Find what you really want: Tricks for searching in the Libraries catalog and databases
Evaluating sources for credibility: Which ones are right for your research?
Not all sources are created equal - especially when it comes to advanced research. Finding the right sources for your specific topic is crucial for writing a scholarly, trustworthy dissertation, term paper, or even a program note. Here are some ideas for questions to ask yourself as you're evaluating the sources you find and deciding whether or not to use them for your research:
How did I find it - Google? The Libraries catalog? A Libraries database? Remember: Just because I found something through google, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically credible or not credible - I just need to evaluate it!
Can I or can’t I trust the info I find in this source? What do I know about the author/publisher? Do I trust their authority on this topic?
Is it peer reviewed? If not, that’s okay! Even if it’s not peer reviewed, is it credible?
- What kind of useful keywords or ideas can I draw from it to inform additional searches for resources?
Remember: Evaluating sources early in the process can help to ensure that you're working with the best and most trustworthy information!
A quick overview of peer review: How do you know which sources to trust?
The most scholarly sources are those that are peer reviewed. This means that the source (like a book or a journal article – the concept of peer review doesn’t apply to recordings) has gone through a process of being reviewed by experts on the topic prior to its publication, and those experts provided comments to help the author improve the source. Ultimately, the experts gave the source their stamp of approval, so you know it’s trustworthy.
Several of the Libraries databases linked from this guide (like RILM, Music Index, and Music Periodicals Database) provide options in their Advanced Search screens to limit to “Scholarly” or “Peer-Reviewed” sources.
Remember: Not all sources are peer reviewed. For example, newspaper articles are only reviewed by the editor of the paper, and podcasts aren’t vetted by a panel of experts before they’re released. But just because a source isn’t peer reviewed, that doesn’t mean it’s bad! Just make sure you get a sense of the author’s credibility/authority before trusting the information it provides. Can you find the author’s bio? Do they cite other trustworthy sources in their bibliography? These factors may help to indicate whether the source is credible.
Want a quick overview of the peer review process? Check out this 3-minute video from the North Carolina State University Libraries!
Avoiding plagiarism and citing your sources is key
A very basic definition of plagiarism is to take someone else's work or ideas and pass them off as your own. Plagiarism can be intentional (like buying a paper from someone else or purposefully using another person’s ideas without giving them credit) or unintentional (accidentally forgetting that an idea in your notes isn’t your own and not citing it when you include it in a paper or project). It’s important to take detailed notes so you’ll always remember when and where to give credit to your sources!
By citing the sources you use for your research, you’ll be accomplishing three things:
You’ll avoid plagiarizing and give proper credit to your sources, thereby demonstrating academic integrity.
You’ll demonstrate the scope of your research and establish your credibility on your topic.
You’ll provide your reader with a trail to follow to locate the sources you used so they can read more about your topic.
Tips for citing your sources:
Visit the Find Citation and Writing Style Guides page on the Music-Related Databases Guide to find links to the Purdue Online Writing Lab – which has examples for Chicago, APA, and MLA style citations – and the Chicago Manual of Style Online.
These guides to citations are extremely helpful, but they don’t all include examples for each type of music-related resource you might want to cite. Jessica is creating a detailed guide for citing music sources, but in the meantime, see below for examples of Chicago-style citations for streaming audio and video sources, entries from music encyclopedias, and recording liner notes, as well as some tips for formatting citations just right!
Many databases (and even the Libraries catalog) include a “Cite This” button, but these automatic citation generators often make mistakes. Be sure to double-check the formatting of the citations they create using the citation resources linked from the MUS 1804: World Music Guide!
If you’re using a reference management program like Zotero, EndNote, or Mendeley to keep track of your sources and create citations, double-check the formatting – these programs often make formatting mistakes when generating citations.
If you have questions about citations or need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Jessica!
Strategies for taking effective notes and starting research/writing assignments
Resources for writing program notes and conducting reception history research
Some additional tips for finding style analysis resources:
- Check individual composer biographies for information about specific pieces; biographies of a single composer are located in the ML410 section of the Music Library. Strategies for finding this content, which may be peppered throughout biographies, include:
- Consulting the table of contents and index for piece titles, and the names of relevant people and places in the composer's life
- Looking closely at the sections of the biography that deal with a specific time frame of interest or when your piece was composed
- Don't forget to read up on the times in the composer's life preceding the composition of your piece - what were their influences? How did they come to write that specific work?
- Though the "analysis and appreciation" resources in the MT125 section focus on orchestral music, they may include write-ups of specific masterworks of interest to choral conductors!
- Our subscription to the A-R Music Anthology is more than just digital scores - this database includes a growing collection of critical commentaries and articles on genres, styles, and individual composers.
- For anyone working on Bach research:
- Andrew Parrott's The Essential Bach Choir is an excellent resource for learning about history and performance practice
- Alfred Dürr's The Cantatas of J.S. Bach: With their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text is the go-to resource for scholarly research on Bach's cantatas. This book breaks down the cantatas one by one, includes a translation, and historical context on the composition and performance practice.
Some suggestions for conducting reception history research:
Historical newspapers and periodicals can be great ways to explore how a piece was disseminated and received. Concert announcements, performance reviews, record reviews, and even obituaries can provide insight into how contemporary audiences felt about the music they heard and the productions they saw. The University Libraries, the Performing Arts Archive, and the Immigration History Research Center Archive (all located on the Twin Cities campus), as well as digital and physical historical collections made available by other institutions can all be incredible resources to give your program note, term paper, or dissertation depth and richness.
The resources below are just a few suggestions; make an appointment to meet with Jessica to discuss your specific project, and we'll identify a curated group of resources that are right for you:
A few additional ideas:
Find a wider range of resources for reviews and more on the Find Newspapers and Magazine Articles page of the Music-Related databases page.
TIP: Exploring primary sources like letters, photographs, and other archival materials might give you more context for the information in concert and record reviews. Check out the resources linked from the Music-Related Databases Guide's Find Primary Sources page.