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Category Research
Type Guidelines
Approved by Senate, 28 February 2024
Date Guideline took effect 28 February 2024
Last approved revision 
Sponsor Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise)
Responsible Officer Dean, Graduate Research School


The University of Otago PhD Regulations recognise that PhD research may be undertaken primarily through a practice and that the practice (process and product) may be submitted as substantial evidence.

These guidelines cover matters that need to be considered for admission, confirmation, submission and examination of candidates producing a PhD with Practice Research.

Organisational scope

These guidelines apply to PhD candidates intending to submit a PhD with Practice Research.


Academic unit
This may be a department, centre, programme or school.
May include, but is not limited to: live performance (such as theatre, dance and music); visual art and craft; creative writing; indigenous creative, oral or traditional practice; media production; creative on-line content; objects of material culture.


  1. Admission

    1. Expression of intent

      PhD with Practice Research applicants should indicate their wish to use a Practice Research methodology in their initial research proposal prior to admission into the University of Otago PhD programme. A brief, provisional description of processes/outputs potentially to be submitted for examination (e.g., performance, exhibition, design, novel, film, carving etc) should be identified, and an indication should be given of resources anticipated to be required for the research. A conceptual framework for the praxis should also be outlined. If the project is to involve any collaboration with other artists, it is important to detail the role of the candidate and the roles and nature of any contribution being made by others.
      PhD research is concerned with the production of epistemic insights (“new knowledge”). Creative practices may not in themselves constitute research, regardless of aesthetic excellence or critical reception. In a PhD with Practice, candidates are required to undertake an investigative inquiry that leads to substantial new insights, effectively shared. The submission of a practice for examination must be accompanied by the submission of “complementary writings” (exegesis) which located the practice in a conceptual framework and a lineage (practice review). Together, the practice and complementary writings (exegesis) constitute “the thesis”, evidencing the research inquiry and its findings and, accordingly, the written component is shorter than that required of an ordinary thesis (typically, c. 30,000 – 40,000 words).
      From the perspective of te reo Māori practitioners and researchers, intellectual rigour can be measured through the conveyance of knowledge in oral and written forms of te reo Māori. Various oral art forms, such as karanga, whaikōrero, waiata and haka, are means through which expertise in mātauranga Māori can be delivered in te reo Māori and consequently assessed for its validity and strength of an argument. Such a Māori centred practice component might form a significant component of a PhD.
      Note: please consult the relevant academic unit for further guidance on using a Māori centred practice component for a PhD with Practice Research.
      Only in exceptional circumstances would candidates registered for a PhD by thesis be permitted to change their registration to PhD with Practice.
    2. Prior training and experience

      PhD with Practice Research applicants will be required to demonstrate expertise, advanced training and/or professional experience in the discipline(s) involved in their proposal. Advanced training may be understood as a postgraduate degree or diploma; professional experience may be understood as at least two years of employment and/or professional productivity in the relevant field(s); expertise in Māori oral art forms is demonstrated by the practice of such oral forms over an extended period of time, and by the acknowledgement of such expertise by others (in the Māori world it is for other people to speak of someone’s knowledge and expertise).
    3. Supervisor selection

      In addition to the University of Otago requirement that a primary supervisor will hold a PhD or have equivalent academic status, for PhD with Practice Research at least one of the supervisors will have relevant experience or standing in the field of practice or practice research.
  2. Quality of Practice

    1. Since the primary criterion, as for any PhD, is a significant contribution to new knowledge or epistemic innovation in the area of practice, the quality of the practice, and its documentation, must be sufficient to the purpose. Any claim to the originality of the practice per se must be demonstrable either, in itself, or through explication of process and location in a lineage in the complementary writings.
  3. Exegesis (typically 30,000 – 40,000 words, maximum 50,000 words)

    1. The exegesis is required to do more than merely describe the practice (process/product). Though findings may be manifest in the practice itself, they may not be self-evident to the viewer or the examiner on first view. Hence, it is necessary to accompany submission of a practice with a document that serves additionally to make the insights explicit. This exegesis outlines the methodology (Practice Research; Practice as Research; Artistic Research; Practice-led Research) and documents the process of investigation with critical reflection on it. It presents the conceptual framework and context of the project, including articulating and evidencing a research inquiry.
    2. An exegesis may typically be comprised of:
      1. Introduction – outlining the project, its origins and questions, contribution to knowledge and significance to the field/s; details of any contributions to the creative work made by collaborators.
      2. Methodology – articulation of the research methodology and methods and materials being utilised.
      3. Context/Conceptual Framework – a section on the context of the practice, including such matters as physical, traditional Indigenous, historical, artistic contexts as well as conceptual frameworks for the project.
      4. Location in a Lineage – a review of similar practices facilitates the identification of what is new about the submitted practice.
      5. Documentation of Process and Analysis – a detailed discussion of the project, closely analysing and reflecting upon how the project was conducted and how the different elements were drawn together in the project and to what effect, attributing, where required, the contribution of any collaborators.
      6. Conclusion – elucidating the new insights, recounting the findings and future research directions.
      7. Bibliography or references.
  4. Confirmation of Candidature

    1. Confirmation of nominated practice research

      At the progress meeting considering confirmation, candidates must confirm their wish to pursue PhD with Practice Research and seek confirmatory approval from the Academic Head (HoD), and the Graduate Research Committee. Confirmation will require demonstration of satisfactory progression in all aspects of the inquiry.
    2. Content of review

      In addition to the normal expectations during the provisional period for a PhD candidate, it is expected that a candidate intending to present a practice will have:
      1. clarified the intended examinable format of the practice (as discussed in the examination guidelines below) within their completed research proposal;
      2. completed a draft of the methodology section of the exegesis, outlining how the investigative inquiry will lead to substantial new insights from their process/practice in a PhD research context.
    3. Criteria for progression

      The decision of the Academic Head (HoD) and the Graduate Research Committee to approve a PhD candidate’s suitability for a PhD by Practice submission at, or following, a progress meeting will be informed by:
      1. the candidate's demonstrated ability to engage in a PhD with Practice Research;
      2. the candidate’s progress within their provisional year; and
      3. the Academic Unit’s capacity to provide resources for the research, supervision and examination processes required by the candidate’s research proposal.
  5. Submission and Examination

    1. Submission formats

      Candidates for PhD with Practice Research will normally present in one or more of the following three formats:
      1. as printed material integrated into the bound exegesis document;
      2. as a digital recording in a portable format bound into the front of the exegesis document;
      3. as a live performance or exhibition (to be documented and included in the exegesis document).
    2. Examination

      Under standard PhD regulations, the thesis (practice and exegesis) will be examined as an integrated body of work in respect of its substantial new insights. The examiners may require minor amendments to the thesis, or may require the thesis to be revised and resubmitted. In making their determination, the examiners of a PhD with Practice Research may require amendments to either the practice and/or exegesis submission.
      Where amendments or re-examination is required for a PhD which includes a live performed practice or exhibition, the Convener of Examiners must be consulted to determine the feasibility of restaging the live performance or exhibition for examiners. Where this is deemed not possible, examiners will be referred to audiovisual documentation of the resubmitted performance or exhibition. See also the Regulations for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
    3. Examination of live performance/exhibition

      Where the practice involves live performance or an exhibition, examiners should normally experience the work “live” and also be given access to any video recording of the event/s. While the research process might incorporate (and make reference to) several performances or exhibitions, only one live performance/exhibition can require the attendance of the doctoral examiners. The costs associated with bringing examiners to such an event (if separate from the oral examination visit) will be borne by the Academic Unit in which the student is enrolled. The event should be considered as independent of, though possibly temporally adjacent to, the oral examination. It is expected that the normal protocols determining that examiners do not confer on the candidate’s work would be observed at any such event. It is expected that the submission of examiners’ reports, the oral examination and the recommendation of the Convener of Examiners will otherwise follow the normal schedules and protocols for PhD examinations (not be guided by the timing of examiners viewing of practice at live events).
    4. Attribution

      It is the candidate's responsibility to attribute correctly the contributions to creative work made by collaborators. This attribution should include commentary in the introduction of the thesis (and elsewhere as appropriate) regarding the nature of any collaboration and the respective roles of the candidate and any collaborators (in this work).
    5. Copyright

      It will also be candidate’s responsible to obtain any necessary third-party copyright or performers’ permissions for:
      1. any subsequent public dissemination of recordings;
      2. presentation on any publicly-accessible digital archive.
      This permission should be obtained through media release forms or other relevant contracts.
    6. Documentation

      All productions, indigenous practices or exhibitions being presented for examination must also be recorded (and documented). It will be the candidate’s responsible to organise such recordings in liaison with the school, programme or department where appropriate.
      If a live production or exhibition is presented for examination as a digital recording, the candidate is expected to articulate their role in the digital recording and editing process within their written thesis. The digital recording should also be at least 4K definition or a similar high standard.
      The candidate will be expected to gain the permission of any co-producers of the digital recording of the work.

Related Policies, Procedures and forms

Contact for further information about this Policy

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact:

The Dean, Graduate Research School

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