Guidelines for Ethical Conduct


The American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory (hereafter referred to as AMS and SMT or the Societies) are dedicated to the advancement of scholarship in the various fields of music through research, learning, and teaching. As communities with shared interests, the AMS and the SMT acknowledge that free inquiry depends on the scholarly integrity of its practitioners. Our integrity as musicologists and music theorists demands constant self-scrutiny in the practice of our profession. This statement provides guidelines for ethical conduct by members of the AMS and the SMT, both as individual scholars and as employees and members of professional institutions and organizations.



Attendees and presenters of the AMS and SMT recognize an obligation to uphold and promote the following basic principles of ethical conduct in our profession:

    1. freedom of inquiry and the widest possible access to information of use to scholars,
    2. honesty and integrity in teaching, in scholarly investigation and in the evaluation and transmission of the results of scholarship,
    3. respect for diverse points of view and recognition of the potential worth of scholarship on any aspect of music or any subject related to music,
    4. recognition of the intellectual property rights of other scholars, institutions and publishers, and of composers, performers, and informants,
    5. fairness and honesty in evaluations of colleagues and students,
    6. avoidance of any conflict of interest, or appearance of a conflict of interest, in processes of evaluating the work of colleagues and students, and
    7. commitment to extend to colleagues and students equal opportunities for full participation in the professional community. Attendees and presenters should neither condone harassment in any form nor disregard complaints of harassment or inequitable treatment.

Questions or complaints about the conduct of any of the Societies’ programs should be addressed to the chairperson of the relevant committee, or to any officer or member of the boards of directors. Issues that do not find a routine resolution may be considered by the boards of directors at their regular meetings or in cases of special urgency by the executive committees of the boards.




Since music scholarship is an ongoing, cumulative process that fosters significant discoveries and meaningful interpretations of many kinds, previous accomplishments and newly introduced ideas should be recognized appropriately. While debate is an integral and desirable part of scholarly exchange, it should take place in an atmosphere of mutual regard.

Our integrity as scholars and teachers implies a commitment to develop arguments responsibly and to give a fair hearing to, or reading of, the arguments of colleagues and students alike. Relevant supporting evidence should be presented in a well-reasoned manner, free of misrepresentation and distortion; evidence that contravenes one’s operating hypothesis should not be suppressed.



The AMS and SMT regard plagiarism and other misappropriations of the work of others as unacceptable. We must acknowledge in an appropriate manner our reliance on the work of others, whether they be students or mature scholars, whether our sources are published or unpublished, oral or written. We follow the authors of the Modern Language Association’s Statement of Professional Ethics in adopting this definition from Joseph Gibaldi’s MLA Style Manual (6.1 and chapter 2):

“Using another person’s ideas or expressions in your writing without acknowledging the source constitutes plagiarism…. [T]o plagiarize is to give the impression that you wrote or thought something that you in fact borrowed from someone, and to do so is a violation of professional ethics…. Forms of plagiarism include the failure to give appropriate acknowledgment when repeating another’s wording or particularly apt phrase, paraphrasing another’s argument, and presenting another’s line of thinking.”

Attendees and presenters should be equally scrupulous when translating the words and ideas of others from one language into another.[1]

2. Copyright and Fair Use

Attendees and presenters should know and respect the laws of copyright as they apply to musical works and performance as well as to language. Under law, copyright privileges apply to works that are original with the author and “fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed” (Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C.102 [1988]). The AMS and the SMT recognize that ideas presented in an electronic format are entitled to the same protections, including considerations of plagiarism, as any other work.

In research and teaching alike, attendees and presenters should be mindful of the factors to be considered in judging Fair Use of copyrighted material: the purpose and character of the use; the nature of the work used; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the work. As authors of scholarly works, attendees and presenters should obtain permission before publishing quoted material, musical examples, sound recordings, facsimiles, and illustrations in ways that exceed the normal practice of Fair Use.

Except in cases of Fair Use, attendees and presenters should obtain the permission of authors before citing or otherwise using their unpublished work, ideas, and words, and before citing or reproducing unpublished words, ideas, music, and musical performances of those serving as subjects and interlocutors. They should also afford those authors, subjects, and interlocutors the opportunity to check any such citation or reproduction for accuracy before publishing it. In cases of musical performances, performers should be appropriately credited and compensated. For more detail, see the AMS’s Best Practices in the Use of Copyrighted Materials in Music Scholarship and Best Practices in Digital Scholarship.




AMS and SMT members, when acting on behalf of the AMS and SMT, or when asked by editors, professional organizations, granting agencies, or employing institutions to judge the work of other scholars (whether for publication, public presentation, funding, prizes, or professional advancement), are responsible for declaring any conflict of interest arising from a personal or professional relationship with the scholar whose work is being evaluated.  They should decline to participate if they cannot evaluate the work honestly, impartially, and competently. In agreeing to serve as reviewers, members of the AMS and SMT should never misrepresent the nature of their relationship to the candidate. In judging abstracts for AMS and SMT programs, whether regional or national, members of program committees should evaluate submissions according to the criteria stated in the call for papers, respecting the potential worth of scholarship on any aspect of music or any subject related to music and refraining from discussing or voting on abstracts that present a conflict of interest.

In reviewing the work of other scholars, members of the AMS and SMT should be thorough and conscientious, upholding high standards of scholarship and welcoming perspectives and methods different from their own. When supplying written reports, evaluators should make their standards and process of judgment clear, for the benefit of both the authors of the work and those who commission the evaluation. It should be understood that an editor or granting agency may go back to an impartial reviewer who submitted a negative review to inquire whether a new draft or revised proposal has been improved to the reviewer’s satisfaction. If, in evaluating a particular case, a reviewer has sought the advice of others, the reviewer should report these facts to other committee members or judges to avoid a hidden conflict of interest.

Evaluators should treat article manuscripts and all communications with editors related to peer review work as strictly confidential. They should not comment on the manuscript on social media or in conversations with colleagues; publish or circulate any part of an unpublished manuscript; or make use of original research without permission.



1. At its meeting held 23 June 2019, the AMS Board of Directors voted to endorse the American Historical Association’s Statement on Plagiarism.