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Music Library Guide: The Research Proposal

a library guide for Music & Dance students

Links to Resources on writing the proposal

Where do I begin?

Struggling to get going? Maybe you need to do some more "thinking". Note the warning below from S. Joseph Levine, Michigan State University East Lansing:

'Assuming you've done a good job of "thinking about" your research project, you're ready to actually prepare the proposal. A word of caution - those students who tend to have a problem in coming up with a viable proposal often are the ones that have tried to rush through the "thinking about it" part and move too quickly to trying to write the proposal.'

See Levine's suggestions on PREPARING THE PROPOSAL

Terms and phrases to avoid

From: How To Write A Dissertation or Bedtime Reading For People Who Do Not Have Time To Sleep.

(You will find more examples in different sources.)

  • adverbs
    • Mostly, they are very often overly used. Use strong words instead. For example, one could say, "Writers abuse adverbs."
  • jokes or puns
    • They have no place in a formal document.
  • bad, good, nice, terrible, stupid
    • A scientific dissertation does not make moral judgements. Use "incorrect/correct" to refer to factual correctness or errors. Use precise words or phrases to assess quality (e.g., "method A requires less computation than method B"). In general, one should avoid all qualitative judgements.
  • true, pure
    • In the sense of "good" (it is judgemental).
  • perfect
    • Nothing is.
  • an ideal solution
    • You're judging again.
  • today, modern times
    • Today is tomorrow's yesterday.
  • soon
    • How soon? Later tonight? Next decade?
  • we were surprised to learn...
    • Even if you were, so what?
  • seems, seemingly
    • It doesn't matter how something appears;
  • would seem to show
    • all that matters are the facts.
  • in terms of
    • usually vague
  • based on, X-based, as the basis of
    • careful; can be vague
  • different
    • Does not mean "various"; different than what?
  • in light of, lots of, kind of, type of, something likejust about
    • all vague & colloquial
  • number of
    • vague; do you mean "some", "many", or "most"? A quantative statement is preferable.
  • due to
    • colloquial
  • probably
    • Only if you know the statistical probability (if you do, state it quantatively).
  • obviously, clearly
    • Be careful: obvious/clear to everyone?
  • simple
    • Can have a negative connotation, as in "simpleton".
  • along with
    • Just use "with".
  • actually, really
    • Define terms precisely to eliminate the need to clarify.
  • the fact that
    • This makes it a meta-sentence; rephrase.
  • this, that
    • As in "This causes concern." Reason: "this" can refer to the subject of the previous sentence, the entire previous sentence, the entire previous paragraph, the entire previous section, etc. More important, it can be interpreted in the concrete sense or in the meta-sense. For example, in: 
                     "X does Y. This means ..."
    •  the reader can assume "this" refers to Y or to the fact that X does it. Even when restricted (e.g., "this computation..."), the phrase is weak and often ambiguous.
  • You will read about...
    • The second person has no place in a formal dissertation.
  • I will describe...
    • The first person has no place in a formal dissertation. If self-reference is essential, phrase it as "Section 10 describes..."
  • 'we' as in 'we see that'
    • A trap to avoid. Reason: almost any sentence can be written to begin with "we" because "we" can refer to: the reader and author, the author and advisor, the author and research team, experimental computer scientists, the entire computer science community, the science community, or some other unspecified group.
  • Hopefully, the program...
    • Computer programs don't hope, not unless they implement AI systems. By the way, if you are writing an AI thesis, talk to someone else: AI people have their own system of rules.
  • ...a famous researcher...
    • It doesn't matter who said it or who did it. In fact, such statements prejudice the reader.
  • Be careful when using few, most, all, any, every.
    • A dissertation is precise. If a sentence says "Most computer systems contain X", you must be able to defend it. Are you sure you really know the facts? How many computers were built and sold yesterday?
  • must, always
    • Absolutely?
  • should
    • Says who?
  • proof, prove
    • Would a mathematician agree that it's a proof?
  • show
    • Used in the sense of "prove". To "show" something, you need to provide a formal proof.
  • can/may
    • Your mother probably told you the difference.

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