doctoral degree requirements

A minimum of 135 units of graduate courses and seminars in support of the degree. These units are in addition to units for the doctoral dissertation.
Please note that all substitutions to the required courses must be in the department and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies in response to a written request by the student. Students are allowed to take up to 6 units of TAPS 390: Directed Reading to count towards the 135 units for graduation.

Within the 135 units minimum for the degree,  TAPS Ph.D. students must complete the following core seminars:


TAPS Ph.D. students must complete the following workshops:

In the first year students take TAPS 371P Theater and Performance Making, which focuses on generating original creative work through a range of techniques as well as TAPS 372 Directing Workshop: The Actor-Director Dialogue. In the second year, students usually take TAPS 370A The Director's Craft, which explores the relationship between acting and directing and actors and directors. TAPS 376 is the production and performance of creative work during the Winter quarter of the 2nd year, a project that is approved by the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) and supervised by a faculty member.

TAPS Ph.D. students must complete TAPS 335: Introduction to Graduate Production.
elective seminars

In addition to the three core seminars, Ph.D. students must complete five additional seminars within TAPS (to be worked out with adviser). The unit minimum for these elective seminars is 20 units.

The student must demonstrate reading knowledge of one foreign language in which there is a major body of dramatic literature. The language requirement must be met before the student can be advanced to candidacy. The language requirement may be fulfilled in any of the following ways:

  1. achievement of a sufficiently high score (70th percentile) on the foreign language examination prepared by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Latin and Greek are not tested by ETS.
  2. a reading examination given each quarter by the various language departments, except for Latin and Greek.
  3. pass with a grade of 'B' or higher a 100-level or higher foreign language course at Stanford.

Students must participate in seven quarters of assistantship in Theater and Performance Studies:


    Three quarters of research assistantship with faculty members are required. Generally, this requirement is fulfilled in the third year.


    Four quarters of supervised TA-ship at half time are a required part of the Ph.D. program. The requirement is normally met by serving as a TA for three courses during the fourth year and one course during the fifth year.


Students must complete three examinations (comprehensive; qualifying; and department oral) by the end of the first three years of study at Stanford.

    The first year exam is based on a reading list of dramatic works, choreography, and theoretical texts in theater and dance which is sent to students in the summer before the first quarter of study begins. The exam is an open book, take-home exam made up of several essay questions. Students sign up for the 2 unit course TAPS 336: Comprehensive 1st Year Exam to prepare.

    The qualifying examination consists of a 25-30 page essay on a pre-1900 historical topic, relevant to the field of Theater and Performance Studies. The student select sa TAPS faculty adviser to guide them through the writing process. The essay is due to the Student Services Officer in the 8th week of Autumn Quarter. The Graduate Studies Committee selects two additional TAPS faculty readers who evaluate and provide readers’ reports for the student. The student substantially revises and resubmits the essay in the third week of Spring Quarter. Evaluation criteria include clarity of expression, ability to undertake original historical research, and capacity to sustain a persuasive argument. The readers, together with the adviser, evaluate the revised essay and determine if the exam constitutes a pass. The performance project is completed in the Winter Quarter. A faculty adviser works with the student throughout Autumn and Winter quarters on the production and attend a combination of dress rehearsals or final performances as part of the evaluation. After the performance, the student participates in a viva voce, or talk-back, with the supervising faculty. Students register for TAPS 376 Projects in Performance for 4 units while completing their performance project.

    This exam is based on a literature review and annotations for three reading lists created by the student in consultation with the 3 faculty members with whom they will meeting about their readings. The form of the exam is an opening 20 minute overview by the student integrating the readings followed by questions from the committee about the reading lists.

At the end of the second year of study, the Graduate Studies Committee makes a decision on whether or not to admit an individual student to candidacy. Based on its evaluation of the student, the Graduate Studies Committee certifies the student's qualifications for candidacy. Candidacy is an important decision grounded in an overall assessment of a student’s ability to complete the Ph.D. program at a high level. As detailed in the department’s Graduate Handbook, there are prerequisites for admission to candidacy: the completion of specified coursework, the first-year qualifying exam, the second-year qualifying papers and the language requirement. However, fulfillment of these prerequisites and grades in courses constitute only a part of the evidence weighed by faculty in making this judgment. Since the Ph.D. is conferred upon candidates who have demonstrated through their dissertation the ability to conduct substantive, original research that contributes to knowledge in theater and performance studies, the candidacy decision also rests upon indicators of the student's ability to conduct work in the field. Upon favorable action, the student files a formal application for candidacy, as prescribed by the University, by the end of Summer Quarter of the second year. By University policy, candidacy is valid for five years unless terminated by the department. Failure to advance to candidacy results in the dismissal of the student from the program.

The dissertation prospectus must be approved by the candidate's adviser and by the departmental Graduate Studies Committee two quarters after taking the department oral. This should be done in, or before, the autumn quarter of the fourth year. Within 30 days of approval, a student should schedule a prospectus colloquium with the proposed reading committee (the dissertation director and two other faculty members). The prospectus must be prepared in close consultation with the dissertation adviser during the months preceding the colloquium. The prospectus should be 5-8 pages and minimally cover three things: the research question and context, the methodology for research, and a complete chapter by chapter plan.

In Theater and Performance Studies, the University oral examination takes the form of a dissertation defense. A full draft of the dissertation must be submitted at least 75 days before the proposed degree conferral. The examining committee consists of five faculty members: one faculty chair from outside the department who does not share an appointment with the department of any of the examiners, the student's primary adviser, two additional readers who are familiar with the dissertation project, and a fifth faculty member attending the oral examination.

The dissertation is an original work of scholarship created under the supervision of a primary dissertation advisor. The dissertation is the capstone of the Ph.D. in Theater & Performance Studies.


The program and progress of each student must be evaluated by the Graduate Studies Committee at the end of each academic year. At the end of the first year, the Graduate Studies Committee evaluates the work of each student in classes, seminars, examinations, and performance. Production planning in the spring of each year for the following season is contingent upon students making satisfactory progress. Continuation in the program depends upon the recommendation of this faculty group. At the end of the second year, the committee reviews the student's work in consideration of being admitted to candidacy. By the beginning of the fourth year, students are expected to have developed an approved dissertation prospectus. Funding is contingent upon satisfactory progress. Failure to make satisfactory progress may result in dismissal from the program.
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