FTMDTP-Dissertation or Theatre Practice

Module Provider: Film, Theatre and TV
Number of credits: 60 [30 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring / Summer module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Prof Anna Mcmullan

Email: a.e.mcmullan@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

The dissertation or practical project module constitutes a major element in the assessment profile of the degree and enables you to demonstrate your knowledge and skills in Theatre Studies through an extended project focusing on a particular critical or theoretical issue or subject. The module can be taken in two different directions: (1) a traditional written dissertation of 15,000 words, (2) a theatre practical project: this will normally be a performance of 35 to 45 minutes long, plus written documentation of 5,000 words.


The module requires students to conduct independent research with the advice and support of teaching staff, and (1) to produce an extended piece of scholarly writing, or (2) to devise and produce a short performance with supporting analytical documentation. It aims to instruct students how to identify a suitable topic, how to ask appropriate research questions, how to relate critical or theoretical ideas to a specific practical or dissertation project, how to conduct in-depth research and how to organise material and written work in an effective way. It aims to provide guidance and support for those students pursuing research degrees after completing the MA.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Option (1) dissertation:

On completion of the module it is expected that the student should be able to:

• identify, refine and research in detail an academic topic in theatre studies suitable for scholarly enquiry and appropriate to the length of an MA dissertation

• plan and organise the processes of research and writing of a substantial piece of academic enquiry, using libraries, the internet and other specialist sources

• sustain over the course of a dissertation a scholarly argument incorporating a critical response to evidence and information derived from a variety of sources, primary and secondary

• exercise independent intellectual judgment

• demonstrate a wide and critical acquaintance with existing literature relating to the

dissertation topic

• demonstrate a critical understanding of the various research methods and scholarly

approaches used in the field of the dissertation topic

• demonstrate skills in the analysis of theatre texts, contexts and performances

• critically consider the possibilities of undertaking further research work in theatre.

Option (2) practical theatre-making project:

On completion of the module it is expected that the student should be able to:

• identify and research a critical topic in theatre suitable for both scholarly enquiry and

exploration through practice and appropriate to MA level

• plan and organise practical production work in theatre designed to extend and reflect

upon critical research issues

• sustain over the course of both a practical project and supporting documentation an argument incorporating a critical response to evidence and information derived from both

primary and secondary sources

• demonstrate a critical acquaintance with existing literature relating to the project topic

• demonstrate skills in the analysis of theatre texts, contexts and performances

• demonstrate the ability to reflect critically on practice and to relate practice to critical

research concerns.

Additional outcomes:

The module plays a significant role in the continuing development of other skills and competencies which are central to the programme. It is expected that the level of skills and competencies achieved in the following will be appropriate to the level of study: oral communication and argument in group and one-on-one situations; deployment of research using printed and electronic resources; critical analysis and coherent argument; undertaking self-directed, independent work; presentation of written work using IT. In researching and writing dissertations, and in researching and devising practical projects and associated written documentation, students acquire skills and techniques in planning and managing their own work schedule. They will need to demonstrate these skills and techniques in tutorials with supervisors, as well as presentational skills, in project presentations to fellow students and tutors. Students will also need to demonstrate self-motivation and the ability to work independently over an extended period of time. Work on the dissertation or practical project will also consolidate research and IT skills, requiring students to make extensive use of library, archives (where appropriate) and other relevant research sources. Work on the practical project will develop skills of successful management of the resources involved in production, including where appropriate  the leadership of a production team, within the constraints and policies of the Department and the development of technical skills (e.g. sound and lighting design).

Outline content:

Option (1) dissertation:

Initial decisions about dissertation topics will be made during the Autumn term in consultation with tutors, and much of the Spring term’s work will be focussed on refining and developing the dissertation topic and beginning writing. Under supervision, the writing of the dissertation is mainly self-directed. The module provides students with the opportunity to identify, research, organise and write a significant piece of scholarly writing on theatre. The dissertation is undertaken with the support and advice of an individual supervisor. The dissertation itself will be an independent, scholarly piece of work of approximately 15,000 words in length.

Option (2) practical theatre making project:

The module provides students with the opportunity to devise, plan and execute a short practical project, and to research and write the documentation on this project. Both the documentation and the practical work are undertaken with the support and advice of an individual supervisor. Preparatory work is undertaken during Autumn and Spring terms; production work is undertaken through the Summer Term and beyond; further research, writing and evaluation of the practical work takes place in Summer Term and beyond. The precise balance between practical work and written documentation is normally 50/50, (normally 35 - 45 mins for a performance, and written documentation of 5,000 words), but can be subject to negotiation on a case by case basis. 

Global context:

The MACE programme covers theatre making and infrastructure from many different countries and transnational contexts. 

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The dissertation or practical project is to a very large extent self-directed study, but throughout their project students attend individual supervision tutorials designed to develop the topic, project shape and approach, and writing for the written component. In the Summer Term, along with continuing tutorials, students present the development and progress of their dissertation or project to fellow-students and tutors in a small group seminar setting.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 1 2
Project Supervision 2 2 3
Supervised time in studio/workshop 12 24
External visits 12
Guided independent study: 64 159 319
Total hours by term 66 186 348
Total hours for module 600

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Dissertation 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Option (1)

A dissertation of approximately 15,000 words (excluding notes and bibliography), to be submitted by 21 September.

Option (2)

A practical project in theatre of normally 35-45 mins, to be completed in the Summer Term, plus a written documentation of approximately 5,000 words (excluding notes and bibliography), to be submitted by 21 September.

Formative assessment methods:

Following an initial research period, students will be expected to produce a project proposal and literature review which they will receive feedback on from their supervisor. Thereafter, feedback will be given in supervisory meetings and in seminar presentations.

Penalties for late submission:

Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:

An overall mark of 50%.

Reassessment arrangements:

A failed dissertation project must be resubmitted within one year. A failed practical project may be reassessed by an alternative method if appropriate.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):



Required text books


Specialist equipment or materials


Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear


Printing and binding


Computers and devices with a particular specification


Travel, accommodation and subsistence optional


Last updated: 10 April 2019


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