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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

MUS 501: Grad Music History Review

Decoding a Citation

Unless you've filtered your search to limit your results to a particular format, a database search will bring up results in a variety of formats. Learning how to read a citation will save you time and effort. You don't want to go to the trouble of tracking down a promising resource only to realize that what you've found is a book review rather than the book itself.

This page will walk you through the process of decoding a citation and accessing the resources indexed in the main music and performing arts databases so you can feel confident evaluating your search results.

As we've already talked about in this guide, databases are produced by vendors. Because the interface and results lists for databases from the same vendor tend to look similar, we've organized this guide by which vendor offers the database.

Citations in EBSCO Databases

Examples of EBSCO Databases: Music Index; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature; RIPM Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals

Results lists in EBSCO databases include icons to the left of each result that tell you what an item is. Look for the icons below to better understand your results. Please note that some EBSCO databases will classify academic journals as periodicals. If you want to know if the periodical is scholarly and peer-reviewed, remember you can always check the journal's website.

EBSCO result icon for a periodicalEBSCO result icon for an academic journalEBSCO result icon for a bookEBSCO result icon for a dissertation

Learning how to decode a citation without relying on the icons is still an important skill! Read through the tips below to learn more.

Different Formats

A citation for an academic journal article or periodical in an EBSCO database will look like this:

Annotated screenshot of journal article result in an EBSCO database with each component of the citation labeled.

Another way to determine what type of resource you're looking at in an EBSCO result list is to click on the magnifying glass icon to the right of the citation. This will open a pop-up window showing a more detailed citation that clearly defines the publication type.

The detailed view for an article citation in an EBSCO database includes a category for "publication type" where you can see the source information

These databases also index chapters and essays published in books. If you look closely at the citation below, there are several clues that tell you the source is a book rather than a journal.

Annotated screenshot of a book chapter result in an EBSCO database with each component of the citation labeled.

You can identify this source as a book rather than a journal by noticing the following clues:

  • The publication date only lists a year. A journal citation will typically include the month or season of publication as journals publish multiple issues a year.
  • This citation doesn't list a volume or issue number.

If you're still not sure, remember that you can also check the publication type in the pop-up window by clicking the magnifying glass icon.

You can also find the publication type in the popup window or the full citation.

Note: The full text of book excerpts is rarely available online; you will need to search for the item in the library catalog. Be sure to search for the title of the book (e.g., The Work of Opera: Genre, Nationhood, and Sexual Difference), not the title of the essay or chapter.

Your results list might also include dissertations. You can identify a dissertation citation because it will list a "dissertation source" in the citation.

Annotated screenshot of a dissertation result in an EBSCO database with each component of the citation labeled.

Citations in ProQuest Databases

Examples of ProQuest Databases: Music Periodicals Database; Performing Arts Periodicals Database

The interfaces and citation styles across ProQuest databases will look very similar to each other. A short citation for a journal article in a list of results looks like this:

Annotated screenshot of journal article result in a ProQuest database with each component of the citation labeled.

The journals indexed in these databases publish many other formats in addition to articles including reviews, interviews, lectures, and book excerpts. ProQuest uses the short citation style pictured above for all of these formats, so it can be difficult to determine an item's format from the short citation alone.

For example, the following short citation is for a book review, but it looks just like a citation for an article.

Screenshot of a short citation from a ProQuest database for a book review.

Clicking on the title, however, will open a full citation that provides an abstract or synopsis that will tell you more about the resource.

Screenshot of a "synopsis" tab in a ProQuest citation.

You can also scroll down once you've opened the full citation to double check the "document type".

Screenshot of a ProQuest search result's "document type" facet.