World Music Topics

you will need to submit a 7- to 8-page research paper over a world music topic of interest to you. You may choose any topic you like, with the exception of the music that you listen to on a daily basis (for most of you that will mean American pop music; for others it will mean the commercial music of your country of origin). The rationale behind this assignment is to have you broaden your horizons by becoming better acquainted with the unfamiliar. Don’t try to skirt the spirit of this assignment by making some kind of vacuous case to write a paper over the explosion of the K-Pop phenomenon or the use of music in video games. Look at the syllabus. Try to figure out what the spirit of this course is. Choose a topic that is commensurate with what you see in my instructional plan, and write accordingly.

Your paper will need to include the usual components of a formal paper worth 25% of your grade in a 3-hour course: a thesis paragraph that lays out your intent in clear terms, ample documentation of your research using an accepted citation style of your choosing (Turabian, APA, etc.), a works cited list, and 7-8 pages of well-written prose in which the usual grammatical, syntactical and stylistic conventions that apply to serious writing are assiduously observed.

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You should count on consulting at least five scholarly sources (encyclopedia entries, journal articles, monographs, etc.) in the course of your research. If you plan to use online sources, make sure they are scholarly – Wikipedia does not count, nor do web pages constructed by travel agencies, etc. Don’t ask me about this later: read it now and take it to heart.

You should use a standard font such as Times New Roman, 12 pt., double-spaced.
In order to receive full credit for this assignment, you must submit work that is gratifying for me to read instead of aggravating. Keep reading.

Here are a few things that I find gratifying:

•    Writing that reflects serious research and synthesis, with evidence of ample time given to the project to yield a good result
•    Writing that reveals something of the person behind it and that person’s joy of discovery
•    Writing that demonstrates a genuine commitment to learn and appreciate new things
•    Writing that is “lyrical” in quality: that is both competent with respect to mechanics and beautiful in its overall architecture and details
•    In short, writing that satisfies the requirements of the assignment and measures up to the standards one should expect of an educated citizen living in the 21st Century

Here are a few things that aggravate me – infractions that result in “points off”:

•    Citations in nonstandard format – especially citations that consist of nothing more than copied/pasted web links (at least go to the trouble of making the font congruent with the rest of your paper, and remove the hyperlinks!)
•    Spelling errors (e.g. “a lot,” “alright”)
•    That subset of spelling errors sometimes characterized as homonym or homophone confusion (“there” for “their,” “their” for “they’re,” “it’s” for “its,” “red” and “lead” for “read” and “led,” etc.; in this regard especially, please understand that you have not proofread your paper merely for having enabled your computer’s spellchecker feature)
•    Grammatical and syntactical errors: subject/verb non-agreement, split infinitives, sentence fragments, comma splices, etc. (I really get steamed over these)
•    Any overuse of a word that induces “word fatigue” in the reader
•    Excessive use of slang and colloquialisms (“excessive” usually means “more than once”)
•    Use of modifiers as “padding,” especially when redundancies are created thereby
•    Passive-voice constructions that lack citations (I do not object to your use of the first-person active voice; I ask only that you give credit where credit is due – i.e. do not plagiarize)
•    Rambling, disjunct writing that strays from the intent that was expressed in your thesis paragraph
•    Failure to provide adequate treatment of the chosen topic (hint: when casting about for a topic to write on, choose narrow over broad)

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There is a very simple exercise that you can do, that will help you determine whether or not the work you are about to submit will pass muster. Think of it this way: this paper is worth 25% of your final grade. So before you submit your work, ask yourself this question: “According to my estimation of my own personal worth and capabilities, is the work that I am about to submit substantial enough and sufficiently well-written that if I turned in four such pieces of work, that would suffice to earn me a high “A” in a course that bears three hours’ worth of university credit?”

I would like for you to approach this assignment with this guiding principle in view at all times: write a paper that will give you a surge of pride when you happen to find it in a box in your attic thirty years from now, read it, and are moved to say something like, “Wow! – for a 20-year-old who still hadn’t decided on a major, that’s not bad!” Any work that is potentially embarrassing should probably not be turned in. For more information on World Music Topics check out:

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