Music M401
History and Literature of Music I

Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

Research Project Style Sheet

Table of Contents

Research Project | M401 Home

How to Write a Music History Paper
Some Suggested Subject Areas
M401: Music History Research Guide
Building a Bibliography | More Help with Research
Sample Prospectus and Bibliography | Music Citation—Chicago/Turabian Style
Research Project Style Sheet

Research Project Style Sheet

This style sheet addresses many of the problems students encounter most frequently in writing. Please read this through and apply these suggestions as you polish your paper. In commenting on your paper, your instructor or your peers may refer to some of these points by number, to save writing out the same advice repeatedly. Some of the suggestions below are borrowed from William Strunk, Jr.'s The Elements of Style (ES).

References are to Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 8th ed., revised by Wayne C. Booth et al. This book is available on the Music Library Reference shelves at LB2369 .T921 2013. Part I of this book is a manual on researching and writing a paper, and it is well worth your time to skim through it. Part II is on source citation, and Part III on other aspects of style. You may find it helpful to buy a copy of this book if you refer to it often.

I. Writing

Style and clarity

1. Thesis: In a research paper, make sure that a thesis is stated clearly near the beginning. Each part of the paper should support the thesis in some way, and the relation of each paragraph to the overall argument for your thesis should be clear.

2. Strive for clarity: Bad word order creates confusion. Construct your sentences and paragraphs in a manner that conveys the idea with the greatest clarity. Keep related words together. Keep your style simple and clear.

3. Use active voice: "Use the active voice. It is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive." (ES)

4. Use concrete language: "Use definite, specific, concrete language. Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract." (ES)

5. Make positive statements: "Put statements in positive form. Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language." (ES)

6. Omit needless words: "Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he or she avoid all detail and treat his or her subjects only in outline, but that every word tell." (ES)

Specific points of style

7. Titles: Titles of complete pieces are generally italicized (or underlined) and component parts placed in quotation marks (e.g., "Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah). Use headline-style capitalization for titles, capitalizing every word except for articles (a, an, the), conjunctions (and, but, or), and prepositions (of, in at, to, and the like), unless they appear as the first or last word of a title or subtitle, in which case they must be capitalized. See Turabian 22.3.

8. Underlining and italics: Use either italics or underlining, but not both. They are both signs for the same things, titles and emphasis, and should not be used together (or even in the same paper).

9. Numbers and dates: When referring to numbered items (such as musical examples, stanzas, measures, lines, and so forth), use numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) rather than words (one, two, three, etc.). Otherwise, it is better in most cases to spell out the number ("There are three main reasons"; "In the sixteenth century") except for dates (1492). On the proper use of numbers in dates, see Turabian 23.3.

10. Parallelism: All elements in a series should be parallel. In the sentence "We ate hot dogs, brownies, and played frisbee," the series begins as if it is going to be a list of foods we ate, but the third item ("played frisbee") is a different thing entirely: not a food, and not even a noun, as are hotdogs and brownies, but a verb phrase, with a new verb and a noun. This third item is not parallel with the other two. Recast the sentence so parallel construction is observed: "We ate hot dogs and brownies and played frisbee." Here "hot dogs" and "brownies" are parallel nouns, sharing the subject and verb "We ate," and "ate hot dogs and brownies" and "played frisbee" are parallel verb phrases, sharing the subject "We."

11. Contractions: Do not use contractions (isn't, can't, etc.) in formal expository prose.

12. "Is that": This construction usually means that the true subject of the sentence follows "that," and the entire sentence should accordingly be reversed or restructured.

13. This: The pronoun "this," referring to the complete sense of a preceding sentence or clause, cannot always carry the load and so may produce an imprecise statement. Always make sure that what a pronoun (such as "this") refers to is absolutely clear.


14. Commas: In a series of three or more items, it is American formal style to use commas to separate them, including a comma before the "and": red, white, and blue. (Newspapers and the English do it differently.)

15. Dash: Do not put a space before or after a dash. If your word processor allows you to make a long dash called an em-dash—like this—please use it. Otherwise, make a dash with two hyphens--as here--and not with one. A single hyphen links two words into a compound word, as in "note-against-note organum."

16. Possessives: "Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's. Follow this rule whatever the final consonant" (e.g., Brahms's, Ives's). (ES) See Turabian 20.2 for the very few exceptions.

Foreign languages

17. Foreign words: Foreign words are italicized or underlined (e.g., piacevolezza), unless they have come into common usage in English (e.g., cafe, etude, cantus firmus). See Turabian 22.2.1.

18. Diacritical marks: Diacritical marks (such as the umlaut in Schütz) in foreign names or words cannot be omitted; they are as much a part of the spelling as the letters. If the computer you are using cannot produce them, they must be added by hand.

19. Transliteration: Sometimes several transliterations of words or names originally in non-Roman alphabets are accepted in English (e.g., Chaikovsky, Tchaikovsky, and Tschaikowsky). Use any acceptable transliteration, but be consistent throughout your paper. (Exception: you cannot change the spelling of a name in a quotation or title; if the writer you are quoting or whose work you are citing uses a transliteration different from the one you are using in the paper, you must leave his or her spelling as is in the quotation or title.)

Frequent errors to avoid

20. Its vs. it's: "Its" is the possessive form of "it"; "it's" is a contraction meaning "it is." Look through your paper, turn every "it's" into "it is," and see if it makes sense. (Since you should not be using contractions in formal prose, never use "it's"!)

21. None: "None" takes a singular verb (e.g., "None of these rules seems sensible to me").

22. Principle vs. principal: If you want the adjective meaning "main," as in "principal theme," you want "-al"; if you are holding to your principles, you want "-le."

23. That vs. which: These are frequently confused. "That" is used with restrictive clauses, which define or delimit the noun they modify: "the chicken heart that ate Chicago," as opposed to all other chicken hearts. "Which" is used with non-restrictive clauses, which merely add further information: "The Eiffel Tower, which is in Paris, was erected in 1889." Note that non-restrictive clauses are set off with commas, while restrictive clauses are not. Sample sentence: "This is a rule that you can almost always depend upon, which is not true of all rules."

II. Presentation


24. Title and binding: Your paper need not have a title page. The title and your name should be given at the top center of the first page. Please also list the name of your section instructor. Please do not bind your paper in a plastic or cardboard cover or spiral binding. Simply print it out on 8.5"x11" white paper and staple or paper clip the pages together.

25. Page numbering: Number all pages in one sequence, placing the number at the top center or upper right-hand corner (omitting page 1). The first page of text is page 1.

26. First reference to a writer in the text: The first reference to a writer in the text should include his or her full name and some sort of reference to the writer's work.

27. Footnotes vs. endnotes: For this class, you may use either footnotes or endnotes (but not both). If you use endnotes, place them immediately after the body of the text and before the bibliography. Start both the endnotes and the bibliography on a new page, and number the pages consecutively with the text.

28. Placement of musical examples: For this class, you may place musical examples either within the body of the paper or on separate sheets at the end, unless your section instructor dictates a preference. If you do the latter, place them after the bibliography, and number the pages consecutively.

Musical examples

29. When to discuss music: Everything in your paper should be included for only one reason: because it helps you prove your case. Do not feel that you must analyze a piece of music just because you can; tell us only about the features that are important to your argument.

30. When to present a musical example: There are only three reasons to present a musical example: (1) to discuss the passage in detail; (2) to show what cannot be described; or (3) as a favor to the reader, if the music is unpublished or hard to find. If you can describe the music well enough to make your point without showing it to us, you do not need to include an example.

31. Captions: Every example must have a caption. See Turabian 26.3.2 for the style. In music, we typically use examples (Example 1) rather than figures (Figure 1), but the style is the same. Figures would be used for pictures, photographs, or other illustrations. You may use both Examples (for musical examples) and Figures (for pictures).

32. Neatness and presentation: Musical examples must be neat and readable. If you copy them by hand or by computer, make sure they are pleasant-looking and accurate. If you photocopy or scan them from a score, make sure that the segment you include contains all necessary information (such as clefs, key signatures, time signatures, and so on, added by hand or cut-and-paste if necessary). Your examples must fit within the usual margins of the paper (i.e., at least one-inch margins on each side). Reducing the size of the music through photocopying or scanning may make your examples look better, but they must remain legible.


33. When to use a quotation: There are only three reasons for using a quotation: (1) to present a document of some sort for discussion (as you would present a musical example); (2) to present a writer's argument for refutation; and (3) to repeat a particular turn of phrase that is especially felicitous (this should be used sparingly). In all other cases, it is preferable for you to present the ideas or information in your own words, making sure that you attribute the ideas to the original writer and that your paraphrase does not cross the boundary into plagiarism.

34. Identify the source: The author of any quotation must be named in the text, and the source given in a note.

35. Block quotation: Quotations of two or more lines of poetry or five or more lines of prose should be set off as a block quotation. Block quotations are indented from the main text and single-spaced and are not enclosed in quotation marks. See Turabian 25.2.2.

36. Ellipses: Use ellipses to indicate that text has been omitted from the middle of a quotation. Do not use ellipses at the beginning or end of a quotation. Ellipses are typed with spaces on either side of each dot, like this . . . and never without spaces. Ellipses between sentences are typed like this. . . . The first dot functions as a period, the rest as the sign of an ellipsis. See Turabian 25.3.2, but use the "General Method" on pp. 354-55 (and not the "Textual Studies Method").

Sources and citations

37. When to cite a source in a footnote: All material derived from secondary sources, whether or not you quote it directly, must be credited. Cite the source of every quotation in a footnote. But also cite the source for any information you restate in your own words. You need not cite a source for well-known facts, such as a composer's birthdate, but should cite a source for any interpretation or opinion, even if it is repeated in several of your sources. See the Writing Tutorial Services webpage "Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Recognize and Avoid It" for more information. See also Turabian 7.9, "Guard Against Indadvertent Plagiarism," on pp. 78-79.

38. Full and short citations: The first time you cite a work in a footnote or endnote, give a full citation using footnote form; see the samples labeled "N" in Turabian's chapters 16 and 17 or the Music Library webpages on Footnotes and Endnotes. For all subsequent citations, use short form author-title notes (Turabian 16.4.1) or, for a work just cited, "Ibid." (Turabian 16.4.2). In your bibliography, use the "B" form as illustrated in Turabian's chapters 16 and 17 or the Music Library webpages on Bibliographic Citations.

39. Textbooks: Do not use textbooks as sources for scholarly papers. They can be helpful in previewing your topic or listing sources you should consult, however.

Research Project | M401 Home

How to Write a Music History Paper
Some Suggested Subject Areas
M401: Music History Research Guide
Building a Bibliography | More Help with Research
Sample Prospectus and Bibliography | Music Citation—Chicago/Turabian Style
Research Project Style Sheet

Last updated: 21 August 2017

This page was created by Patrick Warfield and J. Peter Burkholder,
drawing on material by Thomas J. Mathiesen and others.

Copyright © 1997-2017 by J. Peter Burkholder