Paper Proposal Guidelines

Due Thursday, February 23, 2012


The research project focuses on roots music and identity.  In other words, it’s about the relationship between people’s music and who they are. 


Your paper proposal should include four things. 

  1. A title (this is just a working title—you can change it later).
  2. A brief description of what you plan to discuss.
  3. A list of at least three bands or musicians that are related to your topic. 
  4. Three or more songs that are examples of the music that you will investigate.  At least one of the songs should relate to the “roots” of whatever music you’re researching (for example, if you were to do a project on skiffle music, your roots song could be Kelly Pace’s original version of “Rock Island Line”).  List the song title, artist, record label, and album number.  Do not cite YouTube.

This is just a proposal, so if you find different artists or songs or want to change your title or focus you can do that later.  If you want to make a major change to the paper, please run it by me first.


Choosing a good topic is sometimes difficult.  A topic like “Irish American music” is too general—people have written whole books on the subject.  One approach is to start with a personal connection you have, like your favorite band, your family background, or the church you attend, and try to connect it to a larger theme.  For example, if you like Mumford & Sons, you might investigate the British bluegrass scene and how non-Americans connect with American music; if you belong to a church with a unique musical culture (anything outside of a mainstream hymnal) you might write about the people who attend the church and how their music is an expression of who they are. 


In addition to sound recordings, you will be required to use print sources (books and academic articles) for your report, so you might start looking for sources.  I have some books that I can put on reserve in the library.


Here are a few topics I came up with.  I’m sure you can do better!

  • Philadelphia Irish music
  • Black performers and white audiences: from Lead Belly to the Carolina Chocolate Drops
  • The African American string band revival
  • Japanese bluegrass
  • Music and biracial identities
  • Hip Hop in the ____ community (could be anything that narrows the project to a workable size)