This guide provides research tips and selected resources for studies in music

Search Tips and Tools

Search the Library Homepage for scores, recordings, articles, books, and databases

For more information on search tools and how to use them, watch our tutorial Where do you find information?

Another good source for finding music resources is OCLC WorldCat, an online catalogue of library holdings from around the world.

Evaluating Sources

For each source you are planning to use, consider...

  • Who wrote it?
    Creator: affiliations, credentials/qualifications, previous publications, cited?
  • Where did it come from? Who approved it for publication? How is it formatted?
    Publisher, publication, format, review process
  • What is the intended purpose of this information resource? Who is the intended audience?
    Why and for whom was this resource created and disseminated?
  • Is the information reliable and accurate, timely or appropriate for your purposes?
    Fact/opinion vs biased/”balanced”; citations/references/evidence; working links/no typos?

For more information, watch the tutorial Synthesizing and Evaluating Information.

Step 1: Choose a Topic

  • Choose topics and repertoire that you're interested in! It is much easier to write about or perform something you care about.
  • Find the right scope for a topic
    • Too broad: Opera and femininity
    • Too narrow: Femininity in Italian operas performed in London 1690-91
    • Just right (maybe...): Femininity in 3 selected Italian operas of the late baroque period
  • Review your assignment for instructions on topic selection
  • Watch our tutorial on Finding Research Topic Ideas
  • Check out our UA Library Search Tips guide

Step 2: Find Background Information & Identify Search Terms

Become familiar with your topic by researching music reference resources, including:

Make a list of search terms relevant to your topic, such as:

Search Term Examples
Performers, composers, contributors Lorde, Shostakovich, Arturo Toscanini 
Musical styles, genres, forms, traditions, works Renaissance motets, rockabilly, sonata-allegro form, Japanese gagaku (court music), Porgy & Bess
Geographic Locations Papua New Guinea, Louisiana,8th arrondissement of Paris, Florence, Boyle Street   
Time Periods Classical, 19th Century, 1939-45  
Approaches Gender studies, anthropological, cognitive, Schenkerian

Step 3. Develop A Research Question

After doing background reading and identifying search terms, turn your terms into research questions.

You may find that:

  • There is too much or too little information on your topic
  • The topic you have chosen is too narrow or too broad

Adjust your topic accordingly. Here are some examples:

Search Terms Draft Research Question Adjusted Research Question
Rolling Stones, African American music, cultural appropriation, Let it Bleed (album)

How did the Rolling Stones' appropriation of African American impact their musical style?

Too broad

How did the Rolling Stones' appropriation of gospel music singing on "Gimmie Shelter" from Let It Bleed impact their musical style going forward?
Glenn Gould, sound recording technology, Goldberg Variations

How did Glenn Gould's extensive use of sound recording technology affect the authenticity of his performance?

Too broad

How did Glenn Gould's extensive use of sound recording technology on his recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations, particularly the 6th variation, affect the authenticity of his performance?
Carnatic music, theme and variations, Tyāgayya (composer), "Meru Semana" (piece)

How did Tyāgayya's use of rhythmic theme & variation in the kriti "Meru Semana" compare with its use by other Carnatic composers of the same period?

Too narrow

How did  Tyāgayya use rhythmic theme & variation in the kriti "Meru Semana"?