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There are several key strategies for choosing a dissertation topic, even on the undergraduate level. They include:
- Choose a topic that interests you. As this is a very long project that will occupy you for several months, it will be very hard to finish if you do not find it interesting.
- Narrow your topic to the point where you can read ALL available and relevant secondary material. Thus "Shakespeare in Performance" would be far too broad, but "Performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth in Nineteenth-Century Edinburgh" might be feasible.
- Develop a thesis, or a central claim or argument. Thus merely surveying how Shakespeare's Macbeth was performed in Edinburgh is not enough; you would need to argue something about how Scottish nationalism, for example, affected the staging of the play.
- Perhaps the most straightforward: take a paper you have written for your course or module and expand it.
There are several types of topic which tend to work well for theses in performance studies:
- Take one work and look at the different ways in which it has been performed, for example by comparing the novel East Lynne with its film adaptations or analyzing musical adaptations of a play originally not written as a musical (e.g. "Pygmalion" and "My Fair Lady")
- Look at cultural location and performance, e.g. Shakespeare in India or performances of the Mahabharata in India vs. Britain.
- Examine some contemporary forms of performance such as certain types of flash mobs or vlogs.
To be considered a legitimate thesis, you need a combination of subject matter generally studied in the discipline along with a theoretical framework using performance studies disciplinary vocabulary and concepts.
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