Research in Music Education I


Lecture:  Introduction to Music Research

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Reasons for pursuing an advanced degree:

my current job requires itthe job I want requires itto increase my earning potential 
I'm boredto improve my professional skillsto gain promotion 
I just want to learn new thingsmy career feels stagnantto feel good about myself 
to gain prestigeto prove myselfto fulfill a dream 


You may have had other reasons, but they probably did not include




Au, contraire, mon ami!!


This course will help you to become aware of the stumbling blocks to "truth" and learn to use your analytical skills to search for truth.

You will learn to analyze and to judge sources.

You will learn the process toward discovering new truth.

And this is called



Research in Music Education I

will teach you to use those tools.



To get started in our search for truth, read this short article:

Believing Superstitions That You Know Aren't True


I wrote a poem once about this phenomenon:


the Truth



A chance to know and see and feel

The truth would seem to be ideal;

A map through what is fake and real

Could set us free and let us heal.


Some fact will rear its ugly head,

Requiring that we face with dread

The chance that we have been misled.

We overlook the fact instead.

- V. Johnson




Roger Bacon was a monk in the 13th Century. 

He wrote that there were 4 chief obstacles to truth:


  1. Submission to fragile or unworthy authority (taking someone else's opinion/conclusion because of his/her position or supposed authority). Did your mom ever tell you that you would catch cold if you went out in the cold with wet hair??

  2. The influence of custom (what others in your culture say/think; how you were raised). Do you think that the religion you practice is the only true one??

  3. The imperfection of undisciplined senses (the feeling of the ignorant crowd; popular prejudice; regard to the opinion of the unlearned). Is your idea of beauty dictated or molded by the media??

  4. Concealment of ignorance through ostentation of seeming wisdom (the hiding of our own ignorance while making a display of our apparent knowledge). Have you ever been unsure of something, but answered a question with a confident guess, transmitting questionable information to the next generation??


In an article entitled,  Award-Winning Teachers Reflect on Their Training Kirk Doran mentioned 3 things needed to be a good teacher (I hope you will take time to read the entire article).

One of them was to give courage.  This is particularly applicable to an introduction to research.  Here is his explanation:

As Ph.D.s, we spend years interacting with people who are intellectually self-critical. But this is a rare trait; once we take our first job, most of our students will arrive committed to various ideologies on the basis of limited evidence. These ideologies give them a sense of comfort and identity in an uncertain world. They won’t abandon this comfort in order to seek the truth and follow it wherever it leads unless we give them the courage to do so.

I hope you will have courage.  I will try to help!



Here is an illustration of a story that circulated over the internet in the late 90's.  It was purported to be an actual question given on a Louisiana State University chemistry exam. 

The question was:

Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)? 

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle’s Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. 
One student, however, wrote the following: 

     First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let’s look at the different religions that exist in the world today.  Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.
     With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities: 

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose. 

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over. 

     So which is it?  If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, ‘It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,‘ and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct…...leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting ‘Oh my God.‘ 


Tsk. Tsk.  Well, if you will kindly overlook the fact that this explanation is politically incorrect on many levels, can you analyze it to determine which "obstacles to truth" appear? 



Speaking of "truth," you may have some misconceptions about "research."

'Research' is just finding information, right?


Googling is 'research,' right?




Here are a few quotes:


"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?" - Albert Einstein



"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing." - Wernher von Braun



"In much of society, research means to investigate something you do not know or understand." - Neil Armstrong

[Isn't this what most people think?  Don't we 'research' the best price for a car or how to fix the plumbing?]

He also said:  "Research is creating new knowledge."

[This is the definition of the scholar.]



"Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought." - Albert Szent-Gyorgyi



So, what is research??

OK, break out the dictionary


Merriam Webster Dictionary

  1. careful or diligent search [Hey, sometimes I even go past the first page of Google results - I'm diligent!]

  2. studious inquiry or examination; especially:  investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws. [This one sounds complicated.]

  3. the collecting of information about a particular subject. [That's definitely Google, Wikipedia, Pinterest, Twitter, my mother-in-law . . . ]



Although we may use the word, 'research,' to mean #1 or #3 above, this course is about #2!



The Cambridge Dictionary definition is more to the point:

"a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover new information or reach a new understanding."

The important thing to remember is that if you only gather and compile information, that is a report, not research.


Put another way, if you search for and discover information to answer a question, that's great!

However, expanding your own knowledge with existing knowledge is not research, it is learning!


There is a definite distinction between work that creates its own facts and work that is based on facts that already exist.


Here is another research example:

A study of more than 1,800 students at Purdue showed that those who use the Rec Center at least 16 times per month earned a GPA of 3.10 or higher.  The correlation (look up this word, it's important) between grades and gym use also is shown with moderate users.  Those who visited at least 7 times per month had an average GPA of 3.06.  Another study from Michigan State University showed that gym-goers were 3.5 times more likely to remain in school after two years than their non-gym-going counterparts.


Fitness = Success!


But . . . are they more successful because they work out or do they work out because they are motivated people, which could also explain why they are successful in school????

There is a correlation between working out and success, but one does not prove the other!

Do music students make better grades or are students who make better grades more likely to participate in music?


I DON'T KNOW!  (And neither does anyone else.)

We just know there is a correlation.

There is a course taught at the University of Washington that I would love to take.

They provide a list of Case Studies that provide excellent examples of research pitfalls.

Follow the Case Studies link, pick a few of these case studies that interest you and read them to hone your B.S. detector!!


Keep this process in mind. 



1.  Find out everything about your topic

2.  Add some more new stuff that nobody knew before

3.  Make sure the new stuff is valid


Sounds like a lot of work!!





Welcome to grad school !








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