Critical Thinking and Writing Strategies in the Music Bibliography Classroom

Alexandra Monchick

Abstract


Nearly every graduate program in music performance requires a research and bibliography class in music, which is generally taught by musicologists or librarians with backgrounds in music history. This class has traditionally focused on finding research materials, citing properly, and producing an annotated bibliography; however, less attention has been devoted to critical thinking and writing an article-length research paper. Performers are often tasked with a culminating project of producing a research thesis for the M.M. and D.M.A. degrees, but unlike students in the humanities, many have had few other avenues to develop their critical thinking and writing skills. I suggest a suggest a structure for a graduate bibliography class, while also presenting original pedagogical paradigms. The first half of the class focuses on critical thinking in scholarly articles: how to speed read, identify a thesis and methodology, evaluate sources, understand context and significance, recognize successful lines of argumentation, and emulate effective writing styles. The second half is devoted to students implementing skills garnered from these readings into their own writing. I divide the paper-writing process into steps: choosing a research paper topic, compiling an annotated bibliography employing primary and secondary sources (utilizing the most up-to-date internet databases), composing an abstract, making a sentence outline, writing a first draft, and editing. I have developed models for choosing successful topics, writing abstracts, and avoiding logical fallacies in argumentative writing, which are unique to my course.

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ISSN 2155-109X