Stephen Shoop

Borr. From Other Fields

Thoughts About Borrowing From Other

Fields When Conducting Research

in Music Education

Students might ask why it is customary to borrow from other fields when conducting music education research.  The short answer is…. because music education is a relatively young field.  Our profession has not yet arrived at a consensus regarding standardized techniques and procedures used in conducting music education research.  For example, when comparing two prominent textbooks on the subject, authors do not even agree on research type.  Rainbow and Froehlich (1987) discuss three (empirical, historical, and philosophical) types, while Phelps, et al. (2004) presents four (experimental, descriptive, historical, and philosophical)!  For the novice researcher, this scenario can easily become a source of confusion.  It is largely up to a student’s major professor to serve as a guide through the murky waters that currently exist.

If models, procedures, and paradigms produced by experts in related fields are readily available to be utilized or adapted—why reinvent the wheel?  Precious time and energy should be spent on conducting the research, itself, rather than inventing new research models. 

My dissertation is an example of adapting an existing research model.  I utilized the “classic” historical research dissertation model, but also added another dimension in order to more fully and adequately answer my research questions.  This was accomplished by utilizing information obtained from the social sciences literature.  In borrowing techniques from several experts in that field, I was able to identify primary and secondary leaders for each of the five historical periods of the Texas Bandmasters Association from 1920 through 1997.

In way of analogy, we adopt research approaches from other fields similar to the way instrumentalists utilize transcriptions.  The primary focus is on the quality of music, regardless of original instrument, as long as musical integrity is maintained.  If a piece of music seems as if it could have been composed for the “new” instrument, the transcription is a success.  The same goes for utilizing aspects of research from other fields.  If goodness-to-fit is strong with regard to research design, techniques, and procedures, then using or adapting an approach from another field can be considered a success.

In summary, borrowing research design, procedures, and techniques from other fields is common practice when conducting music education research.  The secret is in determining that goodness-to-fit is strong in the affirmative.



Draft Copy

April 15, 2012

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