MusB Music / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:

Course unit fact file
Unit code MUSC30400
Credit rating 40
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Full year
Available as a free choice unit? No


The Dissertation is an independent research project focused on a topic within musicology or ethnomusicology chosen by students in consultation with a member of staff.  It is an opportunity to conceive, plan, manage and realise an independent research project, under supervision, and it will develop your planning, project management, research, listening and writing skills. The Dissertation is your own work and will express your own argument, interpretations, analyses and enthusiasms, and the end result comprises your unique contribution to musicology or ethnomusicology.

In principle, topics may relate to any area or tradition of music, broadly conceived, whether focused on ‘texts’, practices or a combination of both. The approach may entail a focus on aesthetics, analysis, performance, reception, compositional process, and so on. On this basis, students have in the past explored a huge range of issues and ideas. The chosen topic may usefully relate to other areas of the final year (such as one of the Advanced Study topics), either in its specific area of focus, in terms of the broader context, or in methodological or theoretical approach. Where appropriate, students may choose to pursue a critical edition in place of a full written dissertation, subject to approval.

Supervisors help students to define their topic and keep an eye on whether the project is within a student’s ability to complete in the timeframe and permitted word limit. Students take part in one-to-one supervisions and complementary research training workshops throughout the academic year. Research training workshops focus on skills in planning and managing research, supervision, research proposals, research methods, research ethics, and writing up research.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Analysis MUSC20011 Pre-Requisite Optional
Music Cultures of the World MUSC20721 Pre-Requisite Optional
Aesthetics MUSC30502 Co-Requisite Optional
Advanced study in Musicology A MUSC30510 Co-Requisite Optional
Music post 1900 MUSC20222 Pre-Requisite Optional
Music and Consumption in the Digital Age MUSC20511 Pre-Requisite Optional
Advanced Analysis MUSC30011 Co-Requisite Optional
Introduction to Participatory Music MUSC20802 Pre-Requisite Optional
Advanced Study in Musicology B (40) MUSC30520 Co-Requisite Optional
MUSC30400 Co-Req: one of MUSC30011, MUSC30502, MUSC30510, MUSC30520 MUSC30400 Pre-Req: two of MUSC20511, MUSC20722, MUSC20222, MUSC20802, MUSC20011

At least 40 credits of Level 2 Music in Culture options or other essay-based course units

Additional Co-requisites at least one of: ·
Advanced Study in Musicology (MUSC30510/MUSC30520) ·
Aesthetics (MUSC30502) ·
Advanced Analysis (MUSC30011)


  • To provide students with an opportunity to undertake independent research under individual supervision in an area of musicology or ethnomusicology, in consultation with a member of staff
  • To provide students with an opportunity to write in-depth and at length on an aspect of music based in their own interests and degree programme
  • To provide students with an opportunity to formulate their own distinctive research question/s
  • To build on, and develop, students’ competencies in independent study, research and critical thinking including: skills in defining, undertaking and completing a project; assessment, evaluation and deployment in their own work of critical material on their chosen topic; writing skills appropriate to the demands of an extended piece of professional research

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course unit the successful student will have demonstrated:

  • independence in her/his ability to formulate a suitable research topic based on her/his own interests and degree programme
  • resourcefulness – including an ability to use electronic resources as appropriate – in her/his ability to research that topic
  • the ability to assimilate and deploy appropriately critical material on that topic
  • the formal and intellectual skills requisite to the production of an extended piece of written work
  • an ability to undertake and complete an extended research project

Knowledge and understanding

  • demonstrate detailed, specialist knowledge and conceptual understanding of the selected dissertation topic and related issues
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a specific research method and analytical approach in musicology or ethnomusicology, appropriate to their field of enquiry
  • demonstrate a good command of the available secondary literature

Intellectual skills

  • undertake wide-ranging synthesis and critical evaluation of material in order to produce a sophisticated argument
  • demonstrate originality and resourcefulness in individual research

Practical skills

  • draw together ideas from a broad range of sources, organizing, interpreting and synthesising information in written form
  • construct, develop and sustain a complex and lengthy argument
  • demonstrate advanced writing skills and clarity of exposition.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • produce high-quality work independently with self-motivation and critical self-awareness
  • demonstrate well-developed skills in the use of ICT and a professional presentation of findings

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Analytical skills: analysing and understanding ideas at a high level from diverse areas of musicology
Project management
Project management skills: planning and implementing a focused project from initial idea through to completion
Oral communication
Verbal communication skills: communicate ideas and information clearly in verbal form (tutorials and workshops)
Carrying out in-depth research independently
Written communication
Written communication skills: communicate ideas and information clearly in written form (draft chapters and complete project)
Document presentation skills: professional processing of tables, music analysis and imagery (final project)

Assessment methods

Dissertation 100%


Feedback methods

Students gain written and verbal feedback at a number of points throughout the project:

  • from their prospective supervisor on their topic proposal
  • from their supervisor on their topic title, abstract and bibliography
  •  from their supervisor on their dissertation plan (incl. short written component)
  • written feedback and/or annotations on one draft chapter of no more than 2000 words
  • one-to-one verbal feedback on work in progress
  • additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)
  • peer-to-peer feedback through workshop discussions 

Recommended reading

Students will compile a working bibliography with advice from their supervisor. Titles of general support include:

  • Beard, David, and Kenneth Gloag, Musicology: the Key Concepts, 2nd edition (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016)
  • Greetham, Bryan, How to Write Your Undergraduate Dissertation (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)
  • Herbert, Trevor, Music in Words: A Guide to Researching and Writing about Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 12
Project supervision 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 382

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Roderick Hawkins Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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