In music research (as with most things in life), getting started tends to be the hardest part. Where do you begin?
You'll need to hone in on a research topic (if one hasn't been specifically assigned to you); ideas or questions may flow from your class lectures or readings, from repertoire you're performing, or from your daily experiences as an ensemble member or private instructor. Also, consider what simply fascinates you! Just don't worry about having the "perfect" topic right from the start. As your research process evolves and you review the existing literature, you will very likely refine and narrow your topic, or you may find yourself gravitating toward a different, related topic. Hopefully your professor/advisor will also be generous with their guidance along the way.
As you read and learn more about your topic, take note of questions that develop in your mind. One of these questions will likely become the basis for your thesis statement, which you can also think of as the central claim or main argument of your essay/paper. You'll want to make a specific and substantive claim, and to give reasons to support this claim that are based in research. Just one example of a promising thesis could be "Playing Guitar Hero as a supplementary activity may help reinforce music fundamentals for elementary school students." Here are a couple of good online guides for developing your thesis statement.
Below, we are highlighting helpful books/ebooks in our collection—some of them specific to music—that discuss and demystify the research process. You will also see a listing of some of the most essential music research tools ("the guides to the guides"), in print and online.
A Guide to Research in Music Education, 5th ed. (Phelps, 2005)
MT 1 .P5 2005: Music Library, Education Collection
Information Sources in Music (Foreman, 2003)
ML 113 .I53 2003: Alkek, 6th floor
Introduction to Music Research (Watanabe, 1967)
ML 3797 .W37: Alkek, 6th floor
Introduction to Research in Music (Wingell/Herzog, 2001)
MT 1 .W825 2001: Music Library, Reference
Library Research Guide to Music: Illustrated Search Strategy and Sources (Druesedow, 1982)
ML 111 .D78 1982: Alkek, 6th floor (Oversize section)
MENC Handbook of Research Methodologies (Colwell, 2006)
MT 1 .M427 2006: Alkek, 6th floor
Music Research: A Handbook, 3rd ed. (Sampsel, 2020)
ML 113 .S28 2020: Music Library, Reference
Scholarly Research for Musicians (Lee, 2017)
Undergraduate Research in Music: A Guide for Students (Young/Shanahan, 2018)
ML 3797 .Y68 2018: Music Library, Reference
The Oxford Guide to Library Research, 4th ed. (Mann, 2015)
Music Library and Research Skills, 2nd ed. (Gottlieb, 2017)
ML 3797 .G68 2017: Music Library, Reference
Music Reference and Research Materials: An Annotated Bibliography (Duckles, 1997)
ML 113 .D83 1997: Music Library, Reference
Online Resources for Music Scholars (Harvard University)
MusRef (Brigham Young University)
Sourcebook for Research in Music, 3rd ed. (Scott, 2015)
ML 113 .S46 2015: Music Library, Reference