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Getting started with library research

The University Libraries offers many helpful tools for organizing your research and writing:

  • Assignment Calculator: Enter in the due date for your research project (paper, speech, lab report) and get a suggested time-line for completing your project on time plus links to the resources on campus that will help you succeed in each step.
  • Primary Sources Online A-Z: Explore online databases that link to primary sources in facsimile or reproduction.
  • Citation Management:
    • Zotero: Free web-based bibliographic citation software developed for Firefox browsers that is useful for organizing your research sources, creating bibliographies and sharing sources with others. Zotero will capture bibliographic information and links to documents found on websites or library databases.
    • For help getting started, check out Zotero's brief tutorial videos.

Need a little more help getting started? Visit the University Libraries' tutorial page for more helpful tools or sign up for a free workshop to learn about new resources or develop some new skills!

Get some background on your topic

Find books

  • Interlibrary Loan

    Looking for materials that we don't hold on the Twin Cities campus? Look no further than our Interlibrary Loan service! See below for details on a fantastic service that puts the world's libraries at your fingertips.

  • UBorrow

    Make this your first stop for materials not currently available within the University of Minnesota Libraries! UBorrow searches 15+ major research libraries (Big Ten Academic Alliance institutions). UBorrow is a great way to search for books and media (CDs, DVDs and even LPs!). Requested materials usually arrive within 1 week and can be borrowed for 16 weeks with one 4-week renewal (they are not recalled except under unusual circumstances). Media items may have a shorter loan period. Materials not available through UBorrow may be requested via regular interlibrary loan (see below).

  • ​WorldCat

    WorldCat offers access to materials not currently available within the University of Minnesota Libraries. This service are free for currently-affiliated University students, faculty, and staff. Click on the red WorldCat link here and you'll be directed the the ILL homepage; from there, click the link for WorldCat and start searching. Once you've found something you'd like to request, click on the record for that item and then the link for "Request via Interlibrary Loan"!

Find Articles

Find primary sources

Research example: How can I find sources for my paper?

New to research? That's ok! There's a lot of content out there, so sometimes the hardest part is figuring out where to start. This example of starting research on a paper on music and its political effects in the Midwest during the 1960s will illustrate some steps that you can follow to start your search for sources. Though these specific resources won't work for every single topic, think about how you can adapt the strategies outlined below to fit your own research. If you have any questions, email Jessica, your Music Librarian, at


First, think about your keywords

The first step in conducting research is deciding on your topic. How could you describe the topic you’d like to explore in 1-2 sentences? Then, think about keywords: brainstorm a list of 6-8 keywords associated with your topic. These can include key composers or theorists, music terms, or any other words that come to mind. These keywords will give you a something to start searching for in the print resources and online databases we discussed in class.

Next, look for books in the University of Minnesota Libraries catalog or in the catalogs of other institutions by using our ILL services

Visit the libraries website at and start searching for books about your topic. TIP: Within each record in the catalog, there are links for the subjects that resource covers (these are located toward the bottom of the catalog record, so be sure to scroll down once you’ve opened it). These are keywords that the Libraries have used to categorize a particular source, and clicking on these links will take you to other sources that are similar to it. Try clicking these links and searching the catalog for different combinations of these subject keywords to find other relevant sources. Keep track of the keywords that are particularly helpful; you'll want to search for these keywords in Libraries databases as well.

After that, get some context by searching for articles in Libraries databases

Start by searching in some general music periodical databases to find articles about your topic. Remember: different databases cover different time periods, so explore the descriptions in the University Libraries Databases A-Z list ( by clicking on the little "i" icon next to a database name and then the "More Information" button to see what might work for you. You can also limit by year in the Advanced Search screen of many databases to find sources contemporary to what you're researching! Here are some examples of databases to search for this topic:

Bloomsbury Popular Music

This will probably be a place to get some context, since I think their content is more recent. Searching in here might lead you to some good secondary sources, though. The Libraries description reads: "Bloomsbury Popular Music is a source of scholarship and serious in-depth analysis of popular music in a global context. It includes the entirety of the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World and the 33 1/3 series of books exploring key albums."

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature

Coverage is early 1800s through the present with some content coverage extending back as far as the late 18th century; once you execute a search, you can set the dates to return results from the 60s and 70s only. Get to full text versions of publications through RILM by clicking the PDF icon or the red-and-gold button with the UMN logo that says "Find It," which will take you the Libraries catalog where you can find links to databases where you'll be able to access the full text of publications. Libraries description: "RILM Abstracts of Music Literature features a wealth of content from the early 1800s through the present with some content coverage extending back as far as the late 18th century. Updated monthly, the database includes coverage of relevant articles from more than 10,000 journals, many of which are not specifically devoted to music. RILM Abstracts of Music Literature also includes nearly 850,000 records with over 52,000 new records are added every year."

Time Magazine Archives

Historical magazine articles from popular publications can give you a sense of what people were thinking, saying, and writing at the time of an event. The University Libraries gives you access to TIME Magazine back to 1923; to start searching, follow these steps: 1) visit the University Libraries homepage at and search for "Time Current Periodical Series" 2) click on the link that says "Online access"; this will bring you to a list of the many ways the Libraries make it possible to search Time; 2) go to the very last link in the box that's titled "View It" that reads "Resource available at: Time magazine archive"; 3) once you get into the database, it will look just like the RILM database we looked at in class. You can use the search limiters on the left side of the screen to narrow down your dates, and you'll find PDFs of all TIME's articles.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers

Coverage dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, so there will probably be lots of content for the 60s and 70s. This database includes 13 newspaper archives including the New York Times, Washington Post, as well as a few that will cover a Midwest perspective (Chicago Defender, Chicago Tribune, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pittsburgh Courier).


A great place to go for full-text articles from academic journals and to get some context on music and politics in the mid-twentieth century.

Music Periodicals Database

This database used to be called International Index to Music Periodicals, so you'll sometimes see it referred to as IIMP. Coverage is 1996 to present, so this will give you a sense of what people were writing about retrospectively. Libraries description: "Music Periodicals Database is an index to articles in over 350 international music journals, plus the New York Times and the Washington Post. Covers all types of music, from historical to the 21st century. Strong on popular genres and contemporary art-music. Coverage also includes CD & concert reviews, letters, and editorials." This database is an index, so it doesn't always include links to full-text versions of articles. If you find something you're interested in and see a red-and-gold button with the UMN logo that says "Find It," click that and it will take you the Libraries catalog where you can find links to databases where you'll be able to access the full text of an article. If you find a citation for something that you can't get full text for, email Jessica at

Music Index

Coverage is 1979 to present. Libraries description: "Music Index brings together information from more than 690 international music periodicals covering a broad range of subjects, including music history, forms and types of music, musical instruments from ancient to modern, acoustic, electronic, and computer-produced music. Book reviews, reviews of music recordings, tapes, and performances, first performances, and obituaries are also indexed." Like Music Periodicals Database, this is also an index so you might not be able to get full text for everything. Follow the same steps as above and email Jessica if you run into anything you need but can't get to as full text.


Lastly, look at some primary sources in person by visiting archival collections on campus

Don't forget about the wealth of primary sources that are available to you in the University Archives and Special Collections in Andersen Library right here on campus! Andersen Library is easily accessible from Ferguson Hall; if you go out of the front door of Ferguson Hall and walk toward the bridge, Andersen is just past the stairs to the bridge level and straight ahead. One resource that's applicable to research on music reception and criticism in the Midwest during the 1950s and 1960s is an archival collection of 'zines held by the Upper Midwest Literary Archive called the The Little Sandy Review Collection. This archive dates from 1959 through 1965, was published in Minnesota, and was dedicated to reviewing folk music, including albums by folk legends like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and others. For a project that looks at music and politics in the Midwest, this might be a great place to get a local perspective. If you're interesting in looking at these materials, email Jessica ( to be put in touch with a special collections curator who can help you get started.

Last Updated: Jul 23, 2020 4:35 PM