Music 344 Research Paper

Spring 2017

Scholarly Approaches to Writing about Music

Choosing a Topic
Past Topics
Models & Format
Important URLs

Choosing a Topic

You can choose any topic that conforms to these guidelines:
  • It must deal with some aspect of music or with musical works written and/or performed after 1750
  • It must engage in historical analysis
    • In other words, it should look to the past—it should not outline your current philosophy of music or speculate about the future
  • It must be of vital interest to you, something you might use later
  • It must make a contribution to music scholarship by presenting new data or by interpreting available data in a new way
  • Sufficient bibliographical materials must be available
  • You cannot turn in a paper written for another course

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Past Paper Topics

These are samples of papers written by past Music 344 students:
  • Motown vs. Led Zeppelin: Case Studies of Two Management Styles
  • Revolver: New Recording Techniques
  • Carl Orff: The Development of Schulwerk
  • Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, May 29, 1913: The Art Riot Which Began a New Century
  • Aaron Copland: The Development of Appalachian Spring
  • The Development of Effects Processing and its Influence on Popular Rock Music
  • What the World Needs Now: The Essence of “The Bacharach Sound”
  • Pearl Jam: Ten Versus No Code
  • Porgy and Bess—From Book to Play: Analysis of Certain Literary Aspects
  • The “Metaforce” of The Seduction of Claude Debussy
  • A Case Study: The Short Lived, Extraordinary Success of Gussie Lord Davis, Composer and Songwriter

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The Research

Finding good resources is crucial to the success of your paper. Good quality print sources will always be more valuable than online sources; a bibliography with mostly online sources will not get you as good a grade as one with many print sources. The following must be included in your final bibliography as a bare minimum for a “B” grade (an “A” bibliography will include more than the bare minimum, with at least 15 strong sources):
  • Any relevant articles from Oxford Music Online (Grove Music Online)
  • 2 print sources—period histories, genre studies, or other studies in music history—that mention your topic
  • As many books as possible (print sources or eBooks) that deal specifically with your topic
  • At least two articles on your topic from scholarly journals or periodicals
  • Relevant, trustworthy(!) online resources, but only if they include information not found elsewhere
  • Entries for any musical scores you consulted
  • Entries for any recorded materials you used (MP3s, CDs, CD-ROMs, LPs, DVDs, Blu-ray, audio or VHS tapes, etc.)
  • Any other materials of vital importance to your topic
For further, valuable information on research, primary sources, and other issues relevant to this paper, click here to see David Fuller’s article, Papers.

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Models & Format

Model your paper after the professional papers in scholarly journals like Musical Quarterly, American Musicological Society Journal (JAMS), Nineteenth Century Music, Perspectives in New Music, etc. These articles demonstrate the research methods, critical thinking, historical analysis, writing style, and documentation required of all musicians who engage in scholarly writing about music. To prepare for this style of writing, several Encounters offer opportunities to look critically at such articles. You should also consult the sample paper in the Appendix from Wingell’s Writing about Music, pp. 152-166 (Library RESERVE or Blackboard Encounter Readings for Encounter 5). It provides good examples of quotations, footnotes, score excerpts, and so on—many of the things you will need to give your paper a professional look. Finally, your paper must be original work, and you cannot submit a paper written for another course.

The paper must include:

  • Title page
  • The body of the paper (your research and arguments)
  • Bibliography
The body of the paper must be 7-10 pages long (double-spaced and word-processed). Document your sources when quoting or paraphrasing by using end notes or footnotes. Use MLA format, and consult sample articles from Musical Quarterly, JAMS, or other scholarly journals to see how scholarly articles handle citations, musical examples, and other features you might need to use in your paper.

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Follow these production deadlines for your paper. (See the Course Schedule for specific due dates.)
Turn in with Encounter 1 Hand in abstracts that describe three possible paper topics. (An abstract is a brief summary of a paper’s main argument.) Begin looking for bibliographic materials in the library.
Turn in with Encounter 2 Hand in preliminary bibliography. Library work will help you choose a topic. Submit interlibrary loan requests NOW.
Turn in with Encounter 3 Hand in your final paper topic with a one-paragraph summary of your thoughts about the content of the paper and a description of the primary sources you will use.
Turn in with Encounter 4 Hand in your final bibliography, typed in MLA format. (Bibliography must include the “minimum” items listed under The Research above, but you will need more sources than that if you want an A for the bibliography.)
Turn in with Encounter 5 Hand in a one-page outline, flow chart, idea map, or summary that begins to flesh out the content of your paper.
2nd to last week of classes (see Course Schedule) Bring complete first draft of your paper to class for a peer review exercise. Use written feedback to revise your paper.
Reading Day
(Monday of Finals Week)
Final version of paper is due at 4:00 pm.

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If you follow the steps above, take time to do a decent job, and develop your arguments carefully from your primary sources, you can easily earn an A or B. I am looking for thorough research, strong arguments, and thoughtful conclusions, but I especially want to see an original contribution to research on your subject. Your paper should be “ready for publication”—that is, the writing should be clear and purposeful with no distractions of grammar, punctuation, spelling, or format.
  • Body of the paper—70%
  • Bibliography—30%.
  • 10% will be subtracted from your grade if you do not bring a complete first draft to class and participate in the peer review exercise during the second to last week of classes (see Course Schedule for due date).
  • 10% will be subtracted from your grade if your final draft is turned in after 4:00 pm on Reading Day (Monday of Finals Week).

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Important URLs

Library Resources Page for History & Literature II

David Fuller’s article, Papers

Mark Harbold’s Web Page

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Page created 1/25/17 by Mark Harbold—last updated 1/25/17.