MUSI 205 Research Tutorial Topic Selection: Actions/Strategies
The purpose of this phase is to identify and select a general topic that you can then explore further for your presentation. To do this, you will want to:
- Read your assignment carefully. Note important details of the assignment prior to commencing thinking about a topic. The length and type of paper you're expected to give makes a difference in the focus of a topic and the resources you may consult. Often, the assignment's instructions will indicate the number of sources you need, how current the sources must be, and whether you need to use primary or secondary sources. Other considerations include, due date (Wednesday, November 15th, 2007 - will you have time to retrieve information from the library, interlibrary loan, etc.?), what the presentation is worth, and where are marks assigned (introduction, abstract, citation style, etc.). Spend time planning with respect to assignment guidelines so that you start on the right track from the beginning.
- Read your lecture notes for ideas. Note interesting topics that have been discussed, or will be covered in upcoming lectures. Review recommended reading lists and your course textbook (Mavericks and Other Traditions in American Music by Michael Broyles). Consider possible topics based on personal interest in light of assignment requirements and time commitments. Pay attention in class, following up on topics that spark interest, even if only mentioned tangentially.
- Browse American music journals. Read the table of contents and any articles that catch your eye in a few American music journals. What are people talking about? What are people researching? The Music Library has compiled a list of suggested journals to browse. If browsing from home, make sure you authenticate yourself using the proxy server.
- Explore by listening. Listen to music presented in class and find related artists/recordings to generate ideas. The Music Library and Professor Burtner have compiled a list of suggested listening resources for making these connections.
- Browse scores in the library. Professor Burtner recommends browsing the oversized score shelves in the library to generate ideas if you are interested in music corresponding to European Avante Garde of the 1950s-1980s.
- Talk to others. Discuss possible topics with classmates, friends, even family. Consult with informal experts (e.g. TA, graduate student, professional in the field). Make an appointment with your professor to discuss preliminary topic ideas.
- Most importantly, start NOW. It is important to start considering and weighing potential topics as soon as you know that you have a research assignment. Do not wait until a couple of weeks before the assignment is due. Beginning early allows you to explore a variety of topics, rather than being "stuck" with a topic of little personal interest.
Content in this page was used or adapted with permission from the Workshop on the Information Search Process for Research (WISPR) tutorial created at the University of Calgary.