I am writing a research paper on how music affects mood. How would a good outline look?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The relationship between music and mood has long been established.  In preparing a research paper on the subject, therefore, a useful starting point would be a review of the literature – an essential component of any research paper.  Structuring the outline would normally begin with an introductory paragraph describing the intent of the project, issues surrounding the subject of the research, such as the existence of conflicting opinions or the uncertainties involved.  In the case of the effects of music on mood, the paragraph could state the student’s intent to examine the relationship between the two and to provide recommendations or conclusions that could be useful for future researchers, such as those focusing on the effects of specific genres of music, for example, rap or heavy metal on the mental state of listeners.

A second paragraph should be a brief review of the available literature on the subject.  In this case, references to notable academic studies correlating the relationship between music and mind should be made, for example, Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, the U.S. Library of Congress’ series of podcasts on “Music and the Brain,”  the research conducted at Stanford University a summary of which can be found at www.med.stanford.edu/news_releases/2007/july/music.html, Patel Aniruddh’s Music, Language and the Brain, and the work performed at Northwestern University the findings for which were published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience [www.naturalnews.com/029324_music_brain.html].  There are many more journal articles and studies that can be cited in the bibliography and referenced throughout the final paper.  The purpose of this paragraph, though, is demonstrate some mastery of or exposure to the literature on the subject to be studied.

The next paragraph in the outline should consist of the analysis of the issue covered.  This is the meat of the paper, and will provide readers the most extensive discussion of what the final paper will say.  It should provide information on the scope of the research to be conducted, the methodology to be employed, and whatever additional research tools will be used, for example, interviews, surveys, and so on.  Depending upon the level at which the research is being conducted – for example, high school, university, or post-graduate – this discussion should reflect the appropriate level of primary versus secondary research (in other words, how much research is original in the form of experiments, interviews, surveys, etc., as opposed to how much is dependent upon the published research of others).

 Paragraph Four should provide the expected findings.  Launching a research project usually involves the anticipation of what the results will entail.  This should in no way be interpreted as predetermining the outcome of the research, but should logically include a discussion of the student’s expectations when research is complete.  It is expected, as would be reflected in paragraph two, that some review of the available literature will have been conducted, and some thought given to the meaning of the findings provided in that literature.  Therefore, whatever insights have been gleaned to date should be reflected here.

 The final paragraph is a simple summary of everything that preceded it, including a repeat of the objectives of the project, the anticipated findings, the significance of those findings, and proposals for continued research. 

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