How to Write a Research Paper on Music
A research paper on music is a lengthy academic text written for a course on music theory, history, analysis, or composition. Research papers on music use a selection of scholarly resources to explore a particular topic in a thorough way. A research paper on music is different from a paper or essay in which a student is expected to present an individual analysis or interpretation of a piece of music on his or her own. Such assignments or reports should be based in the student's own analytical and interpretive opinions. Research papers on music, on the other hand, typically present an overview of what others have said on a particular topic, though they do so in a way that supports the writer's own, individual interpretation.
A research paper on music should focus on a very specific idea, practice, theory, or principle. It would be folly for a learner to attempt to write a research paper on Romantic piano music; this is an enormous topic, on which tomes have been written. Rather, the student should spend some time considering what specific aspect or aspects of Romantic piano music he or she finds most compelling, and develop a topic from that. For instance, the student may be particularly fascinated by the grandiose, impassioned style that marks Romantic piano works. Or, he or she may be enamored with the way the Romantics transformed a particular form, such as the sonata. Or perhaps the student's primary interest is in the way the Romantics influenced their Modernist successors or, even more particularly, the way a single Romantic influenced Modernism, or a group of Romantics influenced a single Modernist. Topics such as these are complex and interesting; they require in-depth answers. It is this type of topic that a student should choose for his or her assignment on music.
Research papers on music should be researched in music libraries. Music libraries have far more resources than a regular academic library's music section because their primary aim is to be a resource for music scholars and pupils. Music libraries will therefore carry a far more specific and extensive collection of music-based literature. Students may find it helpful to employ the assistance of a music librarian as they become familiar with their nearest music library and its organization.
Once adequate research has been gathered and assimilated, the student must consider the best way to synthesize and present that information. This process is often greatly assisted through the development of a report outline. The student should clearly detail all of the information he or she wishes to include in the report in the outline, and then arrange it in such a way that allows for a fluid and organized progression of ideas. Once the outline has been written, the student is ready to write the document. This will require the student to follow the outline, present the research he or she has discovered, and comment intelligently on that research and what it suggests about the topic. Students should always proofread their documents carefully before submission.
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