Dissertation idea - help!

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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby AnnSimone » Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:39 am

maven wrote:I'm still not understanding why they would be different in a group that plays musical instruments to one that doesn't. You could even exclude people who have or had serious mental health problems if you felt it was necessary.

I was already skeptical to start with, but the more suggestions and points people are presenting, the more certain I am of the fact that 4 groups for comparison is completely unnecessary. Especially as there will always be confounding variables to some degree, yet researchers adopt all sorts of methods irregardless if that?
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby Geishawife » Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:19 am

AnnSimone wrote:irregardless


Shudder!!!! Sorry, I don't wish to derail an interesting thread, and I hope you manage to get your dissertation up and running, but use of non-words like this really makes me cringe.
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby sarahg » Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:33 am

I think you really need to decide whether you are interested in a) whether playing a musical instrument predicts mental well-being or b) whether there is a difference in mental well-being scores in different groups (i.e. plays musical instrument vs not).

I'd be inclined to go for a, for several reasons:
1. There are always going to be natural variance between groups that are not attributed to the IV and I think you'll find it really hard to identify homogeneous groups without having sampling issues.
2. There will be variance within musicians in regards to play-time etc. That needs to be accounted for. You could explore length of time playing a musician (i.e. what age started), how often a week they play, how many instruments? Are they part of a band etc? This would be much easier to explore using a questionnaire design.
3. If you wish to control for previous mental health experiences and personality types, this could be easily done in a questionnaire and then control for them in the regression model. This way you can explore the role of playing music on mental well-being whilst controlling for these potential confounding factors.
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby Spatch » Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:20 am

Even though people above have good points I would have concerns about this project for the following reasons:

1) There are already numerous existing studies in the area (e.g. Smith A., Brice C., Collins A., Matthews V., McNamara R. (2000). The scale of occupational stress: A further analysis of the impact of demographic factors and type of job. London, UK: HSE; Wills G. I., Cooper C. L. (1987). Stress and professional popular musicians. Stress Medicine, 3(4), 267–275) and it would be hard to see what you would be adding looking at such a broad question, especially at undergraduate level where you will be severely limited by time and resources. A more specific question or sub area within the "music and mental health" sphere could be interesting, but it would have to come from a sound rationale, have testable hypotheses, etc so you can make meaningful conclusions.

2) What do you mean by "musician", and at what level. Is that anyone who plays an instrument (If so, for how long and at what level)? Professionals (what type)? The more specific you are, the harder it is going to be to recruit and possibly match controls. Especially if you are not paying participants. Thinking of power calculations and numbers, even with the widespread nature of internet recruiting you may come across difficulites.

Also I don't think you can get away with doing simple correlation studies, because the tag "musician" is potentially very broad to the point of meaninglessness in the context of something like depression and anxiety. Technically, I could come under that category(4 years of Piano lessions, played the bass guitar for a 6 months) or not (I couldn't play to save my life, could never pass any exams and the "music" I produced could have been classified as an guantanamo bay level experimental type of auditory torture).

3) If you are fighting your supervisor from the beginning its usually a bad sign. Writing a decent dissertation is hard enough without it being an uphill battle against the person who has been allocated to help guide you. I would always maintain that having a supervisor who believes in you and your project is one of the best ways to learn the craft of research, getting through the process and getting a good mark/outcome. Although its not impossible to produce a dissertation with an unhelpful/ angtagonistic supervisor it's stressful, will probably affect the quality and more likely than not put you off research in the future.
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby jamesivens » Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:00 am

I wonder if your potential supervisor (or a find a different one) could help you make this into more of a workable idea?

What would be of interest to find out? in terms of population, could there be something around how people got into music in the first place (enjoyment, parental pressures, escapism?) or people coming to music later in life? because of their circumstances, life changes or being offered something like music therapy?

People have already commented on the issues about methodology, how about considering qualitative? Would it not be far more interesting to get rich, detailed experiences of the musicians and their mental health? James Rhodes (in the book, Instrumental, and lots of twitter) writes a lot about his music and experience of trauma, and how music got him through the most difficult times in his life. What makes it so interesting is the detail of his experience.

As its a dissertation, you could use focus groups, and do something like a thematic analysis. In terms of recruitment, you could target third sector organisations such as, Mind (i think they offer ways of using music in terms of well-being), or other charities which do music therapy. Or you could focus on the experience of music therapists and get their angle on things?

If you're passionate about music, and this is what you want to focus on, then go for it! There'll be an idea in there somewhere, it just needs working in to something manageable, and a supervisor who will support you with it
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby AnnSimone » Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:32 pm

Geishawife wrote: use of non-words like this really makes me cringe.

Irrespective/regardless. I hope that's better? :D

Regarding my supervisor, due to the circumstances of my university, I will not be able to be given any other supervisor but the one I currently have so will have to make do! Although, I do acknowledge that I may face potential barriers if she's not very supportive: this is already a concern of mine.

Regarding what Spatch mentioned, I definitely see the potential problem of individuals who do play music yet haven't managed to acquire any levels through exams. But surely that can be covered if a questionnaire covers A) How many years have you played? and B) What is your current/highest grade in an instrument? - Perhaps you can look at interactions between those factors and i.e. wellbeing score? I definitely agree with regards on specifying what musician includes; I have to give that some additional thought, although I do believe I will only look at people who play music as a hobby, rather than an occupation?

With regards to the existing literature, I have found contradicting literature. This includes some of the studies people on this thread have included, such as musicians ARE likely to suffer mental health issues, while research on music therapy suggests that music/engaging with music can help. To keep things short, I was hoping that my research idea would provide with some insight to what may help bolster mental wellbeing (using non-professional musicians, more amateurs who play music as a hobby). Of course, depends on what the findings would be as well...

Sarahg, I like your idea. Similar to what Maven mentioned and definitely something I will consider. As I mentioned previously on the thread, I'm just a little concerned whether it will provide me with enough data to write an entire dissertation on!
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby Geishawife » Mon Mar 06, 2017 6:14 pm

AnnSimone wrote:Irrespective/regardless. I hope that's better?


Yes, that's just fine :wink: :wink:

On a more serious note, I am a little surprised by this
AnnSimone wrote:due to the circumstances of my university, I will not be able to be given any other supervisor but the one I currently have so will have to make do!
. Maybe I was exceptionally lucky in being able to choose a supervisor for my undergrad research, but I am surprised a university will force you to work with a supervisor who is not supportive of your idea. Given that is the case, however, if you develop a solid research proposal, demonstrating a sound rationale for using only 2 groups, I would hope your supervisor would work with you rather than against you. Good luck. Sounds like a tricky situation.
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby AnnSimone » Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:33 pm

Geishawife wrote:I am surprised a university will force you to work with a supervisor who is not supportive of your idea.
I believe that universities will usually provide you with a supervisor who either knows a bit about the area you're intending to study or can support you. My university is simply a little limited as of right now, but will most likely be able to offer more option in future!
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby sarahg » Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:59 am

Spatch wrote:Even though people above have good points I would have concerns about this project for the following reasons:

Also I don't think you can get away with doing simple correlation studies, because the tag "musician" is potentially very broad to the point of meaninglessness in the context of something like depression and anxiety. Technically, I could come under that category(4 years of Piano lessions, played the bass guitar for a 6 months) or not (I couldn't play to save my life, could never pass any exams and the "music" I produced could have been classified as an guantanamo bay level experimental type of auditory torture).
.


I disagree, the variability in musicians (i.e. amount of time played, expertise level, playing time per week, instrument type etc.) can be addressed far easier in a regression based model than in other research designs.
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby Spatch » Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:56 pm

I disagree, the variability in musicians (i.e. amount of time played, expertise level, playing time per week, instrument type etc.) can be addressed far easier in a regression based model than in other research designs.


Really? With all of the potential problems around multicollinearity and homoscedasticity among the variables tested? I am open in that I am the least qualified person on earth to talk about musicality, but I would be suprised if the relationships between the tested variables are going to be linear (and not quadratic which I reckon some of them might be). Happy to be corrected though, as this is the sort of awesome conversation that could occupy an entire afternoon. Clearly missing research here.
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby lingua_franca » Sat Mar 11, 2017 12:35 am

Remember that it might reflect badly on your supervisor if you do badly on your dissertation and they will want you succeed, so what feels like lack of support to you might be intended as constructive criticism. I'd pay attention to whatever they're suggesting.

It sounds as though you are making your project much more complicated than it needs to be and you don't have a straightforward hypothesis to test. I think you could design a good study in this area (I've read quite a bit on music and mental wellbeing, as it's of personal interest to me) but you need a much clearer rationale and to adjust the methodology. A qualitative study could be very rich, as another person has said, and you wouldn't have too much difficulty in getting a good sample (you'd need a smaller sample size, for a start). If you're set on quantitative, then think about what your variables etc. actually are. Bear in mind that an undergrad dissertation is short and you are simply not going to have the space to take on a study that has all sorts of complex factors, and biting off more than you can chew will work against you. You need something you can realistically test.

Talking about grades and years of study suggests that you're interested in whether proficiency in music is a protective factor against anxiety and depression, which is different from just playing music. I would be inclined to disregard proficiency and look at time spent playing music each week, and to examine something much more specific than whether musical involvement leads to increased mental wellbeing - as Spatch has pointed out, there has already been a fair amount of work on that. How about investigating whether there is a link between musical involvement and increased distress tolerance? Mindfulness? (To my knowledge the only study on music and mindfulness focuses on the effects of listening to music rather than playing it.) Defining your focus more sharply would also help you to solve the methodological problems.
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby maven » Sun Mar 12, 2017 7:14 pm

I still think mindfulness might be your missing link here. What about asking people who play music of some sort to complete questionnaire on mindfulness, something about whether music is a mindful experience for the participant, and ratings of mood before and after playing music? Or even comparing that to listening to music...
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby AnnSimone » Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:44 am

Thank you for all the great suggestions so far. It's all provided me with some clearer ideas and guidelines to how I may approach my desired topic!
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Re: Dissertation idea - help!

Postby firegal » Tue Mar 21, 2017 4:05 pm

lingua_franca wrote:Talking about grades and years of study suggests that you're interested in whether proficiency in music is a protective factor against anxiety and depression, which is different from just playing music. I would be inclined to disregard proficiency and look at time spent playing music each week, and to examine something much more specific than whether musical involvement leads to increased mental wellbeing.


Nail. Head. :D
I would think that looking at people who regard themselves as 'musicians' and people who play music for personal pleasure might give you two very different groups. Grading and performance can be very stressful, and might be far removed from the experience of quietly sitting in your bedroom working on your own thing. Which might also be a thing to think about if you are thinking of time played each week - someone in the run up to an exam or concert might be getting in a LOT of hours but again that's a different sort of thing to someone who spends each evening unwinding with a guitar.
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