Music History Research Paper
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Music History Research Paper

Music History Research Paper Submission Guidelines

(MMus - Music History, DMA - All Programs, Ph.D - Music Education)

As part of the application process, students applying to certain graduate programs must submit a written paper demonstrating their ability to conduct research and to write at the high standard required for graduate studies. The research paper must meet specific standards and guidelines, so it is important for the applicant to observe the following criteria:

1. The paper must have a title page giving the name of the student, the title of the paper, and the date of completion. If the paper was written as partial fulfillment of a course requirement, give the name of the course.

2. LENGTH: The paper must be generated by word processor and must be a minimum of 10 pages of double-spaced text, exclusive of musical examples and bibliography.

3. FOOTNOTES: Footnotes must be included and must be in MLA (Modern Language Association) or academic format, consecutively numbered, and placed at the bottom of the page. APA (American Psychological Association) style is not acceptable for papers in music history.

4. BIBLIOGRAPHY: The bibliography may cite books, editions, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and periodical literature, and may also include references to recordings, interviews, websites, etc. Papers which have been written with reference to websites only are not acceptable. If a website is among your sources, give its official name, the URL (website address), and the date consulted. Unrefereed sites such as Wikipedia are not acceptable sources of information.

5. All pages must be numbered

6. The paper must demonstrate evidence of original analysis, synthesis, or interpretation. A summary of the history of an instrument, for example, or a review of a composer or performer biography is not appropriate. Writings on such topics will not meet the guidelines of the submitted research paper requirement.

7. A paper which analyzes musical style or makes frequent references to musical passages must include appropriate musical examples. These must be numbered and cited in complete for, e.g. “Ex. 2, Beethoven, Sonata in B-Flat, op. 106, I, mm. 35-38.” Citations to musical examples should be placed at the bottom of the page that contains the example.

Suitable writing in formal papers is termed academic style. It is objective, unbiased, specific, and supported by evidence. Speculation, when supported by fact and logic, can prove interesting as part of an historical paper and may be included. Use proper grammar, correct spelling, and punctuation. Avoid the use of coined words and colloquialisms.

The purpose of the research paper application requirement is to provide evidence of a student’s ability to conduct research and present findings in written form. The subject of the paper must be related to an established, historical topic with a substantial literature. Additionally, the paper should be written in such a way that is understandable to an audience beyond those intimately associated with the topic area. It is not the purpose of a research paper to impart to the reader one’s musical preferences or personal tastes.

A research paper may take any of several forms. It may be:

  • interpretive (“What’s so Funny about Mozart’s ‘Musical Joke’?”)
  • comparative (“Settings of Goethe’s ‘Kennst du das Land’ by Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf”)
  • analytical (“Fugal Writing in Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem”)
  • musico-technological (“The Keyed Bugle and Haydn’s Concerto”)
  • socio-musicological (“Nadia Boulanger, Germaine Tailleferre, and Women in French Musical Society”)
  • a musical genre (“Samuel Barber and the Orchestral ‘Essay’”)
  • a musical activity (“The Brass Band in American Life from the Civil War to Sousa”)
  • an individual publication (“Music in the Bay Psalm Book”)

The paper should not deal exclusively with the sociology of music, e.g. “The Politics of Popular Music in South Africa in the 1990s.”

Note: A study on a jazz-related subject will be considered if it demonstrates comparable research skills, exhibits independent synthesis of ideas, and is neither solely biographical nor derived from secondary accounts (e.g. “Duke Ellington’s Rockin’ in Rhythm – The Evolution of a Jazz Masterpiece”).