The [Imaginary] Final Paper – Designing a Research Project at Multiple Scales

Assignment for SEMN 295/MUSC 295 – The World Through New Orleans

Project Description

Early on in the term, each student will decide on a topic of interest for their research paper. This can be an individual artist, a particular recording, a dance, a physical site, a historical event, or a stylistic feature of a musical subgenre or practice. While you are not limited to a specific range of subjects, you should choose a concrete person/place/thing/event (rather than a more abstract concept) that is embedded in an existing musical culture of or related to New Orleans. The subject does not need to be geographically restricted to New Orleans itself.

The task for this project is not to “write a paper” about the subject. Rather, each student will develop a bibliography, discography, and potential research agenda that could be used to explore a variety of questions about the subject. These questions will range in type, from the factual to the theoretical, and in scope, from the type of question that might make an interesting footnote to the type of question that would be the basis for a scholarly monograph. You will not, importantly, be asked to actually complete more than discrete elements of this research agenda. Thus you will construct a bibliography that is larger than what you could possibly read in a 10 week term, and will detail potential research methodologies and practices that you will not be able to undertake during the Fall.

The point of this project is not only to explore the topic at hand, but to begin to ask questions about knowledge production and what counts as knowledge on this topic:

What kinds of knowledge are valued and understood as knowledge within the musical culture in question here? Who counts as a knowledgeable listener in this setting? How is that knowledge acquired, transmitted, or created? What kinds of inquiry would be relevant to understanding this subject? What methodologies or humanistic or social-scientific research are appropriate or useful for the exploration of this topic? What kinds of research are possible? Feasible? Ethical?

In the process of constructing a general overview for this subject you will write several abstracts for hypothetical academic papers and non-academic articles based on smaller-scale subsets of this imaginary research agenda. At the end of the term, you will give a preliminary presentation on one of these small-scale questions related to your topic.

Project Timeline

Week 4: Students select a research interest
Week 6: Abstract 1 Due.
Week 7: Abstract 2 Due.
Week 8: Student and Professor agree on final grading rubric.
Week 9: Mock exam due.
Week 10: Abstract 3 Due – Class Presentations