MusM Music (Ethnomusicology)

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Dissertation or Critical Edition

Course unit fact file
Unit code MUSC40110
Credit rating 60
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Full year
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course-unit gives students the opportunity to identify a research project of their own choice, to develop their topic by demonstrating their skills in research design (including formulating a set of coherent research questions, establishing appropriate methodologies with which to answer them, and setting their project within the context of existing research on the topic), and to carry out their research in order to investigate their topic in a detailed and sustained manner, so that they are able to make an original contribution to knowledge in their chosen field. Their completed dissertation will demonstrate their ability to synthesize and analyse the results of their research and to present their findings using a clear, coherent and sustained argument.


In place of the dissertation, students may opt instead to produce a critical edition of one or more substantial works of music, following the editorial procedures adopted in the highest quality scholarly editions. It must include all the critical apparatus characteristic of such editions, including a substantial editorial introduction and commentary, and, as with the dissertation, it should make an original contribution to the field.


No pre-requisite units, but students should be experienced in carrying out independent research projects in musicology or ethnomusicology and will normally have completed MUSC 30400 or an equivalent dissertation project at Level 6 or above. 


  • To enable students to develop an independent research project that makes an original contribution to knowledge in their chosen field
  • To equip students with the appropriate skills to enable them to design a postgraduate research project effectively
  • To assist students in the development of appropriate skills to enable them to carry out and complete a piece of independent research
  • To provide guidance to assist students in synthesizing and analysing the results of their research, and in presenting their findings using a clear, coherent and sustained argument
  • Where the critical edition is chosen, to equip students with music-editing skills consistent with those used in the highest-quality scholarly editions
  • Where the critical edition is chosen, to provide guidance to assist students in presenting the results of their scholarly editing in a manner consistent with those used in the highest-quality critical editions of music.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate detailed specialist knowledge and conceptual understanding of the chosen topic and related fields, including of the surviving primary sources and their contexts
  • Show comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the available secondary literature
  • Make an original contribution to knowledge in the chosen field, appropriate to a dissertation or critical edition at MusM level

Intellectual skills

  • Demonstrate the ability to identify and apply appropriate research methodologies that enable them to investigate and write about their chosen topic
  • Undertake wide-ranging critical evaluation of their research materials in order to place the results of their original research in context
  • Demonstrate an ability to organize and synthesize the results of their research in order to develop a sophisticated, sustained and convincing argument

Practical skills

  • Identify and locate relevant primary and secondary sources in order to address a research question
  • Show an ability to draw together their ideas by interpreting and synthesizing information from a broad range of primary and secondary sources
  • Demonstrate skills in organising the results of their research in a complex, coherent and convincing argument that is sustained over the length of the dissertation
  • Demonstrate advanced skills of written expression through which they can communicate their ideas clearly and coherently
  • Show an ability to present the results of their research appropriately, including through the use of well-chosen examples, illustrations, figures and tables

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Show the ability to work under self-direction on a research project of their choice
  • Produce high-quality work with a disciplined approach to time management, self-motivation and critical self-awareness
  • Show advanced problem-solving skills through the identification and analysis of appropriate data
  • Demonstrate well-developed IT skills enabling them to communicate their research results with professional presentation standards

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Demonstrate higher-level analytical skills in evaluating research problems and challenges
Project management
Show strengths in time management via self-directed study
Problem solving
Demonstrate advanced problem-solving skills, including identifying source materials, gathering information and formulating clear and appropriate methodologies
Written communication
Show an ability to communicate complex ideas and arguments in written form

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative

Weighting within unit (if summative)

  • Research outline


N/a (marked on pass/fail basis)


Students opt to complete one of the following:

  • Dissertation on a topic of their choice



  • Critical edition of a musical work or works of their choice



Feedback methods


Feedback Method Formative or Summative
One-to-one verbal and/or written feedback is provided by the supervisor on the student’s topic proposal Formative
One-to-one written feedback is provided by the supervisor on the Research Outline (including research questions, aims and objectives, research context and methodology) FormativeFormativeFormativeFormativeFormativeFfFormative
Written or verbal feedback is provided by the course-unit director on the Research Outline presentation Formative
One-to-one verbal or written feedback is provided by the supervisor on work in progress on the coursework project Formative
Written feedback is provided by the supervisor on one draft chapter of no more than 3000 words Formative
Additional one-to-one feedback is provided during the consultation hour or by making an appointment Formative
Written feedback is provided on the completed coursework project Summative


Recommended reading

Students will compile their bibliography with advice from their supervisor, but may also consult the following guides:


Biggam, John, Succeeding with your Master’s Dissertation: A Step-by-Step Handbook, Maidenhead, 2011.

Bond, Alan (ed.), Your Master’s Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Revise, 2nd edn., Taunton, 2005.

Furseth, Inger and Larry Everett Euris, Doing your Master’s Dissertation: From Start to Finish, SAGE Study Skills, London, 2013.

Wisker, Gina, The Postgraduate Research Handbook: Success with your MA, MPhil, EdD and PhD, Palgrave Research Skills, 2nd rev. edn., London, 2007.

For students opting to produce a critical edition the following are recommended:

Apel, Willi, The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900–1600, 5th rev. edn., Cambridge, MA, 1961.

Bent, Margaret, ‘Editing Early Music: the Dilemma of Translation’, Early Music, 22 (1994), 373–92.

Caldwell, John, Editing Early Music, 2nd rev. edn. Oxford, 1995.

Dumitrescu, Theodor, Karl Kügle and Marnix van Berchum (eds.), Early Music Editing: Principles, Historiography, Future Directions, Turnhout, 2013.

Grier, James, The Critical Editing of Music: History, Method and Practice, Cambridge, 1996.

Grier, James, ‘Editing’, in Grove Music Online,

Rastall, Richard, The Notation of Western Music: An Introduction, 2nd rev. edn. Leeds.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 20
Project supervision 5
Tutorials 5
Independent study hours
Independent study 570

Additional notes



Musical Language and Symbolism in Impressionism: Debussy and Ravel.

A Musical Holocaust Memorial: Shostakovich and the Impact of the 13th Symphony, Babi Yar.

Violin Virtuosity and the Politics of Freedom.

‘Opera Incarnations’: New Directions in Productions and Adaptations.

A study of Cross-Dressing in Chinese Opera: the Male Dan and Female Xiaosheng as Examples.

Mediating Blackness: the Whitewashing of Black Narratives in Classical Music. 

Hip- Hop and Migrant Communities in Contemporary Britain. 

Orchestras and Audiences: Creating a Canon of Live Video Game Music. 


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