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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Music 313: The History of Music I


Welcome to the library guide for Music 313: The History of Music I. This guide covers some of the basic methods and tools of research, but is not intended to be an exhaustive research guide for medieval/renaissance music. The content of this guide is broken down into sections and you can choose any of the tabs across the top. Note: Some of the tabs have one or more sub-tabs underneath them with more content.

The Research Process

Starting your research

Research is a circular, iterative process. This means that at times you may have to retrace your steps, ask different questions, or consult additional sources. Ideally, you will create a plan for yourself, outlining the questions you want to answer in your paper and/or during your research. There are different tools to help you at various stages of your research. Some of them are online and some are in print. This guide will aid you in understanding these tools.

Music and Performing Arts Library website

The MPAL website should be your first place to start. Our page on music research resources lists many of the tools that will be discussed in this guide and much more. The Guides to Research section lists not only this guide, but other topical guides and tools for you to use.

Reference sources

When first beginning a research project, it's always a good idea to get background material on your topic. This can give you some context for the topic you are studying and help you narrow your research question. Reference sources also give you some ideas of where to start searching for materials, since most have bibliographies. Dictionaries and encyclopedias can be found for broad areas of music and for very specific subjects, so it's best to start big and work your way smaller as you narrow your focus. The Reference Sources tab highlights a few key resources.

Books, scores, and recordings

Once you've narrowed your research question, you'll want books about the topic, and possibly scores and recordings of the music you are studying. Most of our books, scores, recordings, and other materials are listed in the online library catalog. Use the Finding Music Materials tab and various sub-tabs to get more information about how to find items by format or to narrow your search. Keep in mind that there may not be an entire book about your topic. You may need to look for more general books about the type of music or the composer you are studying and then check the table of contents or the index to see if there is any information more specific to your topic. 

Journal Articles

Once you have found background information about your topic through reference sources and books, you may want to find writings more specific to your topic such as journal articles. One way to do this is look at the bibliographies of the resources you have already consulted--they will list books and articles the author used. You may also need to use journal databases to search for articles (this is much easier than just pulling individual journal volumes off the shelf and checking their tables of contents).

Guides to the Research Process


Abstract:  A summary of what a particular article or book is about. Abstracts help you work out which are going to be the most relevant.

Bibliography: A list of books, articles, and other resources related to a given topic.

Discography: A list of recordings, usually organized by a particular group, particular recording label, or other common element.

Library online catalog: Contains information about (almost) all of the materials held by the U of I libraries.

Journal databases: Sometimes called indexes, these online tools can help you search many journals for articles relevant to your topic.

Peer-reviewed or scholarly:Peer-reviewed or scholarly articles went through a rigorous review process by experts in the field before accepted for publication.