PhD Program Requirements

PhD Degree Requirements

Students cannot receive a stand-alone PhD in TAPS. Rather, they enter in conjunction with a partnering department and pursue their degree jointly. Degree requirements for the combined degree in TAPS will of necessity vary somewhat from student to student, but all candidates should expect to complete the minimum requirements below (students who joined the program in or before 2020 and elected to follow alpha requirements can find them here). To supplement and clarify the generic TAPS requirements, we encourage students to refer to the specific expectations for each joint degree pairing in the TAPS graduate handbook.


Students take a total of 12 courses toward the TAPS degree, typically by the end of the third year. Those who have completed relevant graduate coursework prior to matriculation can petition the DGS to count up to three of those courses toward the 12 course total. The coursework in TAPS will include:

  • Two core classes designed to provide a rigorous introduction to advanced study in the discipline: One graduate course in performance theory and one in performance practice as research (typically TAPS 49700).
  • At least three seminars within the partner department, to be determined in consultation with the TAPS DGS. These may be but need not be cross-listed in TAPS. Please consult with the DGS if the partnering department is unlikely to offer three relevant graduate courses during your coursework years.
  • The September Lab in Performance as Research (SLIPAR): This required practicum is typically taken before the beginning of year 3, but the timing may vary for students in some degree pairings. If this 3-week course is taken for credit, it may count as one of the 12 courses toward the TAPS degree. It may also be taken as a non-degree course. Students may be allowed to participate in SLIPAR more than once, but in any case will only be allowed to take it for credit toward the TAPS degree once.
  • Six elective courses, of which up to 3 can be courses in neither TAPS nor the partner department.


In addition, students in TAPS will be expected to:

  • Participate in the TAPS graduate workshop. The TAPS workshop brings together students, faculty, and invited guests to discuss work in progress as well as current developments in the wider field of theater and performance studies.
  • Adhere to the Language Requirement(s) of their partner department.
  • Fulfill a teaching requirement: Students will be expected to complete two quarters of TAPS-related teaching, one of which is typically a teaching assistantship or instructorship in the partner department, and one of which is assigned by the TAPS program. Teaching opportunities in TAPS include teaching assistant positions, preceptor positions for undergraduate thesis courses, instructorships of TAPS core courses, and instructorships of self-designed courses. In addition, the program encourages students to pursue, in consultation with faculty, less structured pedagogical training and experiences designed to equip them to teach in performance departments. For more information, please refer to the TAPS Pedagogical Training Plan.

We also recommend, depending on one’s career’s trajectory, that students complete one internship in theater or performance practice with a professional theater, dance, or performance company, either in Chicago or with national or international partners. We invite students to check in with the TAPS Academic Administration for information on possible internship opportunities and funding. Internship report forms can be found in the Downloads menu to the right.


Oral Examination, Qualifying Portfolio, and Dissertation Proposal

Students are expected to complete the oral exam in TAPS at the outset of the fourth year, and by the end of the fourth year to compile a qualifying portfolio that includes a dissertation proposal, and to assemble a dissertation committee including members from both the partner department and TAPS. Note that some of our partner departments, including Music, may expect students to complete the proposal on an earlier schedule.

Qualifying Oral Examination

The qualifying oral exam provides an opportunity for the student to look back and lend coherence to their coursework and also to look forward to the dissertation proposal and to the longer-term project of developing a profile as a scholar, artist, or scholar-artist. 

The makeup and timing of the qualifying exam will vary by partner department; please cross-reference the expectations for particular degree pairings. In any case, the TAPS exam should be prepared and administered in consultation with at least one faculty member in TAPS and a second faculty advisor from the partner department. 

Ideally preparation should begin in the spring of the third year or earlier, and the exam should be completed no later than the beginning of Autumn quarter in year 4. Oral exams are typically not held during summer quarter. Note that some of our partner departments, including Music, may expect students to complete the proposal on an earlier schedule. Typically, a student must have completed all required coursework (with no outstanding grades or incompletes) and any foreign language requirements before taking the TAPS oral examination.

Where there is disciplinary overlap between the two programs, relevant examinations may be counted jointly toward both programs’ requirements, with approval of the Directors of Graduate Studies in both programs. In general, we expect TAPS students, including those whose partner departments have written exams only, to complete an oral exam based on a list of at least 20-30 items relevant to their TAPS research before a joint exam committee. 

The exam has two chief aims:

  1. To give students knowledge of material that will prepare them for teaching.
  2. To focus their knowledge and the questions they ask moving toward the Dissertation Proposal.

With these objectives in mind, examiners will look for:

  • A capacity for careful analysis
  • The ability to make connections and distinctions between items and across the disciplinary fields in which the student is working
  • The ability to present critical ideas orally
  • Historical knowledge in the chosen area(s)
  • An awareness of basic critical problems in the area and of different critical modes by which such problems are pursued
  • An ability to account for the interplay between their performance practice and concepts covered in the exam 

Dissertation Proposal and Qualifying Portfolio

The qualifying portfolio offers a snapshot of the student’s independent work in the TAPS program in the first 3-4 years. In most cases, we expect that assembling it will involve collecting material already completed rather than undertaking a substantial new project. The portfolio will typically be completed and the proposal submitted one quarter after the PhD exam (not counting the summer). Students should aim to complete the portfolio by the end of year 4, and in any case no later than the end of the fifth year. 

The portfolio will include, as separate PDF files in a shared folder:

  • A joint dissertation proposal prepared in consultation with a committee comprising faculty from both programs, typically following the proposal writing conventions of the partner department. The exact structure and length of a student’s proposal will be determined in consultation with both Directors of Graduate Studies. In any case, the proposal should include three components: (1) the scholarly and artistic stakes of the project; (2) the methodologies to be employed; and (3) a detailed outline of the planned chapters and, if appropriate, the planned creative work.
  • An annotated portfolio of creative work to date, including written work and documentation from projects in the Performance Practice as Research class and SLIPAR
  • A TAPS-relevant article-length paper, of 6000-10,000 words, that can be submitted for publication. This could be a paper prepared in a partner department’s article-writing or advanced writing workshop. If the partner department has no such proseminar, students will work with a TAPS faculty advisor to revise a piece of writing, typically from their coursework, for publication.
  • Copies of the qualifying and oral exam lists for the partner field & for TAPS
  • Evidence of completion of the partner department’s language requirement(s)
  • Evidence of regular participation in the TAPS workshop

Students will need to submit their portfolio for approval before advancing to candidacy.


TAPS aims to equip students to pursue a range of careers within and beyond the academy. To that end, as a supplement to the formal and informal mentorship offered by faculty, we ask that all students submit, typically one quarter after advancing to candidacy, a draft of a TAPS-oriented teaching portfolio together with an articulation of their professional aspirations. We encourage students to contact the program for samples of these materials.



Students complete a single dissertation which has committee members from both programs and meets all requirements of each program. The dissertation will be defended in accordance with standard processes, typically at a joint dissertation defense before members from both programs. The timeline for finishing can vary and should be discussed with one’s committee, but in general TAPS encourages students to complete the dissertation by the end of the sixth year.