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Library Subject Guides

Music: Assignment Research

The Research Process

This outlines a simple but effective approach to finding information for your assignment, based on the resources described in the Music Subject Guide. Depending on your topic and your level of study, you may need to rearrange or review these steps

  1. Define the Topic
  2. Gather Background Information
  3. Decide What Types of Resources Are Needed
  4. Find Books and Journal Articles
  5. Find information on the Internet
  6. Evaluate Your Sources
  7. Writing Your Assignment and Citing Your Sources

    See Also

    Define the Topic

    It may seem obvious, but the first step is to make sure you understand the topic. Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question to help you develop a search strategy

    See also Library guides:

    Gather Background Information

    Use dictionaries and encyclopedias for Music to find definitions and background information. Articles from specialised subject encyclopedias are authoritative and often substantial

    Decide What Resources Are Needed

    • How much information do you need?
      Lecturers often give guidelines on the number of sources you should use
    • Do you need current information or is older material relevant?
      Sometimes you might need both, as you might have to give both the historic background and the current thinking on a topic
    • What type of information do you need?
      Do you need primary sources such as original account of research, reviews of first performances, or secondary sources that are interpretations of someone else’s work? You may need both
    • Do you understand the assignment’s requirements?
      If you are unsure about what you have to do for an assignment, ask your lecturer, your tutor or someone at the Academic Skills Centre

    Find Books and Journal Articles

    Citation Chaining

    Chaining is a well-established and widely used method of gathering additional sources for a topic: Find one important scholarly work on your topic (sometimes called the “seed document”), and follow up the references that it cites in its footnotes, bibliography or list of references. Those cited works will cite other works in turn, which you can also seek out, and so the chain of citations continues

    For the method to work well, it is important to choose the “seed document” carefully. Ideally the “seed” will be a definitive and recent work on the topic, such as a seminal book or a review article. For undergraduate assignments, such a “seed” will often be listed in the Reading List prepared by your lecturer for the course

    The method has one obvious disadvantage: it can only take you backwards to older publications on the topic. It cannot help you discover any new literature and latest research. This drawback is overcome using Cited Reference Searching

    Cited-Reference Searching

    Citation indexes allow you to look forward in time, and find works citing a particular scholarly work (the “seed document”) that were published after the “seed document’s” publication date

    The underlying method is similar to that of “Citation Chaining”: if there is a scholarly work that is prominent in your area of research, it may be useful to identify later works that cite that work

    The useful citation indexes for Music are Scopus and Google Scholar

    See also

    Cited Reference Searching


    Simple, one-step searching across a range of the Library’s resources, including the Library Catalogue, most library databases, and some digital collections



    See also:

    MultiSearch (via Summon) – further explanation of this finding tool

    Find Books

    The Library Catalogue lists books held in the Library's collection

    Hints for searching the Library catalogue

    See also:

    Tutorial: Library catalogue

    Finding Music Books

    Find Journal Articles

    The Library Catalogue lists the print and electronic titles of journals held by the Library. Select the Journal title begins with search option and enter the full journal title

    To find articles on your specific topic, you will need to search these recommended databases

    See also:

    Finding Music Journal Articles

    Find Information on the Internet

    The Internet can be a rich source of information but not everything will be useful or appropriate for research use

    • Web resources should be carefully evaluated and used in conjunction with the scholarly resources provided by the Library
    • Use the Advanced search features of Google or use Google Scholar to restrict your search to search results from more reputable sources
    • Do not use articles directly from Wikipedia, although you can use its content (e.g. keywords or phrases) to search other sources
    See also:

    Evaluate Your Sources

    References recommended on reading lists will already have been evaluated for quality. You will need to evaluate sources that you find yourself. Think critically about the information you find. The quality of your information will help to determine the quality of your assignment.

    See also

    Writing Your Assignment and Citing Your Sources

    See also the Library’s online tutorial:
    Referencing tutorial (LEARN)