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Music - Guide to Research

The purpose of this guide is to organize the most relevant USD Library resources for students, staff and faculty within the discipline of Music.

Class Exercises

For an overview of the research resources available to you, try these exercises:

1. Primary Databases

2. Specialized Databases

Primary Databases

University Libraries and Affiliates Online Catalog

  • Description: Online library catalog shared by the University Libraries and other libraries in South Dakota.


  •  Scope: For all practical purposes, the catalog describes all physical holdings in the libraries and the locations of these materials. All formats are included (books, journals, microforms, scores, sound recordings and videos). There are entries for journal titles which indicate which specific volumes the libraries own. There are catalog records for many of the online resources to which the library subscribes, such as electronic journals and books, with links to those resources.


  • Individual Records: Catalog records are detailed bibliographic descriptions of items in libraries. These descriptions include physical descriptions, publication information as well as assigned subject headings and headings for individuals or corporate bodies associated with an item. Access points are generally added for works contained within an item, such as individual musical works on a CD. Assigned subject headings, call numbers (which indicate the location of an item on the library's shelves), headings for series, and headings for individuals and corporate bodies are clickable, allowing easy access to materials related to the specific catalog record you are viewing. Specific locations and circulation status of items are listed. 


  • What can you do with this database? The University Libraries catalog will be your most basic and often used tool, whether you are doing research or finding materials for performance. 


  • Exercise: 1. Access the catalog. 2. Do a keyword search on a term(s) of interest to you. 3. If your search retrieves multiple items, note what information is displayed in the list of retrieved records. 4. Choose one item from the list which is a book and click on it to display the full record. 5. Note the information displayed in the full record, including location information. 6. Note the clickable subject headings. Click on one and look at the list of related similar subject headings


  • Description: WorldCat is the largest database of bibliographic records which describe the holdings of all types of libraries and archives around the world.


  • Interface: WorldCat Discovery.


  • Scope: As of August 2011, WorldCat contains over 740,000,000 records. Additions are made to the database daily. Anything a library may collect, in terms of format or time period, may be represented in WorldCat. The holdings of most libraries in the United States are represented, as well as libraries in Canada, the rest of the Americas, Europe and the rest of the world. 


  • Individual Records: WorldCat records are detailed bibliographic descriptions of items in libraries. These descriptions include physical descriptions, publication information as well as assigned subject headings and headings for individuals or corporate bodies associated with an item. Access points are generally added for works contained within an item, such as individual musical works on a CD. Attached to each record is the listing of the libraries which own the item described in the record. Each individual record has a unique number assigned to it. This number is called the WorldCat Accession Number or OCLC Number. This number should be given in interlibrary loan requests. The list of holding libraries include links to the holding libraries' individual online catalogs. Access to individual holdings libraries' catalogs can be useful in ascertaining whether an item may circulate via interlibrary loan.


  • What can you do with this database? WorldCat is the closest thing we have to a world library catalog. The detail of the individual record makes WorldCat indispensible for research in many fields. It is an unparalleled record of the published word (and sound). Because the database indicates library holdings it is a basic tool for interlibrary loan requests. Note: because an item or holdings for an item are listed in WorldCat does not guarantee a library will lend the item.


  • Additional Notes: If you understand how WorldCat is created, you may understand the database better. WorldCat is a "bibliographic utility" -- it supplies libraries with catalog records for their local catalogs. Once a library buys or acquires an item, it checks WorldCat. If a record for the item exists on WorldCat, the record is modified for local use and then downloaded into the library's local catalog. The library is then automatically added to the list of libraries which own the item. If there is no record in WorldCat for the item, the library creates one and uploads it to WorldCat. At that point other libraries are free to use that record in their local catalogs and as they do they are added to the list of libraries which own the item.


    Exercise: 1. Access WorldCat. 2. Do a keyword search on a term or terms which interest you, and limit your search to "Books".  3. From the results list for your search choose one item in order to display the full record. 4. Examine the record to get a sense of which types of information it contains. 4. Note the details section, such as the contents  6. Click on the "Worldwide libraries own this item" link to see who owns the item and click on the name of one of the holdings libraries to try to get to that library's online catalog.


  • Description: Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM) indexes and abstracts the literature of music.


  • Interface: EBSCO


  • Scope: Began in 1967 and continues with monthly updates. Materials indexed and abstracted include journal articles, books, collections of essays, conference proceedings, dissertations, reviews and online materials. Music related journals are covered comprehensively and music related articles in non-music journals are covered. All types of music journals are indexed and a master list of specific journals can be found at the RILM website (under Scope).


  • Individual Records: RILM records are detailed bibliographic descriptions of items indexed by RILM. Besides basic bibliographic information, most records included detailed abstracts as well as very detailed and very specific subject headings. Note that RILM has two types of records associated with collections (such as collections of essays) -- one is the master record describing the entire collection and the other is the constituent parts records describing the individual essays or chapters. These types of records are linked to each other. If you find a constituent parts record and wish to read the item, you need to find the master record, since that is the item you must locate or request. RILM includes U Get It! to the location of the online full text or the physical item.


  • What can you do with this database? This is your most important and most basic tool for finding journal articles on music. Once you find articles you want, either access the full text if available or request an interlibrary loan copy of the article. The indexing of individual essays in collections gives you a much greater level of access to the content of these collections than you would get in an online library catalog or in WorldCat. The abstracts allow you to evaluate better the relevance of articles you find cited in RILM before you try to find the article.


  • Exercise: 1. Access RILM. 2. Execute a search on "baroque and ornamentation" leaving the choice of index to "Select a field (optional)". Examine several records retrieved noting where the terms baroque and ornamentation occur in the record. 3. Write down the number of records retrieved. 4. Look at the level of indexing in several of the retrieved records under "Subjects:". Notice also the entries under "Major topics:". RILM tries to balance its indexing by a combination of assigning broad subject access (Major topics) with very specific subject headings. 4. Select the "Advanced Search" link at the top of the page. Select the limiter under Major Topics for "Historical musicology (Western music)".  Change the "Language of item" limiter to English and click on search. Note the number of records retrieved. 

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global:

  • Description: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global indexes and abstracts dissertations in all subject areas. It also serves as a depository for dissertations, making them available in print, online or microform formats.


  • Interface: ProQuest.


  • Scope: Primarily US doctoral level dissertations are covered, but there are also some masters level theses and dissertations from other countries. Entries go back to the late nineteenth century and new entries are added as new dissertations are completed and accepted at colleges and universities around the US.


  • Individual Records: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global records are basic bibliographic records and include information about where and when the dissertation was done. Subject indexing occurs only at the broadest level. The term "music" appears in only 18 subject headings.  The inclusion of abstracts and pdf previews of the first 15-25 pages of the dissertation begin with dissertations dating from the early 1980s. Abstracts, when present, are often quite extensive and they are usually written by the author of the dissertation.


  • What can you do with this database? Most extensive research in music requires searching dissertations in music. These dissertations often represent major and even unique contributions to a specific area of music. Dissertations completed at USD are available as free pdf downloads to members of the USD community. Many more are full-text, and you can request all other dissertations through interlibrary loan - UGet It.


  • Exercise: 1. Access ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. 2. Execute a search in the Advancd Search mode on a term(s) of interest to you. Leave "Anywhere" in the index box. 3.Look to the left side of the screen and note all that is under  "Narrow Results By". Open up the "Subject" limit and choose one. Note the results. 4. Choose an item from your results list -- click on the title of the item. Look at the Full text - PDF view (sometimes it takes awhile to load). Select the Abstract/Details tab at the top of the item. In the Details, note the student's information and university/institution.  

Grove Music, in Oxford Music Online: 

  • Description: Oxford Music Online is a suite of databases: Grove Music Online, Oxford Dictionary of Music, and The Oxford Companion to Music. These databases have been integrated into one tool, whereby they may be searched individually or in any combination.


  • Interface: Oxford Online Reference


  • Scope: Grove Music Online combines the print tools The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. The other databases correspond to the print tools of the same names: The Oxford Dictionary of Music and The Oxford Companion to Music. Content is updated, but not on a specific timetable.


  • Individual Records: Oxford Music Online records are basic encyclopedia and subject dictionary articles. Grove Music Online composer articles include invaluable works lists and all articles include bibliographies.


  • What can you do with this database? The Grove Music Online articles are always your best source for a good overview of a composer, place, musical genre or musical instrument. The composer articles include a biographical overview, a overview of the composer's creative output, a works list and bibliography. The opera synopses are excellent and give such details as voice types for the different characters. Besides finding the primary article on a composer or topic, you can also find where the composer or topic appears in other articles.


  • Exercise: 1. Access Grove Music (Oxford Music Online). 2. Choose Grove Music Online as the only database you wish to search. 3. Using the last name of a composer of interest to you, perform an "Entry Title" search. Note the number and types of entries retrieved. Identify and access the main biographical article for the composer you chose (it should be first in the list and should include the works list and bibliography.) 4. Repeat the search (click on "Advanced Search" underneath the search box at the top of the page) and select  "Full Article Text" search. Note the number and types of entries. For several articles, access them to make sure you know why they were retrieved.

International Index to Music Periodicals (IIMP) :

  • Description: Provides indexing and abstracts for several hundred international music periodicals, plus full text for 140+ journals. Covers the full spectrum of subjects and all aspects of music, including music education, performance, ethnomusicology, musical theatre, theory, popular music forms and composition.
  • Interface: ProQuest.
  • What can you do with this database? You can find articles on a diverse array of musical genres, from the liturgical chants of medieval monks to the eclectic sounds of contemporary alternative rock musicians.
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