chapter  3
10 Pages

Choosing Topics and Formulating Appropriate Research Questions

ByGregory Young, Jenny Olin Shanahan

In this chapter, we discuss the importance of formulating a research question that is unanswered, yet answerable, and the processes that could be used.  It is essential that the development of research questions and refining of a research topic occur after, and are informed by, a thorough literature review.  Many times, undergraduate music students’ initial suggestions for research topics are much too broad in scope, and a literature review would quickly reveal this. Conversely, it is problematic when students’ ideas are too narrow in scope. If a research question can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” answer, it likely is inappropriate for a research study.  When students are formulating a research question, consulting with a professor outside of the music discipline can offer a different perspective.   Such mentorship broadens the base of expertise from which students can draw. We will provide free-writing prompts that guide students and faculty mentors in the crucial work of focusing the scope of the research.