MUS 1804: World Music

Get some background on your topic

Starting your research with music-specific encyclopedias is a great way to gather trustworthy background info on composers, musicians, genres, and individual pieces that can jump start your understanding and help you get more out of resources with a more narrow focus like journal articles and books. The encyclopedias linked below will be great places to start - they're scholarly sources made up of entries written and reviewed by experts, so you know they're trustworthy! 


  • 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 something to watch for when you're reading your background sources.
  • Once you find a relevant entry, keep track of any new keywords you come across; these will be helpful for future searches!
  • Your list of keywords might change, and that's ok! Keep track of new keywords you identify as you explore the background on your topic. These keywords may get narrower or broader as you learn more about your topic, and it's important to stay flexible - you never know what path your research may take.
  • Don't forget to look at the end of the encyclopedia entry you're reading - there may be a great bibliography that can point you toward additional sources for your research!

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music

Browse the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music by place, cultural group, subject, instrument, or genre, or explore individual volumes of this encyclopedia by region of the world. Use the search box in the middle of the page (not the one at the top!) to search by keyword!

An image of the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (published by Alexander Street Press) interface with arrows pointing towards the options to browse by place, cultural group, instrument, subject or genre, and to the search box in the middle of the page. A red X covers the search box at the top of the page.

Oxford Music Online

Browse Oxford Music Online (a database which includes the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, as well as several other dictionaries and encyclopedias) by topic, instrument, era, region, place type, or occupation, or search by keyword!

An image of the Oxford Music Online landing page, with arrows pointing to the options to browse in the top-level menu and to the search box for searching by keyword.

Bloomsbury Music and Sound

Use the search bar at the top of the Bloomsbury Music and Sound landing page to search for a relevant entry on your topic based on your keywords; usually, this should be an entry for an artist or a musical genre.

Not sure where to start your search? Try exploring popular music from different parts of the world using the Interactive World Map, browse the Timeline of Popular Music, or explore additional ways to discover topics using the "Explore" and "Browse Contents" tabs at the top of the homepage!

An image of the Bloomsbury Music and Sound homepage. Red arrows point to the search box (with a note reading "Search by keyword here"), the "Explore" and "Browse Contents" options in the top level menu (with a note reading "Additional ways to browse located here!"), and to the "Interactive World Map," the "Timeline of Popular Music," and the "Artist Biographies" boxes (with a note reading "Browse for topics using these options").


Last Updated: Oct 4, 2023 2:58 PM