Music Research Guide

This research guide will help you get started on your music research, and help you find books, articles, and credible web sources. If you need further help, please come to the library for a consultation with a reference librarian.

How do I find a book?

There are several ways to look for books. One is to browse the shelves. The general call number range for Music is M through MT—so you could come to the library and go straight to the shelves to look around.

A more efficient way to look for books is to search the library’s online catalog.

Try doing a keyword search. Type your search terms in the text box, set the search to “Keyword Relevance Search,” and click “Search.”

If you got too many results from the keyword search, try doing a subject search. You can try your own subject word (but it has to be an official Library of Congress Subject Heading), or try one of the subject headings listed below.

  • Arrangement (Music)
  • Music theory
  • Blues (Music)
  • Music trade
  • Choral music
  • Musical analysis
  • Composition (Music)
  • Opera
  • Conducting
  • Piano
  • Folk music
  • Popular music
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Rock music
  • Jazz
  • Singing
  • Motion picture music
  • Women in music
  • Music
  • Women musicians

Can I use a reference book?

Reference books are a great resource. You should use encyclopedias and other reference books to get background information on your topic, but then you should move beyond the encyclopedia to find other authoritative sources. (HINT: Encyclopedia articles will almost always have a bibliography that will lead you to other relevant works.)

Below are some reference books you might find useful:

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

A Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz
Reference Collection (ML102 .P66 K55)

Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Reference Collection (ML102 .P66 G84)

Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre
Reference Collection (ML102 .M88 G3)

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music
Reference Collection (ML100 .G16)

New Grove Dictionary of American Music
Reference Collection (ML101 .U6 N48)

New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
Reference Collection (ML102 .J3 N48)

New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
Reference Collection (ML100 .N48)

New Harvard Dictionary of Music
Reference Collection (ML100 .N485)

New Oxford History of Music
Reference Collection (ML160 .N44)

Oxford Companion to Music
Reference Collection (ML100 .S37)


Variety Music Cavalcade, 1620-1969: A Chronology of Vocal and Instrumental Music Popular in the United States
Reference Collection (ML128 .V7 M4)


American Songwriters: An H. W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary
Reference Collection (ML390 .E825)

Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians
Reference Collection (ML105 .B16)

Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music
Reference Collection (ML105 .H38)

Music and Song Indexes

Great Song Thesaurus
Reference Collection (ML128 .S3 L4)

Popular Song Index
Reference Collection (ML128 .S3 H4)

Music Industry Information

Songwriter’s Market
Reference Collection (MT 67.S657)

How can I find articles on my topic?

To find articles, use one of the databases listed below:

Gale Virtual Reference Library—use this database for information about a person or a topic

EBSCOhost—use “Academic Search Complete” and “MasterFILE Complete” for articles from scholarly journals as well as popular magazines and newspapers

Literature Resource Center—for biographies of authors, criticism, articles, work overviews, bibliographies and more

US Newsstream (ProQuest)—articles from current newspapers

ProQuest: New York Times Historical—articles from the New York Times, 1851-2006

Is there a way to find credible internet sites that my instructor will approve of?

The internet is a valuable research tool, but you have to keep in mind that anyone can put anything they want on the web. As a student, you need to think critically about the sources you find, and you need to evaluate the information. Important points to consider are criteria like authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage.

Subject directories like ipl2, INFOMINE, and Open Directory Project are great places to search for credible information. Try any of these directories and either browse by topic (e.g. Music), or type in search terms to find web sites on your topic.

How do I get more help finding sources for my topic?

If you feel like you need help getting started, finding more detailed materials, or if you have any questions in general, please feel free to come to the library and ask a reference librarian for help.

If you have trouble accessing this page and need help, contact a librarian at the reference desk at (714) 484-7069.