Stage 6 Drama – Applied Research Project – Hunter School of The Performing Arts – Student interview

[MUSIC PLAYING] MARTHA: So I’ve actually been studying drama at school since before year 11, but in particular, the kind of emphasis in later high school on analyzing dramatic work and on crafting things in a planned way– not just putting something there because it looks good or it got a reaction from the audience– thinking about why things were used in the way that they were and how it all came together was something really important that came through to me during later drama. And I think that was really essential to understand properly when going into the individual project.


So I did an applied research project for my IP in HSC drama. And this was something that hadn’t really been done very often at my school in the past, because there was such a strong focus on excellence in performance at my school. And that was really great for people who were really confident in their performing abilities.

But I always found that while I was well I really enjoyed performing, I was always more confident that I would go well when I was handing in something written or something that I prepared in advance. Whereas, on the day, performances can always go wrong, which some people love. And I enjoyed that aspect of performing.

But for such a big thing, I was someone who felt more confident in knowing that I would be handing in something that I had already perfected and it couldn’t go wrong while I was handing it in. So that was one aspect of it.

Another aspect of my choice was that I’d kind of explored research a little bit in history and geography and a little bit in science. But I hadn’t had a really strong introduction to research. But the little bits I had I really enjoyed. So I thought trying this project in drama, which was a subject that I really loved, and I haven’t really seen any research type projects before, would be an exciting new experience and something I thought I could learn a lot from.


So my work– I wouldn’t describe it as something that conveyed a lot of dramatic meaning in itself. But rather, I had a strong focus in my work on analyzing dramatic meaning in other people’s work. So since it wasn’t a performance or a narrative piece in any way, it wasn’t focused on creating dramatic meaning.

Although in a way, I think I think I did achieve a sense of dramatic meaning in the kind of journey that was evident throughout my research project, because you saw the beginning with my hypothesis. And then I take you through the steps of how I researched this and what I learned along the way and then come to a conclusion at the end.

And then also through my process, there were various things that changed a lot more. I changed my hypothesis a bit. And so the meaning that comes out at the end is to do with what I learned along the way and what conclusions I managed to draw from the material that I was working with.


So with regard to my choice of project, I was pretty wary at the beginning going into this, because there wasn’t much experience at my school with an applied research project. There was so much performance focus.

So at first, I was actually planning to do a performance IP. But then, as I looked at the other options and started discussing with my teacher, we decided that the applied research project would be a much better fit for me.

So that was kind of that initial decision-making process, which I was a little shaky on whether or not I would be doing this kind of project. But yeah, once I decided, I was pretty set on it.

The thing that did change most over time, I think, was the area that I was looking into. So I was pretty sure that I wanted to look into musical theater, because I had a lot of experience with that. I had a lot of interest in that. I had the relevant background knowledge. But as I did more research, I realized that my original framing of my hypothesis had some really ambiguous terms in it.

And so I went down a path of figuring out why they were ambiguous and started looking more into the kind of specifics of my hypothesis rather than the overall meaning. So yeah, there was definitely some changes in that sense before I came to the conclusion that I did.


So when I first had to use a logbook in the beginning of high school for drama, I kind of thought it was just this thing you had to do to get the marks– like it was a requirement, but it wasn’t actually that useful.

And in fact, the first few years that I had to use a logbook in drama, I didn’t really use it very well. I just would write down what I needed to get the marks. But as I got on towards later years of drama, I think it really becomes a crucial tool in the development of any project. But in particular, the applied research project really, really did use the logbook more than I would have expected even.

So I collected a whole lot of material for this, because it’s applied research. I had to get all of these sources, put them together, and look at them, look back through them, analyze them, put it all together. So it really all just happened in my logbook. The entire project lived inside my logbook until the really late stages when I was finishing up drafts of it.

So yeah, the majority of my work happened in my logbook. And all the material that I used in the whole project, all of my thoughts, my ideas, every piece of material went into my logbook for the project.


So when I went into this applied research project, I didn’t know very much about research. And in particular, I didn’t really understand what applied research meant. So I kind of went into it looking at bits of material, things that I happened to already know, my own personal opinions, and was kind of just chucking everything together. I came up with this hypothesis. And then I was just kind of doing a bit more of the same– putting research in, deciding what my conclusions were going to be.

And at some point, my wonderful teacher pointed out to me that an applied research project is really about getting that hypothesis and directing your research around it and towards a conclusion based on that hypothesis. So one big challenge was to do with understanding what kind of work I should be doing and how best to spend my time in getting towards the end.

And I think definitely, with a lot of support from my teacher, I kind of figured out what to put my efforts into and managed to divert my attention away from just what happened to be interesting at the time to what was actually going to be useful for my project.


When I started out with this applied research project, I really needed some kind of stimulus to get started. I didn’t really have any idea what it was meant to look like, where to start. So one of the first really useful things in my process was actually going to see on stage the year of my HSC, because there was works on display, excellent works from the year before. And there was the first two ARPs that I’ve ever actually seen. I’d never seen one before. And so just having a look through what those people did in theirs was really helpful.

And then, of course, I moved into working on mine and developing mine. And so of course, the biggest thing was teacher feedback, which luckily for me, was pretty constant, pretty readily available. And I was very fortunate in that my teacher had a fair bit of expertise in this kind of project. So yeah, definitely just regular meetings with my teacher were really essential in making sure I was on the right track at all times.

And other helpful things were getting people to read it who didn’t really know so much about what I was doing and didn’t have any background in the area. Actually, for this project, I was focusing in musical theater. And my teacher had more experience in straight drama without any music involved. And since mine was so music heavy, there was a lot of musical stuff that she hadn’t encountered before. And I think it was really useful, actually, to get her outside perspective on that side of things.

So when I went to work on the rest of it, I started getting some feedback from people who didn’t even know much about drama and just checking that it made sense all the time. That was one big thing. Yeah, so feedback was probably the most important thing in developing my applied research project.


So, if I were to encounter students starting out on this project now, I think the biggest tips that I could give would be firstly, make sure you talk to your teacher about it. This is a project that not many teachers have a whole lot of experience with. Mine happened to, which was really useful.

But if your teacher hasn’t got experience with this project, it’s possibly a good idea to reach out to another teacher or another student who has done an ARP before, because it’s going to be useful just to talk to someone, to make sure you actually understand what it is before you start working on it.

Another thing I would suggest is that if you’re going to try and get in touch with practitioners, which I really recommend, because that kind of primary source is really good in your report. And it really backs up what you’re saying if you can get current practitioners who are agreeing with you or perhaps disagreeing with you.

If you’re going to contact practitioners, start doing it early, because I didn’t start contacting practitioners until fairly late in the process, which meant that they didn’t have much time to get back to me. And so I got a few less than I would have hoped for.

And the other thing I would suggest is probably to get a strong idea in your mind about the subject area that you want to look into before you start developing your hypothesis. So there’s this area of study background research that you’re supposed to do at the beginning. And that for me kind of consisted of just thinking about what I already knew about. Whereas I think it would have been beneficial if I’d spent more time looking at the information that was out there and what I would be able to find and use my report before I started trying to put it into a hypothesis that I potentially wouldn’t be able to answer later on.


End of transcript

Content updated 22/9/2020

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