Stephen Shoop

Designing the Res. Model

The Process of Designing a Research Model for

 

My Historical Dissertation about the

 

Texas Bandmasters Association

 

 

By Stephen Shoop, Ph.D.

 

 

Introduction

Those embarking upon their first research project have access to an almost limitless number of completed theses, practicums, and dissertations.  Very rarely, however, do novice researchers have opportunities to learn about how studies progress from beginning to end.  This is especially true with regard to how a research model is designed.  The purpose of this short essay is to explain the process of developing a research model for my doctoral dissertation in music education- The Texas Bandmasters Association:  A Historical Study of Activities, Contributions, and Leadership (1920-1997). 

A research model is like a blueprint.  With many types of research, the design is pre-set.  Completing a study involves following a step-by-step process from, beginning to end.  Most historical studies (such as mine) fall under the broader category “qualitative.”  With qualitative research, rather than beginning with a design that is pre-set, the strategy is more like a funnel that becomes increasingly narrow as the study progresses toward completion.  Much information is gathered, research questions are formulated, and the research model evolves as the study progresses.  With this type of approach it is quite normal for a qualitative study to take longer to complete than other types of research.  (It took me the better part of six years to complete my study).      

Many of our research models, methodologies, and techniques are not original to music education, but borrowed from other fields.  This is partly due to the fact that research in music education is relatively young.  For the most part, the profession does not have universally accepted research models, especially in the area of qualitative research.  It is true that some researchers have made use of pre-existing models (more or less), with some alteration.  These are based on the particular needs of a study and usually involve finding answers to the research questions.

In my study, information from the social sciences about the nature of leadership in an organizational context was integrated into the basic historical research design.  This resulted in a more cohesive study.  For this reason, the research model for my study is unique in music education research. 

Historical Research

            The primary model employed in the study is historical research, more specifically, (1) research in archives and (2) oral history.  Both are widely accepted historical research techniques.  Historical research involves the systematic search for documents and other sources that contain facts relating to the historian’s questions about the past.  By studying the past, the historian hopes to achieve better understanding of present institutions, practices, and problems in a given area.   

The cornerstone of my study is a year-by-year chronological timeline of significant activities and events in the association’s history from 1920 through 1997.  Primary and secondary leaders for each of the five historical periods are identified.  Major contributions the association has made to music and music education in Texas are also noted.

Research in Archives

            It is fortunate that a great deal of historical information is available on the Texas Bandmasters Association and related organizations.  Without a sufficient amount of archival data, a study such as this one would not be possible in its current form.  Archival materials include the periodical Southwestern Musician combined with the Texas Music Educator, Texas Bandmasters Association convention-clinic programs, and a large volume of artifacts and memorabilia housed at the Texas Music Educators Association headquarters, in Austin.  Especially valuable was Minutes and Proceedings of T.M.E.A., Vol. I:  1924-1961.  The bibliography of my dissertation contains all artifacts and sources consulted for the study.

Oral History Through Personal Interview

            Oral history is another common technique in historical research.  This involves interviewing people who have first hand knowledge of the research topic area.  Those interviewed are usually considered to be primary sources, which are generally considered of greater value than secondary sources. 

I conducted two personal interviews, but only included one in the dissertation.  (After conducting the other interview, I concluded that the information obtained was not central to the study).  The interview I retained was transcribed and included as an appendix.  This particular interviewee was highly involved with the association at a very critical time in the association’s history.  Consequently, I was very pleased the interview was conducted, since the interviewee passed away several years later.  Much of the information I obtained would have been lost forever.  In addition, I was also able to utilize a significant amount of oral history from interviews conducted by previous researchers on persons of significance who were deceased on by the time of my study.  Obviously, I would have wanted to interview some of these individuals, if only they still had been living.  Thankfully, I was able to obtain important information from these tapes.

Leadership in an Organizational Context

As the study began to take shape, and much of the chronological timeline had been constructed, the music education faculty recognized a need to integrate another dimension into the study. Several faculty members openly expressed that what was needed to complete the research model would not be found in the music education research literature.  I began by exploring various disciplines within the social sciences, including group dynamics, influence, and leadership.  I was then urged to narrow the scope and concentrate on one primary area.  (This is an example of the “funnel” analogy discussed earlier in this essay).  The faculty recommended I concentrate on “leadership,” in part, because so much evidence of it was present in the chronological timeline.  Once leadership became the primary focus, it was fairly easy to identify primary and secondary leaders for each of the five historical periods, utilizing a list of nine primary functions of leaders, presented by Krech, Crutchfield, and Ballachey (cited in the dissertation). 

If there were faculty members zealous about measurement, I might have been required to perform a content analysis on the historical data collected.  I consider myself fortunate that this issue was not raised!  In a couple of my historical periods, data was not plentiful.  (Very little association activity took place during World War II, for example).  Therefore, it probably would not have been possible to satisfy a measurement requirement.  I suppose there are those who might criticize the study, either way.  In any event, content analysis is a technique that might be considered for some situations in qualitative research.   

Chapter Organization

The study follows the normal order for historical dissertations.  Chapter 1 is Introduction, Purpose, and Research Questions.  Chapter 2 is Related Literature.  The chapter includes the archival source materials for the chronological timeline (the history part), as well as those providing information about how to conduct the research (historical research methodology, oral history techniques, leadership, etc.).  Also included is a kind of overview of previous studies related to mine.  Chapter 3 is Methodology.  This chapter provides information about the research model.  Chapters 4 and 5 comprise the chronological timeline.  (Chapter 4 covers Periods 1, 2, and 3;  Chapter 5 covers Periods 4 and 5).  Chapter 6 is Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations for Future Research.  There are ten appendages.  The dissertation concludes with Bibliography.  

Because the research model was evolving, I worked on several chapters simultaneously.  It was necessary to work on related literature at the same time I was constructing the chronological timeline.  This is perfectly normal in qualitative research.  It was necessary to explore a number of avenues until I was able to determine that enough historical data would be available to answer the majority of my research questions.  In my study, this occurred only after the historical timeline was nearly completed.  Some questions were revised to reflect the leadership dimension.  Others that are beyond the scope of the study, or put aside for various other reasons, can be put in the “Recommendations for Future Research” section, in the final chapter.

Completing the Study and Writing the Dissertation

As mentioned earlier, since a model for what I was doing did not exist in music education, the research design evolved as the study progressed.  Leadership was integrated into the “history part” as a degree of clarity emerged and the dissertation edged toward completion.  (Most of the chronological timeline had been constructed and leaders began to emerge from the data I had collected). I must admit that while conducting the study, I would have been more than pleased to limit the design to historical research, “pure and simple.”  (The faculty member from the history department working with me in the early stages of the study expressed his opinion that generally accepted historical research methodology would be acceptable as far as he was concerned).  However, the music education faculty had a collective view that “pure” historical research methodology (simply constructing a timeline of significant events) would not include sufficient rigor for a doctoral dissertation.  Adding the leadership dimension to the study satisfied their concern.  Doing so also enabled me to more fully and adequately answer the research questions.  However, until it was decided that the leadership component would be added, I felt as though I was searching for a needle in a haystack.

Ideas and Suggestions for Researchers

            The following ideas could serve as a kind of “spring board” for researchers, especially those ready to begin their first study:  (1) The research model developed for this study could be utilized for a replication study to identify leaders in other voluntary associations of similar mission, scope, and longevity.  (In a replication study, there is a predetermined research model).  (2) Integrating an additional technique or area of expertise (such as what I did with leadership) could be considered, if doing so more fully and adequately answers the research questions.  My study could serve as a model for this practice.  (3) The future researcher could explore other areas in the broader field of group dynamics (such as how individual members interact with each other and/or with those outside of the group).

Those interested in this type of research should become familiar with certain concepts, including historical research techniques, qualitative methods, etc.  Many excellent sources are available, including those listed in the bibliography of my dissertation.  

Summary

The objective of this essay has been to present the process of designing a research model for my dissertation.  An alternate title could probably be Anatomy of a Historical Dissertation in Music Education.  In this essay, I have also included information about several concepts that were ultimately abandoned.  These are also important in the overall discussion. 

Knowing a few things about research design can provide insights and help novice researchers save valuable time.  (As I mentioned earlier, it took me nearly six years for me to complete my dissertation).  Being knowledgeable about the nature of historical research and qualitative methods can also prove helpful to those pursuing this type of work.

Interested readers are urged to consult my study, in order to compare ideas discussed in this essay with the actual dissertation.  The work is available online, free of charge, through the University of North Texas website.


Draft Copy

April 2, 2012
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