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Research reports and papers have been around a long time. They haven’t evolved much. Here are 10 ways to make them more relevant. (Flickr / Nic McPhee)

In high school and college, I suffered through quite a few research reports and papers. I gathered data, cited sources, followed MLA style and double spaced.

I turned in my papers. Then I never did anything else with them.

I still have one political science paper I wrote hiding out in a trunk full of papers in my basement. The rest have been pitched in the “cylindrical file”, never to be seen again.

The merits of doing research and creating these reports and papers are valid. When they create them, students …

  • Gather information
  • Evaluate sources
  • Organize and synthesize data
  • Form ideas and cohesive thoughts
  • Create a polished, finished product
  • Cite where they got their information

Here’s the problem, though: the finished product just isn’t very relevant to the real world, be it in the workforce or in people’s personal lives.

Reports and papers often end up where mine always did — in the trash.

If students are going to do their best work to learn and create, shouldn’t it be in a form they can be proud of — and that they want to show others?

I think it’s time that we turn research reports and papers on their heads. Here are 10 creative alternatives:

1. Websites. By making a free website using tools like Weebly and Google Sites, students are much more likely to attract eyeballs to their work. Websites can be shared easily, and they live on when people stumble upon them through Google searches. When students publish their work to a website, they’re creating a positive digital footprint as well.

2. Infographics. Have you seen those super long infographics that you have to scroll down through to see all the information? They’re all over Pinterest and other social media. Here are two great tools that will help your students create them:

3. Google Drawings interactive posters. Gathering lots of information for a report or paper onto a poster board might be impossible (or require teeny tiny text!). A Google Drawings interactive poster (see post on this here) fits the in-depth research genre better because it can be a jumping off point for more information. Use a Google Drawing to present some visuals. Then, create links from that poster to Google Docs or other resources that provide more information about the topic. Be sure to use a live hyperlink (Ctrl+K is the keyboard shortcut) to get readers where they want to go.

4. Linked YouTube videos. Researchers gather information and present it in video format in front of an audience of millions every day. It’s called television news. Students can create short videos on the different segments of their report or paper. Then, they can upload them to YouTube and link them together using annotations. It becomes an interactive video version of their reports. See this example I did with a post I wrote on Google Classroom.

5. ThingLinks.ThingLink lets students create clickable hotspots on an image. Students use an image (either use a pre-existing one, an information-based one like a map or a chart, or create one with a tool like Google Drawings or PicMonkey). Then, they add clickable dots to important parts of that image. Those clickable dots can take readers to sources already existing on the Web or to Google Docs or other sources created by students. See ThingLink’s website for examples of how this awesome tool works.

6. Radio shows. Programs like “This American Life” and other audio documentaries do a phenomenal job of creating long-form stories and journalistic presentations in an engaging way. With some planning, students could record a compelling podcast/radio show presentation about their content. They could add interviews, sound effects, background audio from a site like a restaurant or a bus station, etc. Use tools like Audioboom (upload audio so others can listen to it) and Audacity / Garage Band (for mixing audio). Can be simple or complex.

7. News broadcast. In No. 4 above, we used short video clips to create an interactive video presentation. But news broadcasts generally aren’t very interactive. Students could create a news show, blending video, images, sound and effects together using a tool like WeVideo or Camtasia Studio. It could be uploaded to a class YouTube channel where others could watch.

8. Info/image slide show. The “Did You Know?/Shift Happens” videos created by Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod have been viewed millions of times on YouTube. They’ve taught us about rapid changes happening globally, and we willingly watched because they were engaging. These text-based slideshow videos can be very popular, and students can create them with YouTube’s photo slideshow tool or Animoto (free for educators).

9. Aurasma aura poster. This one actually utilizes poster board, but it’s so much more than the standard poster. With Aurasma (an iPad app), students can create auras. An aura is a video or image that displays over something in real life when you look at it through the camera in the Aurasma app. (Here’s an example of how it works.) Students can create auras for different images on their posters. When the viewer scans the images with the Aurasma app, it displays videos or images with more information.

10. Google Slides slide book. I’m all for ditching textbooks, and this is a great way to do that. Instead of using a standard textbook, students can show their understanding by creating an interactive, engaging one! In place of reports and papers, students could create a slide book like this one (created by Matt Macfarlane, a teacher who provides this to his students). Notice the images, links to sites and embedded videos.

For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links:

Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

 DateEvent / Event DetailsCity / More Info
Western Wayne (Ind.) SchoolsPershing, IN
 Full-day Seminar:Ditch That Textbook: Why and How?Private Event
9:00-12:00 p.m.
U. Indy's Power of Education ConferenceIndianapolis, IN
 Keynote:Ditch That Textbook: My JourneyPublic Event
Sponsor:University of Indianapolis Student Education AssociationRegister to attend
Venue:University of Indianapolis Schwitzer Hall Basement
Indianapolis, IN
08:00-03:00 p.m.
World Languages Workshop @ Lafayette Jeff HSLafayette, IN
 Venue:Jefferson High School
1801 S. 18th St.
Lafayette, IN 47905
Private Event
9:00-4:05 p.m.
Indiana Conference on LearningIndianapolis, IN
 Workshop:Ditch That Textbook (et al)Public Event
Sponsor:American Student Achievement InstituteRegister to attend
Venue:Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel
2544 Executive Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46241
Get more information
08:00-04:00 p.m.
Fall Creek Intermediate School WorkshopFishers, IN
 Venue:Fall Creek Intermediate School
12011 Olio Road
Fishers, IN 46037
(317) 915-4220
Private Event
7:30-3:00 p.m.
Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.) SchoolsFishers, IN
 Full-day Seminar:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
04:00-06:00 p.m.
PVETI Social Media WorkshopRockville, IN
 Sponsor:Parke-Vermillion Education and Training Interlocal (PVETI)Private Event
Venue:Rockville High School
506 N. Beadle St.
Rockville, IN 47872
08:30-05:30 p.m.
Indiana Google Apps for Education SummitFranklin, IN
 Sponsor:EdTech TeamPublic Event
Venue:Franklin Community High School
2600 Cumberland Drive
Franklin, IN 46131
Register to attend
09:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ CIESCIndianapolis, IN
 Venue:Central Indiana Educational Service Center
6036 Lakeside Blvd., Building A
Indianapolis, IN 46278
Public Event
Education On Air by Google for Education 
 Sponsor:Google for EducationPublic Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop (CIESC) 
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Ivy Tech Community College Tech Workshop 
 Sponsor:Ivy Tech Community College of IndianaPrivate Event
PowerED Up ConferenceLeopold, IN
 Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:Perry Central Jr/Sr HS
18677 Old State Road 37
Leopold, IN 47551
08:00-03:00 p.m.
HSE Summer Learning FairFishers, IN
 Sponsor:Hamilton Southeastern SchoolsPrivate Event
Venue:Fishers High School
13000 Promise Road
Fishers, IN 46038
(317) 915-4290
Greencastle EdTech ConferenceGreencastle, IN
 Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
08:00-04:00 p.m.
Connecting the 4 C's Conference @ Mt. Vernon (Ind.)Mount Vernon, IN
 Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:Mount Vernon High School
700 Harriett Street
Mount Vernon, IN 47620
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8:00-3:00 p.m.
Yorktown WeLearn ConferenceYorktown, IN
 Keynote:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningRegister to attend
Venue:Yorktown High School
1100 S. County Road 575 West
Yorktown, IN 47396
(765) 759-2550
Get more information
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Summer Spark SymposiumMilwaukee, WI
 Venue:University School of Milwaukee
2100 West Fairy Chasm Road
Milwaukee, WI 53217
Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
eLEAD Madison CountyAnderson, IN
 Sponsor:CAPE of Madison CountyPublic Event
Venue:Anderson University
1100 E. 5th St.
Anderson, IN 46012
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Seymour Schools Tech WorkshopSeymour, IN
 Sponsor:Seymour Community SchoolsPublic Event
Venue:Seymour High School
1350 W. 2nd St.
Seymour, IN 47274
Digipalooza 2015Scottsburg, IN
 Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:Scottsburg Middle School
425 S. 3rd St.
Scottsburg, IN 47170
08:00-03:00 p.m.
South Vermillion trAnSfoRM ConferenceClinton, IN
 Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
Venue:South Vermillion High School
770 Wildcat Drive
Clinton, IN 47842
09:00-03:00 p.m.
#ReadTL15 ConferenceReading, West Berkshire, UK
 Sponsor:Reading College (Reading, West Berkshire, United Kingdom)Public Event
Venue:Reading College
King's Road, Reading, West Berkshire RG1 4HJ
Reading, West Berkshire, UK
United Kingdom
+44 800 371434
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ISTE Conference 2015Philadelphia, PA
 Full-day Seminar:Sharing Is Caring: Collaborative Google Apps ActivitiesPublic Event
Sponsor:International Society for Technology in EducationRegister to attend
Venue:Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Get more information
08:00-03:00 p.m.
USD 242 Weskan Schools Staff DevelopmentWeskan, KS
 Venue:Weskan Schools
219 Coyote Blvd.
Weskan, KS 67762
Private Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Northeastern Middle School WorkshopFountain City, IN
 Venue:Northeastern Middle School
7295 U.S. 27 North
Fountain City, IN 47341
(765) 847-1331
Private Event
08:00-3:00 p.m.
Greater Clark Connected ConferenceJeffersonville, IN
 Sponsor:Greater Clark County SchoolsPublic Event
Catching the Wave of eLearningLafayette, IN
 Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearningPublic Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Seymour Schools Tech WorkshopSeymour, IN
 Sponsor:Seymour Community SchoolsPrivate Event
Venue:Seymour High School
1350 W. 2nd St.
Seymour, IN 47274
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Idabel Public Schools 
 Sponsor:Idabel (OK) Public SchoolsPrivate Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Palmer ISD (Texas)Palmer, TX
 Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
Venue:Palmer Independent School District
Palmer, TX
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Brandywine Heights Area School DistrictTopton, PA
 Workshop:The Digital PIRATE 
Sponsor:Brandywine Heights Area School District
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Cascade Middle SchoolClayton, IN
 Venue:Cascade Middle School
6423 S. County Road 200 West
Clayton, IN 46118
(317) 539-9285
Private Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ SIECJasper, IN
 Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Southern Indiana Education Center
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ WVECWest Lafayette, IN
 Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ CIESCIndianapolis, IN
 Workshop:DItch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Central Indiana Educational Service Center
08:00-03:00 p.m.
MSD of Steuben Co. (Ind.)Angola, IN
 Keynote:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
Sponsor:MSD of Steuben County
Venue:Angola High School
350 S. John McBride Ave.
Angola, IN 46703
weLEAD SymposiumIslamabad, Pakistan
 Venue:Margalla Hotel
Islamabad, Pakistan
Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Anderson (Ind.) SchoolsAnderson, Indiana
 Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
Sponsor:Anderson Community Schools
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ Region 8 ESCDecatur, IN
 Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Region 8 Educational Service Center
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ NIESCPlymouth, IN
 Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:Northern Indiana Educational Services Center
Venue:Christo's Banquet Center
830 Lincolnway E, Plymouth
Plymouth, IN 46563
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Tyler ISDTyler, TX
 Sponsor:Tyler Indpendent School DistrictPrivate Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
ICE Conference (Indiana)Noblesville, IN
 Sponsor:Indiana Connected Educators ConferencePublic Event
Venue:Noblesville High School
18111 Cumberland
Noblesville, IN
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08:00-03:00 p.m.
Mt. Vernon CSC (Indiana)Fortville, IN
 Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
Sponsor:Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Cascade Middle SchoolClayton, IN
 Venue:Cascade Middle School
6423 S. County Road 200 West
Clayton, IN 46118
(317) 539-9285
Private Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Hamilton Southeastern Schools (Indiana)Fishers/Noblesville, Indiana
 Full-day Seminar:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
Sponsor:Hamilton Southeastern Schools
09:00-02:30 p.m.
Northeast Literacy RetreatFort Wayne, IN
  Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook workshop @ ECESCConnersville, IN
 Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:East Central Educational Service Center
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ditch That Textbook @ WCIESCGreencastle, Indiana
 Workshop:Ditch That TextbookPublic Event
Sponsor:West Central Indiana Educational Service Center
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Elgin Local Schools (Ohio)Elgin, OH
 Sponsor:Elgin Local SchoolsPrivate Event
Madison eLearningMadison, IN
  Private Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Hudson ISD (Texas)Lufkin, TX
 Venue:Hudson Indpendent School District
6735 Ted Trout Drive
Lufkin, TX 75904
Private Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
South PutnamGreencastle, IN
 Sponsor:South Putnam SchoolsPrivate Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Sheridan MS/HSSheridan, IN
 Sponsor:Sheridan Community SchoolsPrivate Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Southern Indiana Education CenterJasper, IN
 Sponsor:Southern Indiana Education CenterPublic Event
Venue:Southern Indiana Education Center
1102 Tree Lane Drive
Jasper, IN 47546
Register to attend
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Educational Service Unit #13Scottsbluff, NE
 Workshop:The Digital PIRATEPublic Event
Sponsor:Educational Service Unit #13
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Rockford Public SchoolsRockford, MI
 Keynote:Ditch That Textbook!Private Event
Sponsor:Rockford Public Schools
08:00-03:00 p.m.
ICE ConferenceSt. Charles, IL
 Sponsor:Illinois Computing EducatorsPublic Event
Venue:Pheasant Run Resort and Conference Center
4051 E. Main St.
St. Charles, IL 60174
(630) 584-6300
Register to attend
08:00-03:00 p.m.
ICE Conference (Illinois)St. Charles, IL
 Sponsor:Illinois Computing EducatorsPublic Event
01:15-03:30 p.m.
Mandan Public SchoolsMandan, ND
 Sponsor:Mandan Public School DistrictPrivate Event
MACUL ConferenceGrand Rapids, MI
 Sponsor:Michigan Association for Computer Users in LearningPublic Event
Venue:DeVos Place
303 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(616) 742-6500
Register to attend
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Concordia Lutheran HSFort Wayne, IN
 Sponsor:Concordia Lutheran High SchoolPrivate Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Westwood Community School DistrictSloan, IA
 Sponsor:Westwood Community School DistrictPrivate Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Wabash Valley Education CenterWest Lafayette, IN
 Workshop:Ditch That Textbook!Public Event
Sponsor:Wabash Valley Education CenterRegister to attend
Venue:Wabash Valley Education Center
3061 Benton Street
West Lafayette, IN 47906
(765) 463-1589
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Monroe #1 BOCES (New York)Fairport, N.Y.
 Full-day Seminar:The Digital PIRATEPublic Event
Sponsor:Monroe #1 BOCES
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Caesar Rodney School DistrictCamden, DE
 Keynote:Ditch That TextbookPrivate Event
Venue:Caesar Rodney High School
239 Old North Road
Camden, DE 19934
Paoli Community School CorporationPaoli, IN
 Venue:To be determined
Paoli, IN
Private Event
09:00-09:45 a.m.
Pacific Northwest Apprenticeship Education ConferencePortland, OR
 Sponsor:The Bureau of Labor and Industries, Oregon Building Congress and Oregon Tradeswomen Inc.Public Event
Venue:DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Conference Center
1000 NE Multnomah Street
Portland, OR
Register to attend
West Central Career CooperativeCrawfordsville, IN
 Venue:Crawfordsville Country Club
Crawfordsville, IN
Private Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
PowerED Up ConferenceLeopold, IN
 Venue:Perry Central Schools
18677 Old State Road 37
Leopold, IN 47551
(812) 843-5576
Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Making a Splash with Digital Learning ConferenceBatesville, IN
 Venue:Batesville Community School Corporation
626 N. Huntersville Road
Batesville, IN 47006
(812) 934-2194
Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Ignite Your SuperpowerLafayette, IN
 Venue:Sunnyside Intermediate School
530 N 26th St
Lafayette, IN 47904
(765) 771-6100
Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Summer Spark (Wisconsin)Milwaukee, WI
 Sponsor:University School of MilwaukeePublic Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
REMAST Conference (South Dakota)Brookings, S.D.
 Sponsor:South Dakota State Noyce Scholarship ProgramPublic Event
Indianapolis Sister Cities Int'l ConferenceIndianapolis, IN
 Keynote:Connecting Your Classroom to the WorldPublic Event
Sponsor:Indianapolis Sister Cities InternationalRegister to attend
Venue:Covenant Christian High School
7525 W. 21st St.
Indianapolis, IN 46214
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Western North Dakota ESADickinson, ND
 Workshop:The Digital PIRATEPublic Event
ISTE ConferenceDenver, CO
 Venue:Colorado Convention Center
700 14th St.
Denver, CO 80202
Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
MSD of MartinsvilleMartinsville, IN
 Sponsor:MSD of MartinsvillePrivate Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Pulaski County Special School DistrictLittle Rock, AR
 Sponsor:Pulaski County Special School DistrictPrivate Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Sheridan/Hamilton HeightsSheridan, IN
  Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Launching INquiryFishers, IN
 Venue:Fishers High School College & Career Academy
13000 Promise Rd
Fishers, IN 46038
Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Blended Learning SummitSalina, KS
 Sponsor:Smoky Hill Education Service CenterPublic Event
Venue:Smoky Hill Education Service Center
605 E. Crawford
Salina, KS 67401
08:30-04:00 p.m.
iPadpaloozaEastTXLongview, TX
 Keynote:Ditch That Textbook!Public Event
Sponsor:Region 7 Education Service CenterRegister to attend
Venue:Pine Tree High School
900 Northwest Drive
Longview, TX 75604
(903) 295-5031
Get more information
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Tyler ISDTyler, TX
 Sponsor:Tyler ISD 
E3 Technology ConferenceWarsaw, IN
 Venue:Warsaw High School
1 Tiger Lane
Warsaw, IN 46580
(574) 371-5098
Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Catholic High SchoolNew Iberia, LA
 Sponsor:Catholic High SchoolPrivate Event
Venue:Catholic High School
1301 de La Salle Drive
New Iberia, LA 70560
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Fort Wayne Lutheran Schools PartnershipFort Wayne, IN
 Sponsor:Fort Wayne Lutheran Schools PartnershipPrivate Event
Southwest School CorporationSullivan, IN
 Venue:Southwest School Corporation
110 North Main Street
Sullivan, IN 47882
(812) 268-6311
Private Event
Groesbeck ISD Tech ConferenceGroesbeck, TX
 Keynote:Ditch That Textbook!Private Event
Venue:Groesbeck Independent School District
1202 N. Ellis
Groesbeck, TX 76642
(254) 729-4100
Beggs Public SchoolsBeggs, OK
 Venue:Beggs Public Schools
1201 West 9th
Beggs, OK 74421
(918) 267-3628
Private Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Etoile ISDEtoile, TX
 Sponsor:Etoile ISDPrivate Event
8:00-3:00 pm
Tech Academy 
  Private Event
West Central School DistrictHartford, SD
 Venue:West Central School District
705 E. 2nd St.
Hartford, SD 57033
(605) 528-3217
Private Event
Walled Lake Consolidated School District 
  Public Event
08:00-03:00 p.m.
Hillsboro School DistrictHillsboro, OR
 Sponsor:Hillsboro School DistrictPrivate Event
Service Learning School DistrictDetroit, MI
 Sponsor:Service Learning School District 
New Prairie High SchoolNew Carlisle, IN
 Venue:New Praire High School
New Carlisle, IN
Private Event
Big Walnut Local SchoolsSunbury, OH
 Workshop:The Digital PIRATE: Tech Like a PIRATEPrivate Event
Venue:Big Walnut Local Schools
36 Harrison St
Sunbury, OH 43074
(740) 965-3205
08:00-03:00 p.m.
NH Best Practices in Curriculum, Assessment and Assessment ConferenceConcord, NH
 Sponsor:New Hampshire School Administrators AssociationPublic Event
Venue:Grappone Conference Center
Concord, NH
Mississippi Bend Area Education AgencyBetterdorf, IA
 Sponsor:Mississippi Area Bend Education AgencyPrivate Event


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Previous (Altamira (cave))

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Alternative rock (also called alternative music[1] or simply alternative) is a branch of the rock music genre that became widely popular in the 1990s. It was a term that was liberally used to describe the bands involved in the early 1990s phenomenon of independently recorded music gaining profound commercial success. As a specific genre of music, alternative rock does not refer to one specific style of music, and numerous, diverse sub-genres fall under the umbrella of the "alternative" title. From various music scene locales, collectively known as the alternative music scene, genres such as grunge, indie rock, Britpop, gothic rock, indie pop, and many others have developed. These genres are unified by their collective debt to punk; in the 1970s, punk's style and/or ethos laid the groundwork for alternative music.[2] Independent record labels were established during the punk era, which created an alternative outlet for musicians who did not coincide with major label agendas.

The name "alternative" was coined in the 1980s to describe punk rock-inspired bands on independent record labels that didn't fit into the mainstream genres of the time.[3] At times, alternative rock has been used as a catch-all phrase for rock music from underground artists in the 1980s and all music descended from punk rock (including punk itself, New Wave, and post-punk). Ironically, alternative became the general term for almost all rock music in the 1990s and 2000s, and took on a connotation that drastically differed from what it originally meant. Thus, when referring to alternative, the connotation changes with respect to the time period.

The Term "Alternative Rock"

"Alternative rock" is essentially an umbrella term for underground music that has emerged in the wake of the punk rock movement since the mid-1980s.[4] "Alternative" as a defining musical term had originated sometime around the mid-1980s[5] and was an extension of the phrases "new music" and "post modern."[6] It does not refer to any particular musical style, but connotes an underground status on an independent record label and not in the mainstream.

The meaning of the word changed due to one critical turning point: the breakthrough of Nirvana into the mainstream, commercial market. The music known as alternative rock, before Nirvana's commercial breakthrough, was known by a variety of terms before "alternative" came into common use. "College rock" was used in the United States to describe the music during the 1980s due to its links to the college radio circuit and its appeal to the tastes of college students. In the United Kingdom, the term "indie" was preferred. After the dilution of the original meaning of alternative rock in the early 1990s, "indie" would refer to the genre that would maintain the independent, underground ideologies that were no longer attributed to alternative. "Indie rock" is still sometimes used to describe the alternative rock of the 1980s, but as a genre term, indie generally refers to alternative music that stayed underground after alternative's mainstream breakthrough.[7]


The Beginnings

When referring to alternative rock as an alternative musical form, its roots could be traced back to the late 1960s. Bands like the Velvet Underground, Iggy and the Stooges, MC5, and the Silver Apples provided an alternative type of music that differed from the majority of the musical acts of their time, in both sound and content.[8] The term alternative had not yet been coined to define this contrasting type of music, but those bands were the forerunners of the alternative sound. This trend of alternative music was explored further by artists in the 1970s, such as David Bowie, T-Rex, Can, Neu, Kraftwerk, Television, and the New York Dolls.[9] The dawn of punk in the late 1970s and early 1980s brought a major turning point in alternative music and in the music industry as a whole. Not only was there an alternative form of musical and stylistic expression, but an alternative mode of production, in the form of independent record labels.

Before this time, the only way for music to be produced and recorded was through major labels. As this self-sufficient culture was being developed, a philosophy that coincides with the culture was created and passed on. Throughout much of its history, alternative rock has been largely defined by its rejection of the commercialism of mainstream culture, an attitude inherited from the punk era. The original alternative scene was in fact an alternative to the mainstream acts of the time, which usually meant the artists within the alternative scene did not receive nor want much attention from major labels. Alternative was initially intended to connote status, not style. As such, there is no set musical style for alternative rock as a whole. The artists were linked by an ideological desire to pursue the independence of the underground music scene. Alternative bands during the 1980s generally played in small clubs, recorded for independent record labels, and spread their popularity by word of mouth.[10]

American indie labels, SST Records, Twin/Tone Records, Touch & Go Records, and Dischord Records, presided over the shift from the hardcore punk that dominated the American underground scene at that point to the more diverse styles of alternative rock that were emerging.[11] Minneapolis bands Hüsker Dü and the Replacements were indicative of this shift. Both started out as punk rock bands, but soon expanded their sounds and became more melodic,[12] culminating in Hüsker Dü's "Zen Arcade" and the Replacements' "Let It Be," both released in 1984. The albums, as well as the follow-up material, were critically acclaimed and drew attention to the burgeoning alternative genre. In 1984, SST Records also released landmark alternative albums by the Minutemen and the Meat Puppets, who mixed punk with funk and country, respectively. Those that eventually signed to major labels, such as Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, did not break through to the mainstream and were thereby able to keep their hip credentials alive.[13] Without mainstream success, they were still considered to be part of the underground scene.

Although alternative artists of the 1980s never generated spectacular album sales, they exerted a considerable influence on the generation of musicians who came of age in the 1980s and laid the groundwork for their success.[14] R.E.M. and Hüsker Dü set the blueprint for much of alternative rock of the 1980s, both sonically and in how they approached their careers. [15] In the late 1980s, the U.S. underground scene and college radio were dominated by college rock bands like the Pixies, They Might Be Giants, Dinosaur Jr., and Throwing Muses, as well as post-punk survivors from Britain. College radio stations served as one of the major outlets of exposure for the music, which is why the music was deemed "college rock." In the early 1980s, however, only a handful of college radio stations, like Danbury's WXCI from Western Connecticut State University, WPRB in Princeton, New Jersey, and Brown University's WBRU, would broadcast alternative rock in the United States, but its influence spread to more college stations by the mid-1980s. Alternative rock was played extensively on the radio in the UK, particularly by DJs such as John Peel (who championed alternative music on BBC Radio 1), Richard Skinner, and Annie Nightingale. Artists, restricted to cult followings in the United States, received great exposure through British national radio and weekly press, and garnered chart success in Britain.[16] Outside of United States and the UK, Double J (now "Triple J"), a government-funded radio station in Sydney, Australia and Melbourne-based independent radio station, 3RRR, began broadcasting alternative rock throughout the 1980s, spreading alternative rock's influence. Some bands, like the Pixies, had massive success overseas while being ignored domestically. [17]

By the end of the decade, a number of alternative bands began to sign to major labels. While the early major label signings of Hüsker Dü and the Replacements met with little success, the late 1980s’ major label signings of R.E.M. and Jane's Addiction brought gold and platinum records, setting the stage for alternative's later breakthrough.[18] Commercial radio stations, such as Boston, Massachusetts's WFNX and Los Angeles, California's KROQ, finally caught on to the trend and began playing alternative rock, pioneering the modern rock radio format. Greater support would generate as the buzz spread to television. MTV would occasionally show alternative videos late at night during the 1980s; in 1986, MTV began airing the late night alternative music program, "120 Minutes," which would then become the major outlet for the genre's exposure prior to its commercial breakthrough. By the start of the 1990s, the music industry was abuzz about alternative rock's commercial possibilities and actively courted alternative bands including Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana.[19]

The Age of Alternative Rock

Grunge, an alternative subgenre created in Seattle, Washington in the 1980s that synthesized heavy metal and hardcore punk, launched a large movement in mainstream music in the early 1990s. The year 1991 was to become a significant year for alternative rock and in particular grunge, with the release of Nirvana's second and most successful album Nevermind, Pearl Jam's breakthrough debut Ten, and Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger. Nirvana's surprise success with Nevermind heralded a "new openness to alternative rock" among commercial radio stations and fans of more traditional rock sounds, and opened doors for more hard rock-oriented alternative bands.[20] The popular and commercial success of Nirvana's Nevermind took alternative rock into the mainstream, establishing its commercial and cultural viability.[21] As a result, alternative rock became the most popular form of rock music of the decade and many alternative bands garnered commercial and critical success. The explosion of alternative rock was aided by MTV and Lollapalooza, a touring festival of diverse bands that helped expose and popularize alternative groups such as Nine Inch Nails, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Hole.

While "alternative" was simply an umbrella term for a diverse collection of underground rock bands, Nirvana and similar groups gave it a reputation for being a distinct style of guitar-based rock that combined elements of punk and metal. Many alternative artists rejected success, for it conflicted with the rebellious, DIY (Do It Yourself) punk ethic and their ideas of artistic authenticity that the genre had espoused prior to mainstream exposure.[22] This is when the split in alternative rock had occurred; the genre that was once a single entity, had divided into a mainstream form ("alternative") and an underground form ("indie").

By the mid-1990s, "alternative" was synonymous with "grunge" in the eyes of the mass media and the general public. A supposed "alternative culture" was being marketed to the mainstream in much the same way as the hippie culture had been in the 1960s. During the 1990s, many artists who did not fit the "alternative" label were nonetheless given it by mainstream record labels in the hopes of capitalizing on its popularity. Some pop musicians, such as Alanis Morissette and Hootie & the Blowfish were given the label on the basis of nuanced differences from other pop artists. Many pop punk bands such as Green Day and the Offspring were also labeled "alternative." The most drastic mislabeling was given to African-American artists. African-American artists whose music did not fall into the genres of R&B, hip-hop, or pop, such as folk musician Tracy Chapman and heavy metal band Living Colour, were labeled "alternative" by the music industry, despite the fact that their music did not derive from punk or post-punk influences.[23] Indie rock would become the genre that embodied the original, independent ethos of alternative music. Labels such as Matador Records, Merge Records, and Dischord, and indie rockers like Pavement, Liz Phair, Superchunk, Fugazi, and Sleater-Kinney dominated the American indie scene for most of the 1990s.[24]

Alternative's mainstream prominence declined due to a number of events, notably the death of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain in 1994 and Pearl Jam's lawsuit against concert venue promoter Ticketmaster which in effect barred them from playing many major venues around the country. [25] A signifier of alternative rock's declining popularity was the hiatus of the Lollapalooza festival after an unsuccessful attempt to find a headliner in 1998; the hiatus would continue until 2003. By the start of the twenty-first century, many major alternative bands, including Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Rage Against the Machine, and Hole had broken up or were on hiatus. Meanwhile, indie rock diversified. Along with the more conventional indie rock sounds of Modest Mouse, Bright Eyes, and Death Cab for Cutie, various strains of indie rock, such as the garage rock revival of the White Stripes and the Strokes as well as the neo post-punk sounds of Interpol and the Killers, achieved mainstream success.

International Alternative Rock

In the 1990s, indie rock lost prominence in the UK with the decline of the Manchester scene and shoegazing's lack of glamour; the tide of grunge from America dominated the British alternative scene and music press in the early 1990s.[26] In contrast, only a few British alternative bands, most notably Radiohead and Bush, were able to make any sort of impression back in the States. As a reaction, a flurry of defiantly British bands emerged and wished to "get rid of grunge" and "declare war on America," taking the public and native music press by storm.[27] Dubbed "Britpop" by the media, this movement represented by Oasis, Blur, Suede, and Pulp was the British equivalent of the grunge explosion, [28] for not only did it propel alternative rock to the top of the charts in its respective country, but it centered it on a revitalization of British youth culture celebrated as "Cool Britannia." In 1995, the Britpop phenomenon culminated in a rivalry between its two chief groups, Oasis and Blur, symbolized by their release of competing singles on the same day. Blur won "The Battle of Britpop," but Oasis' second album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? went on to become the third best-selling album in Britain's history;[29] Oasis also had major commercial success overseas and even charted hits in the United States.

Britpop faded as Oasis' third album Be Here Now received lackluster reviews and Blur began to incorporate influences from American alternative rock.[30] At the same time, Radiohead achieved critical acclaim with its 1997 album OK Computer, which was a marked contrast with the traditionalism of Britpop. Radiohead, along with post-Britpop groups like Travis and Coldplay, were major forces in British rock in the subsequent years.[31] Recently British indie rock has experienced a resurgence, spurred in part by the success of the Strokes. Like modern American indie rock, many British indie bands such as Franz Ferdinand, the Libertines, Bloc Party, and Arctic Monkeys draw influence from post-punk groups, such as Joy Division, Wire, and Gang of Four.

Elsewhere in [Europe]], the Sugarcubes were one of the first internationally successful bands from Iceland. After the band's breakup, vocalist Björk embarked on a solo career that incorporated influences including trip hop, jazz, and electronica in addition to alternative rock. Icelandic indie rock bands include Múm and Sigur Rós. Continental Europe has produced numerous industrial rock bands like KMFDM.

With a history of support for alternative rock, Australia has produced a number of notable alternative bands, including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the Go-Betweens, Dead Can Dance, Silverchair, and the Vines. Much like America's Lollapalooza festival, Australia's Big Day Out festival serves as a touring showcase for domestic and foreign alternative artists. To the east, New Zealand's Dunedin Sound was a musical style developed around the university city of Dunedin and the Flying Nun Records label. The genre had its heyday during the mid-1980s and produced bands such as the Bats, the Clean, and the Chills.

Mainstream alternative rock in Canada ranges from the humorous pop of Barenaked Ladies and Crash Test Dummies to the post-grunge of Our Lady Peace, Matthew Good, and I Mother Earth. In recent years, cities like Montreal and Toronto have become important centers of Canadian indie rock, home to the Arcade Fire, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Broken Social Scene, and numerous others.

Alternative's influence spread to Asia and nations like Japan and the Philippines have contributed great alternative acts. Japan has an active noise rock scene characterized by groups such as Boredoms and Melt-Banana. Indie pop band Shonen Knife has been frequently cited as an influence by American alternative artists including Nirvana and Sonic Youth. Underground, pop-influenced, alternative rock went mainstream in the Philippines during the mid-1990s. Alternative Filipino rock (Pinoy Rock) bands include Eraserheads, Yano, Parokya ni Edgar, Rivermaya, Sugarfree, and the Etchyworms.


  • Punk rock
  • Post punk
  • New Wave music
  • Hardcore punk


  1. ↑ The term "alternative music" is particularly favored over "alternative rock" in British English (although the boundaries of the genre are slightly blurred with the inclusion of electronic music and hip-hop), while "alternative rock" is favored in American English. The term “underground music” is sometimes also used, though more often used in reference to the music of little-known artists. Additionally, "indie" is commonly used in the UK as a synonym for alternative rock.
  2. ↑ Alan di Perna. “Brave Noise—The History of Alternative Rock Guitar.” Guitar World. December 1995.
  3. ↑ Helen A. S. Popkin. “Alternative to what?” Retrieved June 21, 2006.
  4. ↑ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. “American Alternative Rock/Post-Punk.”All Music Guide. Retrieved May 20, 2006.
  5. ↑ Dave Thompson. "Introduction." Third Ear: Alternative Rock. San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 2000, p. viii.
  6. ↑ Simon Reynolds. Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-punk 1978–1984. Penguin, 2005, p. 338. ISBN 0143036726
  7. ↑ Ibid., p. 391.
  8. ↑“History of Alternative Rock Music.” Silver Dragon Records. Retrieved January 16, 2007.
  9. ↑ Ibid.
  10. ↑ "Rock Music." Microsoft Encarta 2006 [CD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.
  11. ↑ Simon Reynolds. Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-punk 1978–1984. Penguin, 2005, p. 390. ISBN 0143036726
  12. ↑ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. “American Alternative Rock/Post-Punk.”All Music Guide. Retrieved May 20, 2006.
  13. ↑“Alternative/Indie-Rock Genre.”All Music Guide. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
  14. ↑ Michael Azerrad. Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991. Little Brown and Company, 2001, pp. 3–5. ISBN 0316787531
  15. ↑ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. “American Alternative Rock/Post-Punk.”All Music Guide. Retrieved May 20, 2006.
  16. ↑ Katherine Charlton. Rock Music Styles: A History. McGraw Hill, 2003, p. 349.
  17. ↑ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. “American Alternative Rock/Post-Punk.”All Music Guide. Retrieved May 20, 2006.
  18. ↑ Michael Azerrad. Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Doubleday, 1993. ISBN 0385471998
  19. ↑ Ibid.
  20. ↑ Craig Rosen. "Some See 'New Openness' Following Nirvana Success." Billboard. January 25, 1992.
  21. ↑ Eric Olsen. “10 years later, Cobain lives on in his music.”, 2004. Retrieved June 21, 2006.
  22. ↑ J. D. Considine. "The Decade of Living Dangerously." Guitar World. March 1999.
  23. ↑ Reebee Garofalo. Rockin' Out: Popular Music in the USA, 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2005, pp. 367–368. ISBN 0131897853
  24. ↑ Michael Azerrad. Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991. Little Brown and Company, 2001, pp. 495–497. ISBN 0316787531
  25. ↑ J. D. Considine. "The Decade of Living Dangerously." Guitar World. March 1999.
  26. ↑ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. “British Alternative Rock.”All Music Guide. Retrieved May 20, 2006.
  27. ↑ Ian Youngs. “Looking back at the birth of Britpop.”BBC News. Retrieved June 9, 2006.
  28. ↑ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. “British Alternative Rock.”All Music Guide. Retrieved May 20, 2006.
  29. ↑“Queen’s ‘Greatest Hits’ top-selling album in UK.” Retrieved November 18, 2006.
  30. ↑ John Harris. Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock. Da Capo Press, 2004, p. xix. ISBN 030681367X
  31. ↑ Ibid., pp. 369–370.


  • Azerrad, Michael. Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991. Little Brown and Company, 2001. ISBN 0316787531
  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. “American Alternative Rock/Post-Punk.”All Music Guide. Retrieved May 20, 2006.
  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. “British Alternative Rock.”All Music Guide. Retrieved May 20, 2006.
  • Harris, John. Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock. Da Capo Press, 2004. ISBN 030681367X


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Hüsker Dü, 1984. Bob Mould, guitar, and Greg Norton, bass.
Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth
Oasis performing at the Egyptian Room, Indianapolis in 2006
Canadian band Arcade Fire