Rethinking the Music History Research Paper Assignment

Erinn E. Knyt


Many final term papers can be disappointing to read because they are badly written, reflecting inadequate preparation, poor planning, or a paucity of discipline-specific research or writing skills. A lack of engagement with the subject matter often compounds technical or critical thinking problems. Indeed, one of the biggest frustrations for a teacher can be to read final pro­jects that display little or no enthusiasm. This article makes a case for alternative project formats that require the same tools of the trade and discipline specific thinking, but that are more closely aligned with the interests and career goals of music majors or graduate students in performance, music education, theory, conducting, or composition, all of whom are required to take music history courses. By presenting historical research in the format of focused program notes with accompanying recorded performances, classroom lesson plans, educational websites, source readings, or emulation compositions coupled with research essays, for instance, students become more engaged as they discover how music history can have relevance for their careers. This more pragmatic approach allows students to meld praxis and theory, or musicology and musicking while channeling the new technologies of our age to do so.


Pedagogy, Research, Music History

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ISSN 2155-109X