Honours in Performance Studies

The Honours year brings theory and practice together in mutually illuminating ways. It involves specialised seminars, a research thesis on an individual topic as well as a detailed case-study (based on first-hand fieldwork) of training/rehearsal processes with a professional arts organisation or an equivalent performance practice/event. In recent years, students have observed, documented and analysed performance across a broad range of genres, fields and geographical locations including: experimental dance in the Central Australian desert; contemporary Indigenous theatre in Melbourne; productions by Opera Australia; wayang topeng in Indonesia; sketch comedy on commercial Sydney radio; NIDA production exercises; mountain bike racing and a women's AFL team.

This is a complex, challenging and highly rewarding course. Prospective students are encouraged to contact the Honours Coordinator as soon as possible. If you intend on applying to do Honours with an Undergraduate degree from another University, please also contact the Honours Coordinator as soon as possible.

The Honours program in Performance Studies involves the completion of two seminars in semester 1. Honours students are also required to attend a weekly, two hour Research Methods session, in which they prepare to write both their dissertation and casebook, which are both due in semester 2. Honours students are also expected to attend the department’s weekly research seminar series held on Friday afternoons during semester.

At some point in the year, all Honours students will take part in a placement with a professional performance company, or an equivalent organisation or project. The exact nature of this placement will be negotiated with the department Honours Coordinator, and will ideally involve a sustained observation of a rehearsal and/or performance preparation process. From this placement, students will prepare a 12-15,000 word Casebook, submitted late in semester 2. The other major component of the year is the Dissertation/thesis, also of 12-15,000 words in length, on a topic to be negotiated in consultation with the Honours Coordinator and a designated supervisor.

Qualifying for Honours

To qualify for Honours in Performance Studies, you must have a credit average or higher and have completed 48 credit points in Performance Studies units of study*, this includes PRFM3961 Rehearsal Studies and PRFM3962 Rehearsal to Performance. In effect, this means (for Sydney University students) completing a major in Performance Studies, and additionally completing the two special entry units.

* Please note: from 2015 the minimum requirement for entry into Honours will increase to an average of 70% or above across 48 senior credit points in the intended subject area/s.

Note: The following information assumes a full-time enrolment, but, where there are compelling reasons, it possible to study Honours part-time. Please contact the Honours Coordinator to discuss these options.

First semester

Honours students take two seminars in the first semester of their candidature. The seminars offered each year depend on the availability of staff: Critical Theory and Contemporary Performance or Embodiment. Each of the seminars involves two hours per week of face-to-face teaching and a mix of assessment tasks equivalent to 5,000 words (that is, a total of 10,000 words for the semester).

There are two other meetings which Honours students are required to attend in first semester, although neither involve direct assessment. These are the Research Methodologies Session (2hrs) and the weekly Postgraduate Research Seminar series (Friday 3-5).

Second Semester

There are no formal classes to attend at University in Second Semester (although students are encouraged to meet with the Honours Coordinator at regular intervals) but there are two very time-consuming and demanding tasks: the Casebook and the Dissertation. Both of these documents should be approximately 12,000-15,000 words in length. Before the end of first semester, one of the Performance Studies staff will have been assigned to you as a super-visor and you will need to meet with her/him on a regular basis in order to plan your approach to these large writing tasks.


Every Honours student will participate in a fieldwork placement, upon the basis of which they will complete a Casebook (see below).
The exact timing and nature of the placement will be negotiated by the student in consultation with the department's Internship Officer, and the Honours Coordinator. Prospective Honours students are advised to think about their placement well in advance of the start of the academic year, and to have a range of possibilities in mind when they come to meet with the Honours Coordinator. The Department will contact and negotiate with the company or organisations in question.

Students have previously been placed with the following projects:

  • Belvoir St; Circus Oz; de Quincey Company; Bell Shakespeare Company; Nigel Kellaway; Opera Australia; Sydney University Women's AFL team; Compaigne Genty] (Paris); The Mime Troupe (San Francisco)


(based on fieldwork placement–33.5% of total Honours mark)

Fieldwork placements will be arranged as early as possible in the year on the basis of discussions between students, the Internship Officer, the Honours Coordinator and other staff. Students are encouraged to nominate events/productions/companies or genres of performance that they would like to observe in development. The placement should allow you to observe a complete training/development/rehearsal process involving performance makers or events. Your written casebook (akin to the sort of work carried out in the Special Entry unit PRFM3902) is to give an account of this process–what happened when and where? who did what and why? what seems to be the rationale underpinning the practice of these artists?


(33.5% of total Honours mark)

This is to be written on a topic selected by the candidate after discussion with the Honours Coordinator and the approved supervisor. While it is certainly acceptable to choose a topic that builds on the field observations of the casebook, this is by no means obligatory. The important point is that the dissertation must engage with a clearly defined theoretical question and that it must advance an argument, based on the student’s familiarity with the views of other authors and on some coherently pursued (primary and/or secondary) research.