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How do I Write a Music Research Paper?

By Bethany Keene
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

To write a music research paper, you will first need to settle on a specific topic or thesis argument, then find research to back up your thesis and create a paper from that research. Obviously, "music" encompasses a staggering amount of topics, so you will first need to narrow the topic down to something that interests you. For example, you might write about the history of a specific genre of music; a biography of a composer or other musical artist; music theory; or even about a musical instrument, just to name a few.

Once you have selected your topic, you will need to create a thesis statement for the music research paper. Most instructors do not want a research paper to simply be an "information dump," where you will simply present a collection of facts on a chosen topic. Rather, a music research paper should present a specific argument; your research and facts should then help to back up that argument, or to present an opposing viewpoint. The thesis statement is one of the most important steps of a music research paper, because it helps to guide all your research forward.

Once you have determined your thesis statement, begin your research. You might search in books, periodicals, or online for information to back up your thesis. It is important to gather enough research; it might be best to gather more than you think you'll need just to be sure you have enough to write a complete paper. Once you have your research compiled, begin to create an outline.

An outline for a music research paper can be very helpful. As you create your outline, try to break it up by paragraphs. List the main idea of the paragraph, followed by the supporting arguments and facts that you will make within the paragraphs. You may also write an introduction paragraph now, which should give a general overview of the paper. Be sure to cite your sources as you go, and to use quotes as appropriate; even if you rephrase a quote, you should make sure it is properly cited, making clear that it is not your own work.

Once your outline is finished, it should be easy to then write the paper. Keep paragraphs brief and to the point, and rely on your outline if you get lost. Complete your paper with a conclusion; do not begin the conclusion paragraph with the phrase "In conclusion," and do not introduce new ideas in this paragraph. It should instead sum up the paper and display how you proved your thesis statement.

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Discussion Comments
By summing — On May 13, 2012

I am really in need of some essay writing help. I have a good paper topic but I am not sure how to format research papers. Most of my paper is typed out but I do not know how to organize it, or how to organize my bibliography.

Are there any good resources online for getting essay writing help? I think if I could look at some examples of the term paper format that would help a lot. Thanks!

By gravois — On May 13, 2012

I have been struggling to find a good music research paper topic. I have done research online to find out what has been written about a lot and what has been neglected, but there seems to be a lot of academic energy in this particular area of study. I have had a few ideas but most of them have been written by someone else already.

I am not asking you guys to find a topic for me, but what are some ways that I can expand my thinking and hopefully find the inspiration I need to write something really original? Where do the best paper topics come from?

By Ivan83 — On May 12, 2012

There are many steps to writing a good music research paper but none is more important than spending a lot of time with the piece of music that you are writing about. It is not enough to listen to it ten times, you have to be familiar with that piece of music like you wrote it yourself.

A deep engagement with the music is really the only way to ensure that you are making relevant, accurate analysis. Any music that is worthy of academic study is complicated by definition. You have to listen over and over in order to pick out all the subtle nuances.

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