Video transcript
Unpacking critical analysis – the research project

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[Music playing]

ANGELA MOROSIN: Hi, my name's Angela.

PIA MIDGLEY: And, I'm Pia. And, today we're going to give a brief overview of how to approach research and drama, especially in the senior years of high school.

ANGELA MOROSIN: It can seem quite daunting at first, particularly as most people tend to gravitate towards performance, and research doesn't sound quite as exciting. But, if you have a genuine love of theatre, and a willingness to investigate a specific topic of interest, then this might be perfect for you.

PIA MIDGLEY: So, where to start? If you are considering undertaking a research project in drama, you should have a good grasp of language, an ability to write in a formal academic register, an interest in research and data, and a passion to investigate a specific area of theatre making, and to think outside the square, the ability to drill down into that specific avenue of interest, which offers scope for further investigation, the perseverance to unpack evidence and data, in order to make links and draw conclusions.

ANGELA MOROSIN: So, ask yourself, 'What are the benefits of doing project-based research?' Well, this is a project driven by the student. You have the freedom to set the parameters of the project, and then make it a personal investigation into the art of making theatre. You might choose to look into the performance methodologies of an individual artist, the specific rehearsal techniques or style of a performance group, or practitioner in drama, a specific dramatic text or production, a theatre arts body, or a critical technical issue in drama or theatre.

PIA MIDGLEY: Remember that it is your ability to demonstrate your understanding of theatrical and dramatic elements, and your skill in conveying this understanding to an audience, through research, that is at the heart of this project.

ANGELA MOROSIN: The hypothesis should come out of a survey of the literature, or research, which may already exist for your chosen topic. What exists? What doesn't? What research has or hasn't been done? Read. Research. Look at the literature. Interview people. What is there that is worthy of further investigation?

PIA MIDGLEY: Here's what any marker of a research project is looking for. A survey of literature is literally pre-reading, or active research into your broad area of interest, to see what work and research has already been done in the area. This may take the form of all sorts of reading, workshops, diagrams, and interviews.

In this phase of your project, it is useful to keep a separate document that records every resource you access, or create, to help frame and shape your understanding. There are many online bibliography citation sites you can use to help keep track of your sources.

And, remember to take notes from each as you go, so you know why this resource was so interesting and important. This will also help you to avoid plagiarism. Your hypothesis should emerge from initial research into your area of study.

ANGELA MOROSIN: So, there are 2 separate options to formulate the hypothesis. Firstly, you could frame the hypothesis as a statement, or idea, which is either proven or disproved, by applying the research you've undertaken.

It's important to note that the best research shows critical thinking uses the verb 'applied' here. It is not enough to complete research in the area of interest. You must find a way to apply the research to your area of study, in order to prove or disprove your idea.

PIA MIDGLEY: Secondly, you might choose to formulate your hypothesis as a research question, rather than a statement. The question then becomes the road map through the research you collect. It provides guidelines to apply to the research, and data, in order to reach a conclusion.

ANGELA MOROSIN: So, in other words, pose a question, answer the question through applying the data collected throughout the process.

PIA MIDGLEY: The following are some examples of the 2 types of hypothesis that you might choose. The statement - 'Drama classes can have a positive impact on young people in juvenile detention.' 'Role play and drama can improve the emotional well-being of primary aged students.' Or the question - 'Do large subsidised theatre companies have a responsibility to foster new Australian works?' 'Is it possible to create sustainable independent musical theatre in Sydney?'

ANGELA MOROSIN: Once you've completed a survey of the literature, you then need to work out what's important to answering your question. Therefore, you need to collect data, which can be applied to reach a conclusion. So, ask yourself 'What data do you need?' There are 2 types - quantitative and qualitative. A good research project should have a mix of both, as each type of data provide different outcomes, and are often used together to get a full picture.

So, quantitative data are used when a researcher is trying to quantify a problem, or address the what, or how many aspects, of a research question. It's data that can either be counted or compared on a numeric scale. Think of graphs or pie charts. If I can put a number to it, it's probably going to be quantitative i.e. quantity.

Qualitative data, on the other hand, describes qualities or characteristics. It's collected using questionnaires, interviews, or observation, and frequently appears in a narrative form. For example, it could be notes taken during a focus group on the quality of food at the canteen, or responses from an open-ended questionnaire.

Qualitative data may be difficult to precisely measure and analyse. The data may be in the form of descriptive words that can be examined for patterns or meaning, or sometimes through the use of coding. Coding allows the researcher to categorise qualitative data to identify themes that correspond with the research questions, and to perform quantitative analysis. So, think of this like personality traits.

Quantitative might give you a person's statistics, and qualitative might offer insight into their personality and personal narrative. Both are helpful in research, especially in humanities subjects. And, you need both of them in your project. So, think about which data sets will be the most useful for you to prove, or disprove, and apply to your research.

PIA MIDGLEY: Sites such as Google Form or Survey Monkey can be a great, easy way to create surveys. They give you the option to gather qualitative and quantitative data. And, they can then graph the results in different ways, making it very easy to analyse your results.

Remember, interviews with people in person, or over the phone or email, can also add to your research. And, quoting directly from these interviews will build your argument. Be sure to take notes. And, if the person being interviewed is comfortable with it, recording the conversation allows you to come back and really analyse it later.

Also, connect with your school or local librarian. They can be a font of knowledge. And, you never know the resources they might be able to help you with, or the ideas they may have of who, or how, to research your chosen area. At the end of the process, it will be the quality, variety, and analysis of your research, and then the application of that research, that will really strengthen your project and make it a success.

ANGELA MOROSIN: So, there are many ways to apply data. Here's an example. You might run practical workshops with your target audience or, as Pia mentioned, survey using Google Forms or Survey Monkey to gauge their responses. So, if we take our example above the positive impact of drama classes on young people in juvenile detention, then there are several points at which you can collect and apply data.

A, to determine if drama classes have a positive impact, you need a baseline measurement prior to running your workshops. You might gain this through online surveys, one-on-one interviews, or existing information.

B, you could observe or run workshops with your target group, and set up questionnaires, surveys, and interviews throughout the process. C, you could survey and interview again at the end of your drama workshop process, which gives you then 3 specific measurement and data collection points from which to collate data, and to draw your conclusions.

PIA MIDGLEY: Alternatively, you might research a particular playwright or practitioner's work, and the shifting attitudes and receptions of this work over time. If you choose this option, consider the relevance and significance of the questions you are asking in relation to the work.

Has the question on the investigation been undertaken before? What new approach or information are you hoping to gain from your research? Once you've collected data and undertaken the necessary research, you need to analyse and synthesise this information.

ANGELA MOROSIN: It's not enough to simply dump your data into a report. Your job is to prove that you've applied your research to your hypothesis. Thus, you need to analyse your data and draw a conclusion. It doesn't matter if your research disproves your hypothesis, provided that you clearly explain what data you collected, how you applied it, and what you learned about the specific topic of investigation in the process.

Write clearly and succinctly. And, keep referring back to your hypothesis and central ideas to ensure that you have achieved these aims. So, one of the things that will help you to show that you have analysed and synthesised effectively is the presentation and organisation of your information.

PIA MIDGLEY: The final part of your project is about how you present and execute your journey. Much like with a collection of costume designs, or even an individual performance, this comes down to your skill, in other words, your execution. So, how do you show off your skills in a research project? Well, it may not be through the use of your voice, or control of your physicality, or your ability to draw textured costumes, but it is the equivalent in an applied research way.

You need a coherent structure. Use appropriate language. Have accurate and insightful use of your data. You need to spend time structuring your final essay. It can be a good idea to start with a brief summary of your survey of the area of study. So, this leads the reader nicely into understanding your hypothesis. Be sure to have defined any important terms in your hypothesis or research question. Accuracy is really important.

For the main part of your essay, sub-headings are useful to break big sections of research into manageable, readable chunks, and maybe add graphs or quotes from a practitioner, or a participant in one of your workshops. This can add variety, and help the reader to stay engaged with your work, as well as show the depth of your research.

Make sure your language is clear, concise, and with a formal tone. Don't try to use words that sound smart. Often this will leave your essay clunky, and makes it difficult for others to follow. Write in your own voice, and do lots of drafts. Footnoting can really help. Not every graph, or every piece of data, should be included in your final essay. You need to be selective.

Make sure you include your bibliography. And, if you have data or transcripts from interviews that you really want to reference in your essay, then you can create an appendix of your material at the back of your project. It can be used as a reference point. And, although you cannot expect it all to be read, it can be a useful way to include that extra information to support your analysis.

The appendix, the footnotes, the bibliography, and all those other related documents are not going to be included in your final word count. Remember, just as a performance student needs to use their skills to bring a character to life to fully engage an audience, this project is all about how you manipulate and control your data, your use of language, and your formatting to keep your reader engaged.

ANGELA MOROSIN: Applied research offers you a wide scope to delve into the depths of theatre and performance in a way that you get to control.

PIA MIDGLEY: A great research project is one that explores your passion. It will offer insight and critical reflection and analysis into a specific issue or idea from the world of drama and theatre making. So, think about what interests you the most, and start from there. Good luck.

ANGELA MOROSIN: Good luck.

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