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MUT 100 – Introduction to Music Therapy

A basic guide to starting research in music therapy.

Evaluating the Results of Your Research

Once you've found some sources you think are appropriate for your research project, it's time to evaluate them.

  • Authority - Who provided the information in your sources? How do you know they're trustworthy?
  • Accuracy - Is the information factual? Can the information be verified through other sources? Does the information seem credible?
  • Purpose and Coverage - What is the purpose of the information? Does the source exist to provide information or to sell a point of view? What is the tone of the writing? Is it ironic? Does it ridicule? Is the information comprehensive? Is it geared toward a particular audience?
  • Bias - Is the page free of bias? Does it present an objective view of the topic? Is the language biased in any way? Do you perceive a conflict of interest in terms of the content or presentation of the topic?
  • Date - How old is the information presented? Could things have changed since then?

Remember: Even if your sources meet all the criteria above, you still have to make sure they actually help you with your project! A perfectly reliable source of information that doesn't help you answer your research question is not useful.

Informational Sources vs. Research Studies

You will find both primary and secondary resources in most of our databases. Articles and book chapters can come from sources that are informational, trade, or scholarly publications. Your professors will often require that you only use scholarly publications, so it's important to know the difference.

Informational: This includes textbooks, newspaper articles, articles from magazines (such as Time, Business Week, or Psychology Today), blogs, and other secondary sources.

Trade: These are designed for people who work in a particular industry. They contain news about the industry written by industry insiders and are generally dedicated towards advancing the interests of that industry or field.

Scholarly: These are articles that are written by academics or researchers in accordance with the accepted scientific processes of each field. A scholarly article can be peer-reviewed, empirical, primary, or a review article, or a combination of these things.

  • Peer-reviewed. Peer review is an important part of academic publishing. When a scientist or researcher submits an article to a journal, it's not published immediately. The article is sent out to several anonymous reviewers who look over the article to see if it is methodologically sound and if the conclusions are logical. The reviewers will recommend that the article be published as it is, or they will recommend revisions or improvements to the article, or they may reject it.
  • Empirical or Quantitative. These articles use numbers and statistics.
  • Qualitative. These articles use methods that can't be easily quantified, such as interviews or focus groups.
  • Both qualitative and quantitative follow a standard structure. Look for an introduction, a literature review, methodology (what the researchers actually did- a science experiment, a survey, etc), results, discussion, and conclusion.
  • Review articles. This kind of article does not include any primary research. Instead, the author will locate all the articles that have been published on a certain topic and look for common findings among them.  

Revising Your Research Question

As you conduct your research, you may realize that the question you're asking is misguided, not very interesting, or impossible to answer. What's a student to do??

Change your research question!

Revising your research question based on knowledge gained from research is all part of the process. You may need to inform your professor of this development, but don't be afraid to change course.