Submitted by Matthew Schulkind on Tuesday, 2/9/2010, at 2:41 PM

The question of what would constitute a reasonable topic is always a tricky one for me.  Students often complain if they aren't given a very specific question.  However, when I give a very narrow topic to write about, students complain that it wasn't very interesting and they could have done a much better job if they could have written about something else.  So, what to say about topics?  I decided to provide a couple of suggested topics below to give you a sense of what a reasonable topic would sound like.  In general, your paper can take any of three forms:

  • A literature review in which you compare/contrast two different areas. 
  • A research proposal in which you describe an experiment that could be used to answer a burning question in the area of music psychology.  Ideally, you would not only propose the experiment, but implement it and collect and report data, as well. 
  • You may - after consulting with me - take a different approach, but an acceptable topic must use the papers we discussed in class to address some other problem in the world. 

Of these three possibilities, the second (research proposal/data collection) is strongly encouraged.



            How do marketers use music to sell products (Don't make this up, read some papers from the marketing literature)?  What do these strategies fail to take into account about how people learn/remember music?  What would be a good strategy if you wanted people to do the following: a) buy your product, b) remember your brand name, c) forget your competitor's brand name, or d) discuss your product with friends?  Obviously, you would not need to cover all of these questions.


            How is the development of musical ability analogous (or not) to the development of other physical or linguistic skills in infants?  One way to proceed on this topic would be to read an introductory text on language to see what the different steps are in language acquisition and see if they map easily on to musical development?



            This area might be quite amenable to a research proposal.  The papers we read in this area were not controlled as well as one might like.  How might you do a better job of measuring what factors lead a person to like jazz over classical music?  Or, what types of music instill different emotions?  Don't be afraid to throw out a heretofore untested hypothesis like, perhaps, people who had very strict parents like more "rebellious" types of music.  Just be sure that you can back up your hypothesis, preferably with published work.