How to Write a Theatre Dissertation
Writing a successful theatre dissertation is a process which requires balancing two core ideals. You must on the one hand display creativity, however at the same time you must demonstrate that you understand the key concepts of your study, and that you are capable of producing a confident piece of academic research and writing. In any theatre degree the primary skill that you are looking to display is creativity. Therefore your theatre dissertation should fulfil that creativity whilst at the same time demonstrating all that is necessary in a serious piece of academic writing.
Whilst there are many ways to ensure that your theatre dissertation is stylistically impressive, there are several practical steps which need to be taken in order to ensure that marks are not taken off for easily avoidable mistakes.
A good idea is to begin by reading another theatre dissertation to gauge what might be required from your piece of work. Copies of past theatre dissertations are often to be found in University libraries. In your theatre dissertation you are looking to carry out a sustained study of a specific topic. The question you eventually chose for your theatre dissertation must show a clear objective and the topic must be well researched. If your question is a vague one then your theatre dissertation will in turn be vague and less impressive, and it will also be more difficult and more time-consuming to research. When proposing a topic you should look at several factors such as the relevance of that topic, your interest in that topic and the feasibility of that topic.
Once you have settled on a topic and a question for your theatre dissertation then you can narrow down which past theatre dissertations you should study. Through producing your dissertation your aim is to expand and deepen your knowledge of the subject.
The most vital step when setting out to produce a top quality theatre dissertation is to work out a timetable, which you will then religiously stick to. This will assist you in obtaining the relevant source material, and at the same time will also be an insurance against unexpected catastrophe. Once you have finished writing you will also need time to carefully and thoroughly proofread and copy edit everything you have written, checking for spelling and grammar errors, and making sure that everything is formatted correctly. This will help to make sure that your theatre dissertation is factually and stylistically consistent. Finally your theatre dissertation should be clearly referenced. It is very important that the style of referencing should be consistent throughout. Referencing is important for many reasons, specifically to avoid any unfounded accusations of plagiarism. Poor referencing can also lead to docked marks.
When writing a good theatre dissertation it is vital that you pace yourself properly in order to best avoid a panic in the final few days, and to give yourself time to reflect on your research and to encourage your creativity. Another important early step on writing your theatre dissertation is to determine what kind of analysis you are being asked to make, and then to look at the plays or concepts you are writing about. Ideally your theatre dissertation should be a sustained argument. When writing your theatre dissertation you should show just as much creativity as you would in practical work. You need to work out how you are going tot go about studying the topic of your dissertation – in this way your theatre dissertation is a test of independent thought.
Displaying a creative streak in your work is, whilst important, rarely going to be sufficient. You also need to be able to show through your theatre dissertation the ability to produce a serious academic analysis of your chosen topic. Independent enquiry into the topic of your choice is essential. You must have familiarity with appropriate research methods. Theatre studies cannot be separated from social context and historical moment. Mere simple description of your subject will not be enough, and will not show that you have gained a thorough understanding of the issues and concepts of your degree course. A successful theatre dissertation should be full of analysis, critical evaluation and discussion of your topic. It is of vital importance that you show what it is that you have learnt. A theatre dissertation tests your ability to present a sustained academic argument in clear, logical prose. Your theatre dissertation must show that you are confident in creating the scholarly apparatus necessary to support your argument. A well structured, confident theatre dissertation should be your final goal.
Your theatre dissertation will more likely than not need a title page and a page of contents. There is often other vital information which needs to be included at the beginning of your theatre dissertation such as a plagiarism declaration. At the end of your theatre dissertation there needs to be a bibliography of the sources used. As has been mentioned before your theatre dissertation needs to be thoroughly and correctly referenced throughout.
Stylistically it is important that you avoid colloquialisms or sloppy grammar in your theatre dissertation, although a theatre dissertation doesn’t need to be overly formal. You should always ensure that you stick to the central thread of your argument. Most dissertations are divided into five or six chapters. Paragraphs should, ideally, be approximately five or six sentences long, and should have good linking words and phrases. Your text should be easily navigable for the reader with obvious ‘signposts’. When writing you should try to avoid personal language such as ‘I’ as far as possible, unless instructed otherwise. You should more likely than not double space your text. When using long quotations of four lines or more you should indent on the left hand side of the page. You should not rely overly on source material for your theatre dissertation, as this does not go far enough to show independent and original thought.
Through following the correct practical steps and by staying stylistically fluent and consistent then you can produce a high quality theatre dissertation.