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The Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna decided to give Avior Byron the Avenir Foundation Research Grant for a one month research trip in Vienna in order to work on two books that he is writing.  
 

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My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

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The difference between a poor critic and a good scholar

In my post “Musicology, Science and Postmodernism” I asked:

So what is the difference between a poor musical critic, who may speak about food when writing about music, and a musicologist who is supposed to transcend personal subjective metaphors and speak with slightly more authority?

This post is an attempt to answer this question.

Solid Evidence
Scholars are supposed to support their arguments with solid evidence. The more solid it is the better job you do. Try to attack the problem from various angles and show that your arguments is working well from all (or most) of them.

Usually, an argument is built from several sub-arguments. Try to show that authoritative scholars around the world support various part of your argument. Authoritative scholars are those who are famous and usually are being quoted by many other people.

Making the extra mile
It is hard work to find solid evidence to your claim. You might need to contact archives and libraries on the other side of the planet. You probably need so spend much time in libraries and archives. You will need to write research and grant proposals in order to obtain scholarships for traveling to distant places (archives, libraries or field work). A good scholar makes the extra mile. Most people usually give up too early and do not know how close they were to success.

Dealing with criticism
A scholar is supposed to predict criticism and welcome it. Criticism is something that most people find hard to listen to. Yet, criticism is something that may help you support your argument or change it so that it will be more solid. One should find ways to overcome one’s defense mechanisms and learn from criticism.

Writing with authority
Make it clear from the outset of your document what you plan to deal with in this work and what is out of the game. Declaring the frame around your work his helpful in order to make your arguments solider and defense them from criticism.

Write with authority. Use less words that show doubt like “possible”, “I think”, “perhaps”; use more sentences that claim to say something very clear about how things actually are, according to your argument.

Having said this, do not present things as fact when they are not. It is completely fine to present things as partial of as issues that need further research. If you write with too much authority about issues that are not clear, you can be sure that other people will attack your conclusions.

Writing style
Constantly pay attention to the way experienced scholars write. They usually pay great attention to small details. Some people suggest to convert passive voice to an active one, or to eliminate redundancy. It is also useful to break up excessively long sentences. All this is true. However, there are many other tips that you can learn concerning your writing style. Read not only what people write but how they present it.

Have fun
Different people define “fun” is different ways. Nevertheless, if your readers will not enjoy reading what you have to say, that means that you have less chances to gain authority in their eyes. Be kind to your readers. Take into consideration their time and respect it. I do not suggest that you should write jokes in your research. On the contrary, non-formality is usually interpreted in a negative way. Yet you would prefer that people will enjoy reading what you write. If people enjoy doing things they usually learn from it more and interact with it in a more productive manner. This is why it is always good to choose a subject that you love for your research.

Critic vs. Scholar
I opened the post with the question concerning the difference between a poor critic and a good scholar. The truth is that it is not black or white. A good scholar is also a critic. Scholars say their opinion about what they write. They do not pretend to be scientists in an age where humanities are understood as something that must transcend “objective” inquiry. Moreover, a good critic is not just a person who spreads his or her subjective view. A good critic knows how to write well and how to build an argument. The best critics also know the scholarship related to their criticism. In other words, a good critic must also be something of a scholar, and a good scholar must be a critic.

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