Mods Extended Essay Lecture 1 Finding a Topic and Building a Bibliography What is an Extended Essay?

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Mods Extended Essay

  • Lecture 1
  • Finding a Topic and Building a Bibliography

What is an Extended Essay?

  • An Extended Essay is a piece of writing of between 4000 and 5000 words, inc. bibliography and footnotes
  • Around 5-6 months’ work: final hand-in end of Week 5 of Trinity
  • Further information in Mods Course Handbook
  • These Powerpoint slides available shortly in Nick Attfield’s Weblearn room

Assessment Criteria

  • A First-Class Mods Extended Essay …
  • Presentation will normally be of a good standard. The candidate will show an extensive general knowledge of the chosen field, and an ability to handle effectively the range of materials (musical and non-musical, primary and secondary) relevant to the topic. The conclusions drawn will be well supported by the evidence and may offer original insights.

Assessment Criteria

  • An outstanding First-Class Mods Extended Essay …
  • The essay will display a degree of independent thought, a refined and critical approach to its sources and a wide knowledge of the relevant scholarly field. It will be meticulously presented and written in a clear and engaging manner.

In other words …

  • A successful extended essay:
  • is focused on a clear topic
  • displays good knowledge of the relevant literature and repertoire
  • has a central argument
  • is well organised and presented

Finding a Topic

  • Choose a topic that excites you and that feels like *yours*
    • Remember you will be living with it for a while!
  • Your starting point could be:
    • a piece of music or something within a piece
    • a composer
    • a performer or performance tradition
    • a repertoire
    • a historical period or a geographical location
    • a text
    • a writer
    • an issue

Finding a Topic

  • What kind of study do you want it to be?
    • analytical
    • editorial
    • critical
    • historical/historiographical
    • sociological
    • a mixture of the above, or something else entirely – utilising non-musical skills?

Finding a Topic

  • Next, start to read around the topic and approach – find out what work has already been done in this area
  • What is the current state of scholarship?
  • Who are the key thinkers? What backgrounds do they come from?
  • What might be driving them?

Finding an Angle

  • What angle might you take on the topic?
  • What can you contribute to debates?
    • What’s missing in the literature? What biases does it have? Does it fail to raise or answer any key questions you have?

Finding an Angle

  • Begin to refine your topic and angle
    • Are they too broad or too narrow? Remember: 4000-5000 words only!
  • Refine further:
    • Do more reading; take more notes
    • Narrow your field of investigation, if necessary
  • Brainstorm!

Model Brainstorm

  • Avant-garde
  • and tradition
  • ‘Late style’
  • (Adorno,
  • Said)
  • ‘Postmodern’
  • play:
  • Torke
  • Stravinsky
  • Orpheus &
  • Symphony in C
  • Schoenberg
  • Op. 11
  • & Pierrot lunaire
  • Alienated
  • subject
  • Nostalgia
  • and
  • melancholy
  • Rethinking
  • Neo-
  • classicism

Next Steps

  • Produce some preliminary plans from your brainstorm
  • Discuss plans with tutor (and peers?)
  • Begin to think about a title
  • Start work on your bibliography

Finding a Title

  • A good title:
  • indicates clearly the central focus of the essay
  • engages the reader and encourages him/her to read on
  • is unambiguous
  • helps you to write the essay

Finding a Title

  • Look for models in recent issues of academic journals
  • Consider using a quotation in the title
  • Try out a number of possible options
  • Use of the colon is not compulsory!

Finding a Title

  • Some (good and not-so-good) examples for discussion
  • Schumann’s Symphonies
  • ‘All they say or do is theatre’: Music, Text and Drama in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress
  • How is the Concept of Postmodernism Relevant to Recent Music?

Finding a Title

  • Some (good and not-so-good) examples for discussion
  • The Reinvention of Early Music
  • A History of Opera from Monteverdi to MacMillan
  • Rethinking Mozart’s Piano Sonatas: the Bodleian’s Albi Rosenthal Collection

The Bibliography

  • Why is the bibliography important?
  • It helps you define and refine your topic
  • It helps you keep an eye on your own progress as you go along
  • It locates your work within the context of existing scholarship
  • It enables you to avoid a topic that has already been written about

The Bibliography

  • What should the bibliography contain?
  • All the materials that you have consulted and that have informed your work, whether or not you refer to them directly in the body of the essay
  • Full references according to best professional practice

The Bibliography

  • What should the bibliography not contain?
  • Materials that have no bearing on the essay/dissertation
  • Materials you have not consulted
  • Materials you have not read


  • First stages: finding materials and preparing the bibliography
  • Library resources
  • Online resources
  • Catalogues and databases
  • Scores and manuscripts
  • Audio and video materials
  • Other materials

Library resources

  • Bodleian Library
  • Music Faculty Library
    • Books and Journals
    • Dissertations
    • Scores & editions
    • Dictionaries and research catalogues
    • Special collections
    • Microfilm collections

Library resources

  • College and other specialist libraries in Oxford
    • e.g., Taylor Institution Library (modern languages), Pitt Rivers Museum (ethnography)
  • British Library (
  • COPAC – British and Irish university libraries portal
  • European Libraries

Online resources: general

  • First ports of call
    • The New Grove Online
  • Audio resources
    • Naxos online
    • Classical music
  • General sources of information
    • Royal Holloway Golden Pages

Online resources: journals

    • Remember that JSTOR doesn’t have everything! Use in conjunction with paper copies and other databases, e.g. …
  • Current periodicals (not on JSTOR)
    • Access via

Online resources: databases

  • RILM: Abstracts of music literature
  • RISM: Inventory of musical sources after 1600
  • RIPM: Retrospective index to music periodicals
  • Access these key databases and other online resources via:

Online resources: beware!

  • Treat with great caution:
    • Wikipedia (it’s not moderated or checked)
    • Other unmoderated sites
    • Other unattributed articles
    • In some instances blogs, Facebook pages and other online ‘ephemera’ can provide, for example, supporting anecdotal evidence, but handle with care and signal its status clearly

Other resources

  • Ethnographic fieldwork: is this necessary? Do you have access permission? Plan well in advance.
  • Sociological / psychological fieldwork: is this necessary? Do you have access permission? Plan well in advance. Questions of confidentiality.
  • Oral histories: how do you gain access to subjects? Plan questions well in advance. How will you record responses?


  • Plagiarism is intellectual theft – the representation of the ideas of others as your own
  • Make sure you acknowledge fully in footnotes all material you have taken from other sources (including online material), whether or not you have quoted it directly. An entry in the bibliography is not sufficient.

University Plagiarism Code

  • All undergraduate and graduate students must carefully read regulations 3, 4 and 5 in the Proctors’ Disciplinary Regulations for University Examinations below. These make it clear that you must always indicate to the examiners when you have drawn on the work of others; other people’s original ideas and methods should be clearly distinguished from your own, and other people’s words, illustrations, diagrams etc. should be clearly indicated regardless of whether they are copied exactly, paraphrased, or adapted. Failure to acknowledge your sources by clear citation and referencing constitutes plagiarism. The University reserves the right to use software applications to screen any individual’s submitted work for matches either to published sources or to other submitted work. In some examinations, all candidates are asked to submit an electronic copy of essays, dissertations etc. for screening by ‘Turnitin’. Any matches might indicate either plagiarism or collusion. Although the use of electronic resources by students in their academic work is encouraged, you should remember that the regulations on plagiarism apply to on-line material and other digital material just as much as to printed material.
  • Guidance about the use of source-materials and the preparation of written work is given in departments’ literature and on their web-sites, and is explained by tutors and supervisors. If you are unclear about how to take notes or use web-sourced material properly, or what is acceptable practice when writing your essay, project report, thesis, etc., please ask for advice.
  • If university examiners believe that material submitted by a candidate may be plagiarised, they will refer the matter to the Proctors. The Proctors will suspend a student’s examination while they fully investigate such cases (including interviewing the student). If they consider that a breach of the Disciplinary Regulations has occurred, the Proctors are empowered to refer the matter to the Student Disciplinary Panel. Where plagiarism is proven, it will be dealt with severely: in the most extreme cases, this can result in the student’s career at Oxford being ended by expulsion from the University.
  • See:


  • Do not be overly vexed by this matter!
  • It is highly likely that your topic will emerge from courses you have taken
  • Concerns about overlap should not prevent you from writing an essay on the topic of your choice
  • Just be careful not to rely unduly on your essay in a final unseen paper

Model Timetable: Ext Essay

  • Until now: initial planning and bibliographic research
  • Hilary Term Week 4: submission of title and bibliography to Music Faculty
  • Hilary Term: detailed planning and research; some preliminary drafting
  • Easter Vacation: prepare complete draft
  • Early Trinity Term: checking and preparation of final version
  • Trinity Term Week 5: submission of Extended Essay to Examination Schools

Mods Extended Essay

  • Next Week
  • Writing the Essay: Tips and Tricks

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