Researching, Talking & Writing about Music

  • Level: C/4 (1st-year Students)
  • No. of credits: 10
  • Module Code: MUS00074C

Aims and Content

In the Autumn Term we will investigate the nature of research, and the original, active and critical thought-processes that it involves. Different types of sources will be examined, and ways to approach them discussed. Through practical exercises, students will acquire the basic skills necessary to use e-sources such as JSTOR, Grove Online and RILM successfully. During similar activities, an understanding of appropriate attribution and referencing will be developed, and the department house style concerning citation introduced. We will examine what makes a good seminar presentation in terms of content and delivery; this will tie in with the requirement to give a seminar in a first-year project.

In the Spring Term the focus will be on the presentation of research in written form.  We will consider what makes for a convincing essay, the ways in which to structure material and present a coherent argument.  We will consider appropriate registers of written style, and check that all the requirements of a scholarly apparatus are in place.

Throughout the year there will be weekly lectures given by a wide range of academic staff.  Called ‘Listen to This!’ these will present a number of works which individual staff consider central to their understanding of music and their own academic practice – these will range across musical history and genres and also serve as introduction to different musicological approaches.  In each case the work will be placed into its historical and cultural context.


The final assessment is through the submission of an essay of approximately 2000 words, submitted by Monday Week 5 Summer Term 4pm, which takes as its topic one of the works discussed in ‘Listen to This!’ Students will be expected to research the area around their chosen work, and present a discussion of the music that situates it in its cultural context.

There will also be short pieces of written coursework, which will be assessed formatively. Each will involve developing different skills, such as appropriate attribution, clear presentation of an argument, or using language appropriate to the context. Feedback will be given on a piece-by-piece basis, to identify strengths and weaknesses at an early stage.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, students should:

  • have some understanding of what constitutes research, and the kind of original thought- processes that it necessitates
  • be aware of different types of sources and their advantages and disadvantages
  • be able to examine a text critically
  • be able to carry out successful searches of e-sources such as JSTOR, Grove Online and RILM
  • understand what is meant by attribution, referencing and plagiarism
  • be able to refer to guidelines on house-style, referencing and citation formats
  • have considered what makes a good seminar presentation and put some of these ideas into practise
  • have become better equipped to choose a suitable essay topic, and understand the importance of planning and structuring an essay
  • have discussed elements of good and bad writing style, begun to analyse and improve their own writing
  • have acquired knowledge of various research strategies and techniques
  • have widened their knowledge of music through history, gained insight into a number of key works, and be aware of the many different ways in which music can be studied.