Music research essentials
An overview of resources.
Table of Contents
- Be mindful of format (book, printed music, CD & DVD, microfilm, online database, archival item) and location (Music Reference Room, book and score stacks, Archive of Recorded Sound, online database, SAL3 storage). Most titles in this guide are in the Music Reference Room.
- Look at the Library of Congress M Classification scheme to see how music is physically arranged in the library.
- Get to know your librarians! We're here to help you succeed.
Music research handbooks
Overviews of the tools available for music research, and tips on using them effectively.
Five standard works
Of the dozens of resources that may be considered essential, or "core", these are titles everyone should know.
Encyclopedias & dictionaries
Highly-organized, compactly-written entries on all aspects of music, including people, places, historical movements, theoretical concepts, major and minor works. Browse in the Music Reference Room at ML100 (general works) and ML102 (by topic). Important general works are listed below, followed by several topical examples.
See also these in-depth Grove articles:
Musicology (the study of music history and musicianship)
Historiography (the writing of music history)
Bibliographies are lists of writings about a particular topic. There are hundreds of bibliographies available in the Music Library, as stand-alone reference sources; as sections in books; and at the end of scholarly encyclopedia articles. These works point you to further sources for exploration. Below is a sampling of bibliographies of literature and other writings, and of printed music. You may also browse in the Reference Room at ML112 - ML132.
Composer guides & thematic catalogs
Research guides for individual composers summarize source materials including lists of compositions, writings by the composer, and books and articles about the composer and his or her works.
Thematic catalogs list a composer's works, including an incipit to aid identification. Both types of guides may be browsed in the Reference Room at ML134. Examples are listed here:
Articles and reviews
Search the following indexes to find current journal articles, book and record reviews, dissertations, essays, and more. Each of the three music indexes covers some of the same content, but each also includes unique content. Search all three for the most comprehensive results.
Some results link to full text online articles. Some provide citations only; you'll then need to search the journal's title in SearchWorks to find the print copy. Be aware that an article important to your research may exist only in print form!
An increasing number of journals are online only, including current issues.
We recommend using a feed reader to keep up to date with new online journal issues.
Try X-Search, a federated search engine that covers many disciplines.
Other useful titles
Here are more reference works to suit a variety of needs:
These resources for writing papers often include examples. See also this useful guide on citing musical works, from Indiana University.