Research Paper Guidelines, Prof. Bassler
Adapted from, with permission:
Definition: A music research paper is a compilation and interpretation of factual materials and
of critics’ opinions on a specific topic relating to a musical work. Since the selection of materials is
filtered and processed by the writer, the paper reflects the author’s views also; hence, it is both
objective and subjective in content. Because the paper expresses the writer’s opinions, s/he/they
must find a topic of interest from a work that s/he/they has/have read and examined.
Description of assignment from the Syllabus: Final Essay: Every student will write a 1200-word
research essay and concert review on the musical premiere of a musical work, album, or concert of an artist.
This is due at the end of the semester in lieu of a final examination.
Length: The paper will be between 1200-1400 words, with 6-8 sources, including at least 2
books and 2 academic journal articles (NOT from a web site). The paper must include footnotes
or endnotes and a bibliography or works cited page.
● MLA format (in-text citations & works cited page)
● Chicago Manual of Style (footnotes or endnotes & bibliography)
● APA format (in-text citations & bibliography)
1. Select a topic related to a musical work that you have previously studied (could be a
wholly unknown work to you previously, but knowing the work does help). IT CAN BE ABOUT
2. Write a tentative thesis to establish your purpose for research. This is what you
are trying to support. After some reading, you may need to refine your thesis
3. Prepare a working bibliography—a list of available sources.
• Consult books of literary criticism, the RILM, Oxford Music Online, and other books and
periodicals related to your subject and author.
• Remember that much information is available online, and to utilize the library research
4. Take notes. There are two methods of note-taking: index cards and highlighting your
copies. You can also use a program such as EndNote to gather your research. Select the one that
works better for you unless instructed otherwise. If you select to use highlighting, use a different
color highlighter for each topic within your subject (comparable to main points on the outline).
5. Make an outline using the information assembled from the notes.
6. Write a rough draft following an accepted scholarly guide, such as Chicago,
MLA, or APA formats. Use guidelines from the following resources linked below.
7. Write a Bibliography (bibliography) following the guidelines of the style guide you
are using.
Research Paper Guidelines, Prof. Bassler
Adapted from, with permission:
8. Lay the paper aside; proofread later.
9. Write the final copy.
10. Proofread the final copy.
Sample Outline
Notice that no correct number of letters or numbers exists; the only determining factor is the
number of points you need to make for the required length of your paper.
I. Introduction
A. Background information connecting the reader to the subject
B. Thesis statement
II. First Main Point
A. First subpoint
1. Supporting example or detail—either your insight or a critic’s comment
paraphrased or directly quoted
Never start a sentence with a quote that you have not
a) First comment on support
b) Second comment on support
2. Supporting example or detail (your comment on supporting detail from a
a) First comment
b) Second comment
B. Second subpoint
1. Supporting example or detail
2. Supporting example or detail
C. Third subpoint (same as A, B above)
At this point continue with D, E… if needed
III. Second Main Point
A. First subpoint—Comment on subpoint (only one comment on this detail)
As in the above example, use a dash after a point if it is followed by only one
detail or comment.
B. Second sub point
1. Supporting example—only one comment on this example: hence use the
dash, not an a by itself
Research Paper Guidelines, Prof. Bassler
Adapted from, with permission:
2. Supporting example
a) Comment
b) Comment
Continue with the same sequence alternating numerals and letters until you
have completed outlining all of your material.
IV. Critical Thinking Section
A. Incorporate reactions to the source materials
B. Include insights about the research topic
C. Synthesize critical thinking threads
V. Conclusion
Affirm that the thesis has been proven
Research Resources
● NYU Libraries:
● Music Research Guides:
● RU Newark Libraries:
● Music Research Guides:
● Citation guide for Chicago:
● How to Write a Music History Paper:
● Music research guides:
RUBRIC: Research Project Rubric for Prof. Bassler’s Classes

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