Updated: 1st December 2017
The material below will always be the most uptodate version of the advice
For assessment 1 students have to produce two case studies as part of a portfolio. The case studies are intended as feature articles for a music magazine. The work is not expected to be academic in tone, but journalistic. That being said it is expected to refer to sources for key claims and make connections with contemporary conversations taking place online (be that in the press or on social media).
How will the work be assessed?
Each case study/feature article is equally weighted – both equate to 25% of the module assessment. Case studies will be marked as a percentage in line with standard University assessments. The criteria for assessment will be drawn from the Generic Assessment Criteria (a copy of this is available from within the module’s Canvas).
This is the standard assessment criteria that features in Programme/Module Guides and has been in operation across the entire duration of your degree (eg it was used in MAC201 etc).
The Generic Assessment Criteria form is divided into 7 categories for written work:
- Argument & Structure
- Critical Evaluation
- Reference to Literature
Each of these categories has a description pertaining to a specific percentage weighting. Case studies will be marked in each category against the most appropriate description. These marks will be aggregated and supported with some qualitative commentary on the case study before a final grade (out of 100) is awarded.
From the module guide… but now with added information
The format the case studies will take will resemble extended feature articles for an online music magazine with the following readership:
- English-speaking audience
- Monthly page views in excess of 250,000 hits
- Regular unique users: 15,000 per month
- Primary age-range of readership: 17-28 years of age (60%)
- Secondary age-range: 29-40 years of age (35%)
- Gender: mixed, but skewed slightly towards a majority male readership (52%)
- Income: average annual income equivalent of readership £17,500
- Education: the readership is articulate with the majority (71%) degree qualified
- Location: the majority of readers are UK-based (70%), with readership in mainland Europe (15%), USA (6%), Malaysia (2%), China (1%) and Singapore (1%). The remaining 5% is unspecified.
- The readership is actively engaged with music consumption and tend to purchase music regularly, have at least one active music subscription service, and frequent live shows (including music festivals) more than 4 times per year.
Our readers are also regular readers of and listeners to the following:
- Drowned in Sound
- Hype Machine
- Consequence of Sound
- The Fader
- BBC Radio 6 Music
- Under The Radar
- Resident Advisor
- The Needle Drop
Please familiarize yourselves with the writing from the above by following the links hosted here: http://pop-music-cult.com/resources/sites-we-like/
With this information in mind, features articles can expect the audience to have a certain amount of familiarity with a broad range of popular music and alternate music forms. The audience is diverse, historically aware, but they may not always have specific niche or expert knowledge.
The magazine aims to do several things and the case studies should strive to satisfy several elements where possible:
- Provide the readers with a clear account of the emergence of new musical genres/artists/albums
- Provide an audience appropriate critical or evaluative voice to help the readers locate new music or rediscover forgotten classics
- Provide a genuine alternative to mainstream music writing via unique and entertaining writing.
- Provide an intimate account of music or musical events that are either unknown or seldom heard.
- Provide a reappraisal or alternate take on commonly accepted wisdom. Students should aim to ensure that the above aims are met by their writing.
These case studies are not expected to be academic in style (ie lots of references to critical reading), but there is an expectation that the audience is knowledgeable of popularly known concepts (eg nihilism, resistance, subcultural theory/practices, feminism, popular Marxisms, postmodernism, cultural appropriation, etc). Such ideas can be drawn upon if helpful and relevant.
This might mean that you make passing reference to social/cultural theories where appropriate. A quick google search of “postmodern and FKA Twigs” demonstrates that this is fairly common within contemporary music writing. Similarly, Tom Morello (guitarist in Rage Against The Machine) is regularly described as a socialist. Pussy Riot are often described as feminist. It may be helpful to explore what these ideas mean in relation to the selected musician, and whether or not they are accurate descriptions.
These case studies are expected to take the reader on a journey of (re)discovery and make them think. They can be polemical and provocative, providing they acknowledge an awareness of the implications (ie refer to an alternate account or position to the one advanced).
While a balanced critique or appraisal is desirable, students may wish to adopt a particular (political/ideological) position and argue forcibly for this. This may take the guise of a critique of Miley Cyrus for undermining feminist principles or the accusation that Lily Allen’s satire is racist. If writing in this polemical mode then students need to acknowledge that other readings/positions are available if they are expecting the highest grades.
The case studies can include embedded music, video and images. However, respect for copyright legislation must be appropriate (eg no uploading of material that you do not own).
It may be the case that students wish to refer to specific music videos hosted on popular sites like YouTube, VEVO and Vimeo. If so, then students must include a list of links in their Canvas submission. Advice for the formatting is of this is located below. Similarly, if students wish to refer to music that is hosted on Spotify or Soundcloud then links can be generated from within the application or from the website to accommodate this.
Links to further reading and listening is encouraged.
If students have undertaken extensive reading around their subject matter and feel that the readership would benefit from being able to explore the material in more depth, then feel free to provide a list of ‘Further reading’ at the end of the article. It is expected that students will be including weblinks to articles in the main body of the feature. ‘Further reading’ would in be in addition to this.
Students are encouraged to read and comment upon each other’s work in order to provide constructive feedback.
All students should have access to the site and once the first wave of case studies has been published, constructive peer feedback is welcomed. Feel free to share the articles and drive traffic to your colleagues. This is not assessed.
Original analysis of musical forms is encouraged.
Students should not feel like they have to repeat back an argument that has been made by staff – disagreement is inevitable. Providing that students can support and sustain their position or the analysis in their feature articles, then they will be given credit accordingly. Students are free to identify any artist or genre – it doesn’t have to be a global superstar or a genre associated with a specific Anglo-American context.
Your headline and opening paragraph/leader are very important for securing reader attention. Make sure you can entice readers in.
These feature articles can adopt the first person mode of address (‘I was on my way to meet Hyde & Beast in Sunderland’s premier music venue when …’) but they should do so only when appropriate. The case studies can and should be evaluative without excessive inclusion of personal opinion. Too much use of the personal pronoun ‘I’ can act as a barrier to the reader being able to form their own conclusions. Most of the best feature writing manages to convey ideas without always coming across as subjective opinion.
Remember the format and the audience: case study features will need to include an attention-grabbing title and the opening of the article will most likely need to highlight the main angle that is to be explored.
Keep the paragraphs short – it’s a lot harder to read dense text on a screen so try to think in terms of two sentence paragraphs (they can be longer/shorter!).
Feel free to include music videos and music art in the articles (this is actively encouraged).
It’s important to include numbered footnotes – these can be references to newspapers or music press articles about particular comments/incidents involving your case study ‘artist’. They can also be the cover of a newly released album, live performance or latest music video. Use of footnotes form part of your assessment so try to be relatively original in how they are used and ensure they fit in with the ‘flow’ of your writing. For your digital submissions you can include links in the body of the work but it is still important to include a list of sources at the end of the document.
Try to have a rationale for your coverage – a new album/video/single release could do this (real or not). It could be a re-release of an earlier album, a concert tour or for a controversial episode involving the artist. But try to avoid the conventional album review format (i.e. 6/10).
It may be feasible and/or appropriate to interview the artist in your case study, and it’s common for assessments to often be structured around an interview (but not vital) with the journalist (i.e. a conversation format). Such an interview can be punctuated by other related writing (the journalist’s ‘voice’) on other aspects of interest to do with the artist (remember to combine first and third person ‘modes of address’). This could involve their support for certain popular ’causes’ such as the role of women or ethnic groups in the music industry, or a controversial aspect about their past.
Try to write with brevity if possible – ensure sentences are more packed with detail and descriptive sub-clauses than normally found in academic writing. So try to employ punctuation more than you would normally do in the form of commas, dashes, speech marks, question marks etc. Try to be informative and evaluative rather than overly descriptive.
Try to write with a ‘persona’ in your mode of address to the audience. Certainly, try to sound confident, arrogant and/or witty in your writing so that a personality comes across to the reader. Sometimes humorous anecdotes about the experience of a concert/festival work well so don’t be frightened to throw in the odd profanity or controversial episode.
Ensure it is well presented – preferably in a way that ‘fits in’ your artist/music genre. Although this is an assessment about the actual artist, it may be reasonable to expect you to say something about the genre(s) that they work within at some point.
Providing students can satisfy the following criteria then they can be confident that their articles are acceptable:
Is the article appropriate for the target audience?
Is the article clearly written and expressed?
Does the article make sense and reach a logical conclusion?
Is the article an original piece of work?
Is the article supported by evidence?
Does the article offer an evaluation or critical appraisal?
The case study should be submitted in 1 main format:
- Digital copy (via Canvas)
It is expected that the Canvas digital copy will be submitted before the assessment deadline. If you experience problems with Canvas you can submit physical copies to the library together with an emailed to the module leader. Late submissions may be rejected, face grade caps or be marked down.
The case study should be written first and foremost in a standardised word-processing package (aka Apple Pages, Microsoft Word, Apache Open Office, Google Docs, etc) and should be saveable in one of the following formats:
This is the version that must be uploaded to Canvas. This version must include all the links to any appropriate music videos or playlists referred to in the article.
From this word-processed version, students may be required to reformat the marked work to feature on the module website – this will be reserved for only the highest scoring pieces of work. This will take place after the feedback has been returned. Tutorials for the reformatting will be provided in the timetable slot mentioned in the module guide (Wednesday afternoon).
The word processed version should include links to sources as endnotes at the end of the article (where a bibliography would typically appear). They should be numerically indicated in the text with something like this  so that the articles can be easily marked up for web-formatting
 This is where the link would appear from the example directly above
Album names should be italicised and track names should appear in speech marks. For example:
David Bowie’s 1971 album, Hunky Dory, is often overlooked in favour of his later work, but it contains some of his most accessible and intellectual work, including ‘Quicksand’, ‘Kooks’, and ‘The Bewlay Brothers’