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This guidebook serves a dual purpose - it provides practical assistance in writing research papers and other types of writing projects in the field of music, and it also offers help with writing effective prose and addressing common problems encountered when writing about music. This revised edition contains expanded discussions of resources for musical research, available on-line and on CD-ROM. The book also instructs in how to use a personal computer to produce a paper. It is intended to help the college student write clearly and effectively about musical issues.
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Focusing on general writing issues as well as special challenges of writing about music, this useful, practical text provides clear, step-by-step explanations of the process of writing a paper based on a musical topic. In addition to coverage of research, organization, drafting and editing, it also includes a thorough section on basic writing skills. The Second Edition has been both expanded and updated to reflect the latest research, resources, references and sylistic conventions.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Since its publication in 1990, this writing guide for undergraduate music majors has proved useful in music departments and schools of music in the United States and Canada. It has been used in academic courses by both music majors and nonmajors. A second edition in 1997 attempted to improve on both the content and the tone of the first edition, and updated the listings of resources useful for research and writing.
PURPOSE OF THE THIRD EDITION
It is now time to publish a third edition of this guide. The information about resources in the second edition is out of date, particularly in view of the appearance of important new print resources, especially the second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and the proliferation of Web sites useful for research. In recent years, musicological research has continued to flourish in such areas as cultural and gender studies, areas I deal with more thoroughly in the new section about research. In addition, I am a co-author, with Silvia Herzog, of a new text for beginning graduate students in music, Introduction to Research in Music, published by Prentice Hall in 2001. There is, of course, a certain amount of overlap in content between the two books, but also, working on the graduate-level text clarified my thinking on several issues connected with research and writing and led to clearer ways of presenting certain material. Once the necessary changes were made, these new ideas proved useful in this undergraduate guide as well.
There is clearly a greater need than ever for a manual like this. Even though all students now use either their own computers or the sophisticated equipment colleges and universities provide for their use, many students still hand in papers that are actually preliminary drafts in desperate need of revision and proofreading. The irony is that today's word-processing equipment makes revising and editing so much easier than it was in the old days when we used typewriters. I have noticed another strange phenomenon since the advent of personal computers. In all my undergraduate classes in recent years, there have been one or two students with a flair for graphics who hand in papers with marvelous illustrations on the title page; unfortunately, that creativity and skill does not always extend to the papers inside. In fairness, I must point out that in every class there are also some students who have finely honed writing skills, who can argue complex ideas clearly and skillfully, and who produce prose that is a pleasure to read. The expansion in today's college population widens tremendously the gap between the best and the worst students in skills such as critical thinking and persuasive writing. Instructors constantly worry about the difficulty of organizing their courses so that they continue to challenge the best students while still making it possible for less-gifted students to succeed. My hope is that this manual will be of use to all undergraduate students. Students who are already skillful writers can use it as a review, and students who somehow entered college without basic writing skills can also learn some useful things from it. In addition, this guide may continue to be useful for new graduate students who have not had a decent writing course in their undergraduate years or for whom English is a second language.
Another reason for producing a third edition is that the language is still under assault all around us. We are bombarded daily by imprecise and careless language. On television broadcasts of football games, coaches babble at half time about their hopes for a better second half—"We made too many mental errors in the first half. We're gonna have to suck it up, find some people who can step up and go out there and make something happen!" The words sound resolute, but what exactly do they mean? Newscasters talk about neighborhoods "decimated" by floods or fires, and observe, "Hopefully, the rain will end by the weekend." Even leading newspapers, probably relying too heavily on their computers' spell-checking programs, regularly print such gaffes as "waiting with baited breath," "pouring over the records," and "tow the line." By the way, if you don't see any problem with those examples, this guide may be very useful for you-or you might want to check your dictionary. Since the last edition of this book, new cliches have sprouted up, taking over the language like crabgrass. Everywhere English is spoken, "at the end of the day" is used in the sense of "when the dust settles" or "when all is said and done." That last expression, come to think of it, never made much sense either. Some people can't speak two sentences without inserting the ubiquitous "bottom line," "raising the bar," "been there, done that," or the strange-sounding "24/7" meaning "all the time," as in "That guy must practice 24/7!" Others cannot put a sentence together without including one or more of the all-purpose meaningless fillers popular with some groups—"like," "totally," and "y'know."
The point of complaining about the way English is abused all around us is not that we should try to hold back the tide, so to speak, or freeze English into an unchanging, unspoken language like Latin. English has thrived on constant change in its long and tangled history and has absorbed new words from every language around it; it also has a long history of wildly colorful slang. But when you write an academic paper, you are expected to have control over the language and the skill to choose appropriate words and expressions with clarity and precision so that you can communicate your ideas effectively to an academic audience. Good writing has grace and rhythm, and it is a satisfying experience to rebuild and reshape a tangled snarl of awkward expressions until the words flow gracefully and convey exactly what you want to say, with power and persuasion. My fondest hope is that this book will help students to write clear, convincing, persuasive prose on musical topics.
CHANGES IN THE THIRD EDITION
I already mentioned the necessity to update several sections, such as the discussion of new areas of musicological research and new resources for research, both print and electronic. Readers familiar with previous editions will also notice a major reorganization of the material, particularly in two sections. First, it seemed dated to have one chapter on the process of writing a research paper and a separate chapter on using v3ord-processing equipment to produce a paper. For years now, no papers have been produced any other way; for that reason, those two chapters have been combined into one. In the section on writing, it seemed to make better sense to combine several short chapters on style into one longer chapter. The result is that the number of chapters is smaller, although the manual is actually longer, and I hope more useful. Finally, every sentence has been revised and rewritten; I hope that an already useful book has been vastly improved.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
This guide is not intended to be read cover to cover. It offers practical advice in several areas, including writing a research paper, writing style, general writing problems, and the special challenges of writing about music. Although it is aimed primarily at the undergraduate music major, some graduate students may profit from a review of the process of writing a paper or from the chapters on effective writing. Although some students may find some of the comments and suggestions too elementary, all the questions discussed—even the most basic ones—are included because they still cause problems for many students. Familiarize yourself with the book's organization, study the table of contents, and skim through the whole book so that you are aware of the areas it covers. In the future, when you are involved in a writing project, you will then be able to locate the material that may be of practical use to you.
The book is divided into four large sections. Chapters 1 and 2 discuss the issue of writing about music. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 cover every stage of the research paper process, from choosing a topic through doing research, outlining, writing the draft, and editing and revising, as well as questions of format. Chapter 6 discusses other kinds of writing about music that you may be involved in—seminar presentations, concert reports, program notes, and essay examinations. Chapters 7 and 8 treat writing in general—principles of style, effective writing, and common problems. The concluding section offers some last words of advice. In the Appendix is a sample paper, newly chosen for this third edition, which you can use as a model, and some questions to aid you in your analysis of the paper. Skip around the book and use what you need. My hope is that all students will find helpful information somewhere in this book. At the least, the book should direct them to other resources where they can find the help they seek.'
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