Research Proposal: Can Music Improve How We Study?

As a music journalist, I have a strong passion for writing and researching music. Listening to music has become an essential component in helping me to complete simple daily activities. To motivate me during exercise, to entertain me while cooking and to keep me focused and at ease while studying. According to Radio Live’s 2019 ‘Share of Audio‘ study, Australians spend 3 hours and 28 minutes listening to audio every day, with this number increasing by 7 minutes from the previous year (Hishon, 2019). Based on my own experience and the support from secondary sources, it can be suggested that music, similarly to study, whether it’s carefully planned or last minute, is a key aspect of every university student’s experience.

With this in mind, my research proposal intends to explore the use of music during study. From interactions with research participants, I used a mind map to visualise my ideas but, as you can tell, this quickly snowballed.

Knowing this would be a wide area to attempt to cover within one semester of research, I considered what facet of this topic would be most achievable, relevant and timely.

Narrowing the scope of my research topic, I’ve decided to investigate what the most and least popular genre is for studying and if this differs from their usual music taste. The research will focus less on science and more on how this influences student experience. Based on the engagement I’ve already received, I’m confident my findings will be of relevance to students as it aims to enhance their understanding of studying and music listening habits to improve productivity and ideally, results.

The topic will be achieved through primary research methods including questionnaires, interviews and focus groups. With the use of the #BCM hashtags and the audience I’ve built on Twitter, distributing my questionnaire and finding interviewees will be achievable. To support my findings and reinforce that my topic is timely and relevant, I will refer to academic studies as secondary sources.

This topic has been well researched in recent years through the commonly debated, Mozart Effect, and the increase of music accessibility through streaming services. Though the Mozart Effect theory has since been disproven, the concept remains as the catalyst to my research in examining the relationship between music and studying (Hamer, 2016). This theory has been explored through an academic study from Timothy P. Byron, titled ‘Curious Kids: is it OK to listen to music while studying?‘. This compared the Mozart Effect to a similar and more recent test, the Blur Effect. It presented key reasons to the variables that contribute to boosting the helpfulness of music while studying and gave me ideas for the questionnaire that can be supported by this secondary source.

An additional source that will assist specifically in the questionnaire is, ‘The perceived impact of playing music while studying‘ by Anastasia Kotsopoulou and Susan Hallam. This journal article demonstrated a strong method of primary researching and provided a foundation for my research thesis. Though the study is from 2010, it could be interesting to compare its findings to my own with the increase of streaming services in recent years.

Lastly, another academic source that I have read and intend to reference is ‘Music While You Work‘ by Adrian Furnham and Anna Bradley. This journal article is similarly to Byron’s, in its examination of introverts and extroverts, but it goes into more depth to look at the cognitive effects. While I’ve identified that the science is not of extreme importance to my research portfolio, it is still useful to understand and be able to provide evidence to my findings that can be presented in an easily digestible way for readers. Though this is not the limit of my secondary research, this is the wider reading of academic studies that I’ve done so far. As I begin to distribute my questionnaire and construct my findings, I expect to find more secondary sources that will allow me to continue to demonstrate intellectual rigour as I use them to contrast or support my research.

My research’s objective is to determine how we feel listening to music benefits our studying and what the most and least popular genres are and does this differ to usual taste. By doing so, my portfolio aims to give students an understanding of their peers and their own studying and music listening habits to improve their ability to study successfully.

With the completion of my portfolio, I would like to create a public playlist consisting of my questionnaire participants favourite song for study. This would become tangible evidence of my project’s relevance and would aid my research’s objective.

Frank Tremain.


Byron, T 2019, ‘Curious Kids: is it OK to listen to music while studying’, The Conversation, weblog post, 17 October, viewed on 12 March 2020, <>.

Furnham, A & Bradley, A 1997, ‘Music While You Work: The Differential Distraction of Background Music on the Cognitive Test Performance of Introverts and Extroverts’, Applied Cognitive Psychology, vol. (11), p./pp (445-455).

Kotsopoulou, A & Hallam, S 2010, ‘The perceived impact of playing music while studying: Age and cultural differences’, Educational Studies, vol. (36), p./pp. (431-440).

Hamer, A 2016, ‘The Mozart Effect Myth: Listening to Classical Music Won’t Make You Smarter’, Curiosity, weblog post, 21 August, viewed on 12 March 2020, <>.

Hershenson, R 2000, ‘Debating The Mozart Theory, The New York Times, weblog post, 6 August, viewed on 12 March 2020, <>.

Hishon, D 2020, ‘GfK Australian Share of Audio 2019’, Commerical Radio Australia, weblog post, 1 Jan, viewed on 13 March 2020, <>.

Tremain, F 2020, ‘study sounds’, Spotify, online playlist, created 20 March 2020, <>.


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