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Music: Getting Started

This guide covers basic resources that may be useful to the Music Department.

This guide is designed to assist you in finding resources related to the School of Music. It includes channels for finding books, journal articles, newspapers, and other resources. If you're having trouble or simply wish to consult further about your topic, please don't hesitate to email me at

Top 10 Things to Know about Research

10.  Don't wait till the last moment to start your research!
Good research almost always takes longer than you expect. If we don't have something you need, we can probably get it for you elsewhere, but not instantly. Figure on a minimum of five business days for books and a couple of days for journal articles; it could take much longer.

9.  Google doesn't have everything.
It's hard to imagine, but Google only provides access to a fraction of what's "out there," even if all your searches seem to return a gazillion hits. Learn to use other tools to find information that is invisible to Google.

8.  Research is a word game.
When you do your searches, try various techniques to improve the accuracy of your results: use AND and OR to combine groups of search terms, truncate your terms (wild card searching), search for phrases using quotation marks, and use search limiters. Whatever database you are in, look for a "Help" or "Search Tips" link to get more advice.

7.  Use Advanced Search features.
Many databases include an "Advanced Searching" option. By using it you can quickly and easily improve the accuracy of your searches and have fewer—but higher quality—search results.

6.  A lot of things aren't online at all.
Scarborough Library has many books, articles, documents, videos, etc. that aren't online. In addition, if you see something that another library has that you would like you may possibly be able to get it through an Interlibrary loan.

5.  Use Wikipedia—and other encyclopedias—carefully.
Encyclopedias can be great places to get beginning background info, and for references to major books, articles, etc. on a topic. But they are usually not something you can use as one of your sources for a paper or other project.

4.  Evaluate! Evaluate! Evaluate!
Don't believe everything you read. Or see. Or hear. It is up to you to determine if the information you are using is reliable and appropriate for your research, or not. Librarians can help with this, too!

3. Research is not a straight line.
It's a process, a spiral, an evolution, a zig-zagging course. One piece of new info can take you back to places you've already been. You may need to change course, even reverse direction from time to time. Make sure you give yourself enough time to do this!

2. Find more sources than you think you'll need.
Some sources that you'll find just won't work for your research needs. But, if you collect "extra" sources at the beginning, you may not have to backtrack and re-do your searches later. And, you may find a better topic or angle on your research in one of those sources.

1.  Ask a Librarian!
Don't let the stress build up too much before you ask for help. You can do it in person, through online chat, by phone, or by email. You can even make an appointment with a Reference Librarian. Ask us —we are here to help you!


Primary sources are "materials produced by people or groups directly involved in the event or topic under consideration, either as participants or as witnesses...Some primary sources are written documents, such as letters; diaries; newspapers and magazine articles; speeches; autobiographies; treatises; census data; and marriage, birth, and death registers" (Rampolla, 2012). 

Secondary sources, then, are  "texts - such as books, articles, or documentary films - that are written or created by people who were not eyewitnesses to the events or period in question; instead, the authors of secondary sources synthesize, analyze, and interpret primary sources..."(Rampolla, 2012).

library catalog lists the resources in the library's collections--including interlibrary loan holdings. You can search for information by author, title, subject, and keyword.

Bibliographies and indexes are essentially specialized catalogs that helps searchers find specialized material, e.g. from a specific field (MLA International Bibliography), format (US Newsstream for newspapers), or particular publication (e.g. Wall Street Journal Index).

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