Skip to Main Content

Music Research: Home

Connecting you to Music research and resources at Texas State University

Music Research: Where Do I Begin?

With this LibGuide, we offer you a starting point for embarking upon music research or seeking repertoire. We understand that it can be daunting, but we are here to help!

The Process of Music Research: First Steps, and Beyond

You've been assigned to write a research paper about a topic in Music. (Perhaps you have the notion you'd like to write about "the history of saxophone instruction methods.") What if you don't have much experience with college-level research and writing, especially about music? Where in the world do you begin?

First, before you dive into the particulars, make sure you have a good grasp of the research process itself.

  • The Alkek Library's own Research Tutorials Guide introduces you to the basic how-tos of evaluating sources and conducting research.
  • This music-specific textbook on research is highly recommended: A print copy of Music Research: A Handbook, 3rd ed. (Sampsel, 2020) is located in the Schneider's Reference section.
  • For other highly helpful books & ebooks on the research process (both general and music-specific) and music-research tools, click here!

Once you have a general notion of what you might like to write about (it doesn't have to be too specific yet), it's a good idea to start by reading relevant articles in music encyclopedias and dictionaries. And it's VERY smart to pay attention to the bibliographies that you'll commonly find at the end of articles, as they 1) show you solid examples of what has already been written about various aspects of the topic and 2) serve as a springboard (and idea-generator) for your further reading and research.

The gold-standard encyclopedic reference source on Western art music is Grove Music Online (part of the Oxford Music Online database). Their frequently-updated articles feature excellent bibliographies as well as comprehensive works lists (for the articles on composers). You may also wish to consult its print component, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed. (2001), located in at the at the Alkek Library, 6th floor.

Many other encyclopedias and dictionaries of music are worthy of your time, and are discussed further in the Music Encyclopedias and Dictionaries tab of this LibGuide!

Another resource you may want to consult early in your research process is Oxford Bibliographies Online. It's an expert-curated collection of bibliographies surveying important books/chapters, articles, websites, and other sources related to a wide range of music topics. And again, several other important bibliographic sources are further discussed under the Bibliographies of Music and Music Literature tab in this LibGuide!

As you embark on your research, we recommend that you follow the process outlined in Laurie Sampsel's aforementioned Music Research: A Handbook. Each chapter of her book discusses, in progression, types of resources that you should ideally consult in order to make your research complete. The tabs at the top of this LibGuide mirror her topics: 1) Library Catalogs, 2) Music Encyclopedias and Dictionaries, 3) Periodical Indexes, 4) Indexes to Music Dissertations, Theses, and Papers, 5) Thematic Catalogs, 6) Complete Works Editions, Anthologies, etc., 7) Music Histories, Source Readings, and Chronologies, 8) Bibliographies of Music and Music Literature, 9) Discographies, 10) Music Iconographies, and 11) Digital Media [which includes streaming audio/video and E-books/E-scores]. In each of these tabs above, we discuss the type of resource and provide you with examples that you can access from our library collection.

You'll also see a tab for Guides to Writing About Music. Here, we discuss what happens once you've gathered your research and it's time to WRITE (or, yes, type). And you'll see a list of recommended guides that can help you make the best choices about the organization, style, and format of your papers.

As you might have guessed, this is only the briefest of introductions to the discipline of music research. But we hope this LibGuide opens some helpful doors for you! Your Music Librarian is always happy to hear from you with any additional questions or problems you have. And, one final word of advice: whenever possible, write about something you're PASSIONATE about! It's amazing how much easier your research will become....

Visit Your Music Library!

Texas State has a branch library devoted to MUSIC! The Schneider Music Library, located in the Music Building, opens its door for all students to explore, ask questions, and check out items—regardless of your major. We encourage you to visit us in person or virtually, anytime!

Ask Your Music Librarian!

Profile Photo
Mark Blair
School of Music
601 University Dr.
San Marcos, Texas 78666
Subjects: Music

We are Schneider!