IN DOUBT, ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION BY ACKNOWLEDGING THE SOURCE.

 

Listing the References: BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

At the end of the essay or report, references used must be listed in alphabetical order in a Bibliography. We recommend a separation of primary (actual productions or source texts, like Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, or Macbeth) and secondary sources (commentaries on these texts or performances: textbooks, journal articles, websites, etc.). You may also divide the list into types of items, e.g. books, articles from journals, websites etc.

 The MHRA Style Guide sets out all you need to know about the presentation of your bibliography

Appendices

An appendix will contain a body of material which does not belong within the dissertation proper, but which is an important part of the research. For example, you may include a copy of a blank questionnaire that was used in your research, statistical data, transcript of an interview with a director, etc. Don’t include (for example) a hundred returned questionnaires, or photocopies of articles. If you are unsure whether or not to include something, consult your supervisor.

 

 

STUDY SKILLS READING LIST

Barnes, R., Successful Study for Degrees, 2nd edition (London: Routledge, 1994)

Bell, J., Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First Time Researchers in Education and Social Science, (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1993)

Berry, R. (ed.), The Research Project: How to Write It. 3rd edition, (London: Routledge, 1994)

Bolker, J., Writing Your Dissertaton in Fifteen Minutes a Day, (New York: H.Holt, 1998)

Denscombe, M, The Good Research Guide, (London: Open University , 2003)

Freeman, R., How to Study Effectively, New edition, (London:Collins, 1993)

Hart, C., Doing a Literature Review, (London:Sage Publications, 1998)

Kane, E., Doing Your Own Research, (London:Boyars, 1985)

Marshall, P., How to Study and Learn: Your Practical Guide to Effective Study Skills, 2nd edition, (Plymouth:How to Books, 1997)

Mounsey, C., Essays and Dissertations, (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2002)

Northedge, A., The Good Study Guide, (Milton Keynes:Open University Press, 1990)

Schratz, M and R. Walker, Research as Social Change, (London: Routledge, 1995)

Taylor, P. (ed.), Researching Drama and Arts Education: Paradigms and Possibilities, (London:Falmer Press, 1996)

CRITERIA FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF RESEARCH TOPICS:

Students should be able to demonstrate that they have engaged in appropriate research in order to respond to the topic.

Having completed their research, students should be able to demonstrate a clear line of argument in response to the topic.

Having chosen a clear line of argument, students should use appropriate primary source material (e.g. plays or individual scenes, productions, videos, films, reports, statistical tables) and secondary source material (e.g. critical monographs, chapters, articles, papers, unpublished research dissertations) to illustrate or substantiate their argument.

In their Research Topics, students should demonstrate their ability to structure and organise their work effectively, to marshal their ideas and their evidence succinctly, and to present their work in clearly expressed and grammatically correct language.

Using the conventions set out in the School's handbooks, references and quotations should be acknowledged in footnotes/endnotes, and a bibliography should be included which lists all works consulted in preparation for the Research Topic.

Students should submit a word-processed, double spaced Research Topic that should be carefully proof-read to ensure that any obvious errors or typing mistakes are corrected.

Students should ensure that they observe the published word limit for each Research Topic. Tutorial permission should be obtained before any Research Topic is submitted that is significantly shorter or longer than the published word limit.

Tutors will use these criteria as the basis for arriving at their assessment of undergraduate and postgraduate essays. The aim is to arrive at a balanced judgement of the quality of each essay, giving proper weight to key issues such as thoroughness or research and clarity of thought, without neglecting questions of style and presentation.

The marking system is as follows:

 

Marking

to be

 

Out of 17

Class

scale

converted to this mark

descriptor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exceptional command of the subject, including

17

 

 

 

material which ranges well beyond that covered

 

 

Excellent

96

in lectures/classes. Work of exceptional insight,

 

 

1st

 

bringing new perspectives to bear on the

 

 

 

 

material, or developing new knowledge or

 

 

 

 

techniques. Achieves or is close to publishable

 

 

 

 

standard.

 

 

 

 

Very high quality work, with full understanding of

16

First

High 1st

89

the subject matter.

 

 

 

 

Work that demonstrates intellectual maturity,

 

 

 

 

and is perceptive with highly developed

15

 

Mid 1st

81

organisation.

 

 

 

 

An ambitious project carried out successfully,

 

 

 

 

with sophisticated handling of primary and

14

 

 

 

secondary material, reasoned, analytic

 

 

Low 1st

74

argument.

 

 

 

 

Some degree of originality, independent

 

 

 

 

research and thought.

 

 

High 2.1

68

Highly competent in organisation and

13

 

 

 

presentation, evidence of individual research;

 

Upper

 

 

 

12

Second

Mid 2.1

65

appropriate and intelligent use of primary and

 

 

 

 

secondary material, good understanding of

 

 

Low 2.1

62

subject matter allied with perceptive analysis.

11

 

High 2.2

58

Conscientious work, attentive to subject matter

10

 

 

 

and title/task set; a focused response to the task

 

Lower

Mid 2.2

55

demonstrating good knowledge, balanced more

9

Second

 

 

towards the descriptive than the analytical.

 

 

 

 

Good knowledge, reasonable understanding of

8

 

Low 2.2

52

material and task. Descriptive rather than

 

 

 

 

analytical.

 

 

High 3rd

48

Some relevant knowledge, some accurate

7

Third

Mid 3rd

45

repetition of lecture/class notes/work. Partial or

6

 

Low 3rd

42

pedestrian description.

5

 

 

 

Work does not meet standards required for the

4

 

High Fail

 

appropriate stage of an Honours degree, albeit

 

 

(near miss)

38

with some basic understanding of relevant

 

 

 

 

concepts an techniques.

 

Fail

 

 

Ineptitude in knowledge, structure,

3

 

Fail

25

academic/professional practice

 

 

 

 

Failure or inability to answer the

 

 

 

 

question/respond to the task.

2

 

Low Fail

12

No evidence of basic understanding of relevant

 

 

 

 

concepts/techniques

 

 

 

 

Work of no merit

1

Zero

Zero

0

OR Absent, work not submitted, penalty in some misconduct cases