Graduation with Distinction / Honors Program

The objective of graduation with distinction is for students to conduct original research culminating in a Senior thesis, or a performance or a choreographic project that demonstrates academic excellence. Graduation with Distinction could be achieved in the form of a written Thesis, Performance Project or Choreographic Project.

Students with a grade point average of 3.5 are eligible to apply for Graduation with Distinction with a Dance major, with an interdepartmental major or Program II. The award of Distinction requires the maintenance of this grade point average throughout the study.

There are several key elements to the planning, approval and successful completion of the Graduation with Distinction:

  • During the Spring semester of the junior year, students will declare their Senior Project advisor (Dance faculty) who, in consultation with the student will solicit a committee of two additional full-time faculty members, one of whom would have to be a member of the Dance Program. The Project advisor will serve as chair of the Distinction committee.
  • With the help of the Senior Project advisor, students will prepare a Senior Project Distinction proposal together with a bibliography to be submitted to the Distinction committee by April 1 of their junior year. The Distinction committee will offer recommendations and finally confer if the proposal is acceptable for Distinction. By April 15 the committee approved proposal must be submitted to the DUS.
  • If interviews with human subjects are involved with the Distinction project, an IRB certification may be necessary. Please inquire with the Duke Office of Research Support (IRB). Students must acquire IRB certification, if necessary, before August 20 of the Summer of their Junior year. In non-clinical instances, IRB processing may take over one month after submission of the application.
  • In the Fall of the Senior year, majors will be required to take a capstone Research Methods course (Dance 487.01) during which they will study research methods, interview methods (if applicable), complete their research, compile a bibliography for the Senior Project and submit a research paper (25-30 pages).
  • In the Spring of the Senior year, majors will enroll in a second capstone Research Independent Study (Dance 499) with their Senior Project advisor. Students will have weekly meetings with the Project advisor and complete the Senior Project in a timely manner - before the last week of class.
    • ​Graduation with Distinction Thesis:
      • Majors will submit the final draft of the thesis to the Distinction committee at least by two weeks before the last day of class of their Senior year. The Project should present a significant achievement in research and demonstrate a clear mastery of the research field, a substantial historical, analytical, empirical or theoretical paper of 30-50 pages in length.
    • Graduation with Distinction Choreography/Performance:​​
      • Majors seeking distinction in dance through choreography and/or performance will present a major project and an accompanying process paper of 15-25 pages in length that analyzes and elucidates the project's conceptual, thematic and technical aspects. The performance and choreographic Senior Project must be presented to the public at least a week before the last day of class.
      • The Distinction Project is a substantial creative work - solo or group - that is a minimum of twenty minutes of performance or choreography. This project can take many forms. For example:
        • Lecture/demonstration - a presentation that combines research and creation.
        • Technology and performance - may include video/computer/technology components but contains physical expression.
        • Site specific work.
        • Evening of choreography and/or performance with some thematic or organizational component.
        • Interdisciplinary project that contains physical expression.
      • A process paper of 15-25 pages in length that analyzes and elucidates the project's conceptual, thematic and technical aspects.
        • It should not only document the creative actions and decisions taken during the project, but also serve as a reflection of the usefulness of your preparatory research and of things learned.
        • It should include an analysis of how the process and presentation of this project has informed or may inform the development of future work.
        • It may include influences and inspirations from any field that have contributed to your creativity and process for this original project.
  • Presentation of the Senior Project:
    • Distinction Thesis students will present their work on the Friday before the last day of class in April as part of a Distinction Seminar following the format of a professional conference presentation, with the Project advisor serving as discussant.
    • Choreographic and/or performance projects will be presented at least a week before the last day of class in April. An earlier presentation in the semester is encouraged. The process paper will be submitted to the Distinction committee within 48 hours after the presentation. In addition, majors will make an oral defense of their Distinction Project during the last week of classes. The Distinction grade is due on the last day of class.
  • Faculty committee will confer after the presentation and adjudicate if the Project has been approved for Distinction. Minimum grade of A – [A minus] is necessary for Distinction. The Senior Project advisor/Chair of the Distinction committee will submit the Distinction grade before the last day of class.
  • Spring semester of the junior year: students will declare their Senior Project advisor, and form a Distinction committee.
  • April 1 of the Junior year: submit Distinction Proposal and bibliography for approval to Distinction committee. Distinction committee will confer and declare the possibility of acceptance or rejection of the proposal together with suggestions for additions or edits to the proposal. The Senior Project Chair will make sure that the suggestions of the committee are incorporated and finalized before April 15.
  • April 15 of the Junior year: Submit committee approved proposal; the names, designation, email addresses of the faculty committee and the committee chair to the DUS. 
  • August 20: Students needing IRB certification will have completed the process and received certification. Contact Lorna Hicks for more information. Lorna Hicks manages the Office of Human Subjects Protection, administers the Institutional Review Board for Non-Medical Research, reviews exempt research, and provides training for campus investigators.  

One level: Distinction

Graduation with Distinction Thesis:

  • Originality of the research project and methodology. The student’s research statement should include research questions or the goals of the project, and an overview of the methodological approach.
  • Substantive literature review of primary and secondary sources that place the student’s research questions within its appropriate context.
  • The clarity of research focus and arguments.
  • Comprehensive and detailed analysis – theoretical as well as performative.
  • The organization of the paper.
  • Interpreting results within the research context. Is there a compelling discussion of the implications of findings?
  • The thesis provides a thoughtful and thorough discussion of possible future studies or alternative approaches.
  • The strength and depth of bibliographic material.
  • Academically accepted citation methods in the US. The citation format should be consistent throughout the thesis, and references should be professionally presented.

Graduation with Distinction Choreography/Performance

  • The process paper will be evaluated according to aspects of the Writing Rubric (posted on this site) as they are appropriate to the project. Also, the process paper will be evaluated as to how well it analyzes and elucidates the project's conceptual, thematic and technical aspects.
  • The project will be evaluated according to aspects of the Choreography Rubric and the Technique and Performance Rubric (posted on this page) as appropriate to the specific nature of the project.
Important note on the Evaluation of the Distinction Project: It is the student’s responsibility to read the Choreography, Technique and Performance, and Writing rubrics very carefully, and to ask your supervisor to clarify any aspects of the rubrics you don’t understand. 


Dance majors who choose to graduate with Distinction are eligible for the Trinity Research Enhancement Award towards their Senior Project. Majors will be able to use these funds for expenses towards their Distinction Project. Please inquire with your primary advisor if you have questions about which expenses would qualify for this funding.

There are two ways to use this fund:

  1. You incur the expense on your own, produce the original receipts and then request departmental Business manager in the Dance Program office for a reimbursement. Our Staff will provide you the forms to fill out and submit to the Dance office for claiming a reimbursement.
  2. If you wish to make a purchase online, the easiest way to do this is to order it from the main Dance Office requesting our Business manager to order it on your behalf. She will order it using her Procurement card and debit your funds in that amount.

The funds must be used towards the Distinction Project work only.

  • The Senior Project advisor’s primary responsibility is to provide feedback and guidance to the student in the preparation and completion of the senior’s Distinction Project – a written thesis, performance show or choreographic production.
  • In the Spring of the Junior year, the Project advisor will work with the student with polishing and finalizing the Distinction proposal and bibliography and forming a 3 member faculty committee for which, the Senior Project Advisor will serve as chair. S/he will supervise a timely submission of the students’ proposal to the DUS for approval of the faculty committee by April 1.
  • During the Spring of the Junior year, the Project advisor will also discuss the need for IRB permission. If necessary, the advisor will supervise the student’s completion of the IRB process and make sure the permission is acquired in timely manner before August 15. The advisor will also take the IRB online test to acquire the IRB certification valid for one year.
  • During the Fall of the senior year, the Project advisor will continue to work with the student in planning, developing, polishing and narrowing the scope of the Distinction project. S/he will have bi-weekly meetings with the student throughout Fall to discuss the progress.
  • During the Spring of the senior year, the Project advisor will help the student in creating a week-wise timeline for the successful planning, developing, progression and completion of the Project.
  • The advisor will supervise a timely completion of the Distinction thesis draft and its submission to the faculty committee by April 8.
  • The Advisor will also serve as chair to the Distinction committee and hence, will supervise the student’s seminar presentation of the project and lead the committee discussions on evaluating and critiquing the project accomplishments. The final decision of the Distinction committee regarding the Distinction approval and the letter grade is due for submission to the DUS by the last day of class. A minimum of A- [A minus] is required for Distinction pass.


  • Upon submission, the Faculty Readers will determine whether the Distinction proposal and bibliography clearly demonstrate the student's understanding of the general aims of the study and the intellectual focus of the project. The Readers will evaluate whether the student's proposal:
  • is focused and clearly delineating the central idea and theme of the Project
  • that the Project proposal is doable in a timely manner
  • contains a clear thesis statement and the rationale for the specific aims; that the Project presents intellectual and academic excellence
  • concludes with a thoughtful discussion of the significance of the project and possible future directions
  • Upon request by the student, the faculty reader should provide feedback on an initial draft of the thesis submitted by the first draft deadline.
  • Upon submission of the final draft of the Distinction thesis or choreographic presentation, faculty readers will evaluate the grade and approve the Distinction. After completing the Evaluation Form, faculty readers are requested to forward it the committee chair by April 22.