Dissertation in Music

Key information

Start date
End date
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Music

Module overview

A Dissertation, normally of 9,000-10,000 words (excluding bibliography, appendices, etc., but including footnotes), on a defined aspect of musical life, theory or practice. The approach and topic should relate to the student’s chosen pathway within the degree programme. Students may decide the topic of the dissertation according to their own interests, in discussion with their programme convenor or proposed supervisor. Topics may relate to a specific regional style or genre, or deal with a theoretical or comparative topic. The dissertation should show an appropriate command of ethnomusicological theory and relevant literature, as well as the capacity to apply this to the chosen topic. The dissertation may include elements of original archival or ethnographic research (participant observation or interviews).
With the agreement of their supervisor, students may choose to submit a practice-based portfolio instead of a purely text-based dissertation. This might include original composition, performance-research, teaching materials, development projects, or other elements, captured in notated, audio-visual or other form. Students must agree the balance and format of written and other elements with their supervisor, with a minimum written requirement of 4,000 words.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this dissertation a student will be able to:

  • demonstrate command of appropriate theoretical perspectives and secondary literature relevant to a chosen topic of study;
  • display the ability to frame research questions, consider relevant research design and explain methodological, epistemological and ethical issues related to a proposed research project;
  • employ the skills to pursue independent research from secondary and, where appropriate, primary sources in the field of ethnomusicology;
  • show ability to organise their data and articulate their arguments coherently and clearly;
  • show ability to analyse research findings and write a critical review of findings.


Students are allocated a dissertation supervisor early in the second term. Students can expect six hours substantive supervision with the allocated supervisor. The role of the supervisor is to assist the student in reaching an agreed topic of research, to approve the plan of work, help the student with any problems that may arise, advise on sources etc. The supervisor may read and comment on early or partial drafts of the dissertation, provided these are submitted according to the timetable set out below, but not on the final draft. Further guidance on the role of the dissertation supervisor is set out in the Faculty Guidelines.

Method of assessment

  • One 1,000-word annotated bibliography (worth 15%)
  • One 10,000-word dissertation submitted by the School dissertation deadline (worth 85%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules