A standard research or “term paper,” similar to what you would write for any class in the humanities and social sciences. Identify a topic—a musical genre, a performer, an instrument, a musical movement—and write the short proposal for your discussion section. Your TA may have suggestions on how to further refine or develop your idea. Develop a bibliography of 4-5 (minimum) peer-reviewed, academic sources about the topic, and read them. These should be books or academic articles; you may reference additional online sources as well, but not in place of these 4-5 sources. Consult Grove Music Online or the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (databases available through the UCR Library website) to get started. Individual topic entries in those databases include bibliographies that can help you find other sources. A search in databases like JSTOR, MUSE, or RILM will also help you find information.
This is a course focused on music, so make sure you spend some time listening to the music you are writing about! YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services all offer access to millions of recordings of music from virtually every corner of the globe. Include references to particular songs, recordings, or videos in your paper, citing where you found access to them.
In addition to the guidelines above regarding length and sources, your paper should have a clear thesis statement in the introduction, ideas that are developed in the body, and a conclusion. A research paper is not a dry summary of facts. It is an interpretation of a given topic, and as such, a contribution to how we know and understand that subject. That interpretation, and the scope of the paper itself, should be evident right at the beginning. Rather than, for instance, starting with:
“This is a paper about music in Zimbabwe. I will describe the main instruments and genres played there.”
A much better paper might begin:
“Musicians in Zimbabwe played a key role in the revolutionary movement against white minority rule. In this paper, I will trace how chimurenga songs in the 1970s inspired Shona youth to value their cultural heritage and struggle against the oppressive policies of the government.”
As with all options, if you have questions about how to write the paper or what ideas to develop, please reach out to your TA in discussion sections or office hours for help.