Final project (Su20)

Last modified on August 4, 2023

Your final project is an analysis of piece of your choosing. The purpose of the project is for you to apply the skills you’ve learned in class, to a piece that you enjoy and want to share with the rest of the class.

Due dates are as follows:

  • July 15: Project worksheet
  • July 19: Video
  • July 21: Peer feedback
  • July 21–25: Essay

Sample paper

To help you get a sense of what I’m looking for, I’ve created a paper that more or less ticks all the boxes for your final project, and annotated it with meta-level comments of what I’m trying to do with the writing (so focus on that, rather than the analysis itself!). Download the annotated sample paper here.


Make a video (max 10 minutes), you will apply knowledge you gained in our seminar to a piece of your choosing. It is worth 15% of your final grade.

Additionally, and more practically, the video will be like a first draft of your final paper. This will be an opportunity for you to get feedback from me and your peers.

Presenting and submitting

  • You should make a powerpoint or similar visuals that goes along with your analysis. Use the powerpoint to present any visuals that will help in understanding your point, such as annotated score excerpts.
  • Submit your video on Blackboard by adding it to our Media Gallery using Kaltura. The link to the Media Gallery can be found in the sidebar on Blackboard. GMU IT has a simple guide that is easy to follow, and can help you more if you need it.


  • Use the worksheet you submitted and my feedback as a guide for your content. However, your video should go deeper than your worksheet. You should have specific analysis by this point.
  • Analysis must engage with one or more methodologies discussed in class. This is where the majority of the points are—failure to do this will certainly result in a poor grade.
  • You should have a clear thesis statement in your video, and all your analysis should tie into the thesis statement.
  • Your video should be, at most, 10 minutes long.
  • This video is too short to include historical context—get straight to your analysis! Historical context will not help your grade and will only give you less space to present your points.


  • Your voice explaining everything must be included in the video.
  • You may do either a picture-in-picture layout, where one picture is yourself talking to the camera and the other is your powerpoint, or you may do a disembodied voice layout with only your powerpoint on screen.
  • Videos must be professional, rehearsed, well-organized, and polished, in order to maximize the effectiveness of your limited time.
  • Videos should be edited to remove any awkward pauses and unnecessary content.

Presentation grading rubric

Analysis (60 points total)Thesis statement (10)Clearly presented, well-formed, interesting. (10)Clearly presented, well-formed, but not interesting. (7)Unclear thesis statement or poor thesis statement. (5)
One or more specific example/fact, analyzed in detail. (10)One specific example/fact, but superficial analysis. (5)No specific examples/facts. (0)
Methodology (30)Analysis relies on and deeply engages with a methodology learned in the course. (30)Methodology is clearly referenced but is not executed properly, or could use a more in-depth treatment. (20)Methodology is  mentioned but not really used. (10)
Analysis supports thesis statement. (10)Relationship between analysis and thesis statement is implied but not made clear enough. (7)Relationship btw. analysis and thesis statement is often unclear. (3)
(40 points total)
Visuals (15)Visuals are professional, well organized, useful, and easy to follow. (15)Visuals are somewhat helpful but need more clarity or more polishing. (12)Visuals are difficult to follow and unpolished. (7)
Speaking (10)Presentation is rehearsed, voice is clear. No long pauses (>4 sec.). Unneccessary or unneeded parts of the video have been edited/removed. (10)Could use more rehearsal, as evident from stumbling over words or long pauses, but overall the point is communicated. (7)Seems unprepared or improvised, language and points are unclear. The video has long pauses and unnecessary content. (3)
Organization (15)Clear flow to the video. Easy for the audience to remember your main points. Time used efficiently. (15)Flow and main points can be discerned but the audience must work to find them. Time used efficiently. (12)Video is poorly sequenced and main points are lost. Video is too short or too long. (7)

Helpful tips

Expand to show additional tips

    • Write a script! 10 minutes is only about five pages double-spaced (yes, really!) read at a moderate speed. Most people have trouble going over time, not under it. You can reuse this writing for the paper, so really, it’s killing two birds with one stone.
    • You may include audio clips in your presentation, though obviously not excessively, as it cuts into your 10 minutes. Make sure it actually gets recorded—if you’re recording audio from your mic, it may be easiest if you just play it from a speaker that the mic will pick up. There are more techy ways to do this to get higher quality audio that I can explain if you are interested—just ask in Slack.
    • When you are creating your video, be sure to budget in at least an hour of time to edit, upload, and deal with any technology issues that may arise.
    • If you want to do the kind of picture-in-picture effect you’ve seen me using on the lecture videos, use Kaltura Capture to do a screen recording and a webcam recording at the same time. It’s very easy to use (even very tech-unsavvy professors can use this!), and Jim McLean who is on staff for support is very quick to respond to any problems. You can download and find helpful info here.

Peer review

The peer review process is intended to mimic the process of reviewing an article for a journal. In addition to this practical experience, the review process should help you learn to pinpoint similar issues in your own work, and will allow you to get feedback from multiple perspectives (not just mine).

After receiving everyone’s worksheets, I will assign each person two other people to review.

On Blackboard, go to the Media Gallery, and find the people you are supposed to review.

Content and submission

Use Slack to send a direct message to the person you are reviewing and to me. In your review, answer each of the following prompts:

  1. In your own words, and without re-watching the video, do your best to summarize the main points of the video. This will do two things: 1) help the author identify any discrepancies between what they thought they were saying, and what they seem like they are actually saying, and 2) help the author understand where you are coming from with your following comments.
  2. What was the most effective part of this video’s analysis? In other words, where did the analysis make you hear something differently, understand the piece better, or convince you of the argument?
  3. Everything in your video and in your final project should relate clearly back to the thesis statement. Was there any point at which you weren’t sure why the information was being presented? 
  4. The final paper is longer than the script for these videos will be. In light of that, name one or two areas where you think the author can slow down, explain more, or go more in depth, to make the paper longer and more effective.
  5. Pose one analytical question to the author, and explain how you would suggest answering that question. The author may think this is a good idea/question, and end up answering it when expanding their analysis for the final paper!

Please don’t hesitate to provide honest feedback. Your feedback will not impact the scores that I give to the video.


Your feedback will be graded on completion and counted as a homework grade.


The analytical essay is the capstone project of the course, and is worth 35% of your final grade. The purpose is to demonstrate what you learned in our seminar by performing your own creative analysis of piece of your choosing. Compared to the presentation, the paper will be expanded (at least twice as long), and should incorporate the feedback you received.


  • You may submit your paper anytime between July 21 and July 25. The earlier you submit, the more feedback I will give you when you get your final grade. Papers submitted on or near July 25 will not get detailed feedback beyond the rubric breakdown.
  • The paper will be submitted to me on Blackboard. 
  • You must submit your paper as a .pdf file. 
  • If your essay references a score, please include a copy of the score.


This is a music analysis paper. Some additional requirements and guidelines:

  • Your music analysis must rely on and deeply engage with the analytical approaches we learned in class. This is the most important aspect of this paper, and therefore worth the most points in the rubric.
  • Your paper should be bound together with a thesis statement of some kind, i.e., some kind of central feature that you discovered while analyzing the piece.
  • The vast majority of your paper should be music analysis. If historical context directly enhances your central music-analytical thesis, then you may include it. Otherwise, restrict your biographical information to one paragraph. Including extra information beyond this does not help your grade in any way—it’s just extra.
  • You should have chosen at least three aspects of the piece to focus on as examples which prove your thesis statement. 
  • Avoid qualitative language and irrelevant personal experience. The purpose of this paper is to show your understanding of the piece and the analytical techniques used, not to convince someone else to like the piece. 
  • Your tone and focus should be extremely similar to the readings we did throughout class. You might like to view my sample paper as a guide. 


  • To thoroughly complete the objectives of the paper, I estimate it will take you at least 8 pages. Please do not write more than 13 pages. If you are under 8 pages or over 13 pages, please send me a draft and I’ll suggest places where you need to expand/condense.
  • Page counts include musical examples (within reason).


  • 1” margins; professional 12 point font, such as Times; double-spaced
  • Add a header with your name, the class, and the date you submitted it.
  • Add page numbers.
  • You must properly cite all authors whose techniques you use.
  • This is not a research paper, so it’s quite normal for you to only cite readings we discussed in class.
  • You should have a Works Cited at the end, even if it includes only one source.
  • Use Chicago or MLA format for your citations, whichever you are more familiar with.
  • Proofread carefully.

Essay grading rubric

Analysis (60 points total)Thesis statement (10)Clearly presented, well-formed, interesting. (10)Clearly presented, well-formed, but not interesting. (7)Unclear thesis statement or poor thesis statement. (5)
3 or more specific examples, analyzed in detail. (10)3 specific examples, but sometimes superficial analysis. (7)Less than 3 specific examples. Not detailed enough. (5)
Methodology (30)Analysis relies on and deeply engages with a methodology learned in the course. (30)Methodology is clearly referenced but is not executed properly, or could use a more in-depth treatment. (20)Methodology is  mentioned but not really used. (10)
Analysis supports thesis statement. (10)Relationship between analysis and thesis statement is implied but not made clear enough. (7)Relationship between analysis and thesis statement is often unclear. (3)
Citation (10 points total)In-text citations (5)All sources are properly cited in the essay. (5)Sources are cited in the essay, but with improper formatting. (3)No citations in the essay. (0)
Bibliography (5)A complete bibliography of sources is provided. (5)A complete bibliography of sources is provided, but with improper formatting. (3)Missing many citations in the essay. (0)
(30 points total)
Spelling and grammar (15)Overall good English grammar and spelling. Written in an academic tone. (15)Occasional grammar or spelling errors or instances of overly casual tone. (12)Many grammar/spelling errors and/or  inappropriate tone. (7)
Organization (15)Argument is easy to follow and the main points are easy to remember. Writing is clear and efficient. (15)Flow and main points can be discerned but the reader must work to find them. (12)The argument is hard to discern. Paper is too short or too long. (7)

Helpful tips

Expand to show additional tips

  • Come talk with me one-on-one to improve your paper! Students who meet with me always end up with better projects than students who do this on their own. I write a lot and have worked in a writing center, so I have a lot of wisdom about writing to share with you.
  • Begin your project by analyzing the music. Make your musical examples. Then, begin writing the paper by explaining your analysis. Write down the “low-hanging fruit” first to get the ball rolling so you’re not staring at a blank Word document.
  • Read your paper out loud to another human being before you submit it. This is the fastest way to find weird grammatical errors that you made.
  • Words and phrases to avoid: very, it, interesting, unique, thing, genius, “it is ___ that,” “some say,” “I believe,” “it seems.” Maybe also “to be.”