Activity: Process of Searching

This assignment is based directly on a search activity used by Prof. Karen Markey in the School of Information.


Complete this task on your own or with a partner. Be prepared to discuss your experience in class.

Please search for information on a topic. The topic could be something that interests you personally or professionally. Search with the intent of building your knowledge about the topic, not merely finding information that touches upon your interests.

Search these 2 sources:

  1. Google ( 
  2. A journal-article database related to scholarly studies of music. Go to the U-M Library’s Search Tools at, search for “music” to find one (make sure the radio button “Databases” is selected) and choose from the long list. Please choose a database that is likely to retrieve quality published information on your topic of interest.

While you search, think about what you are doing and what you are thinking. For example, first you think of words and phrases that represent the topic that interests you. Then you enter words and phrases into the source’s dialogue box and press the “Go” or “Search” button. Now comes the really important part of this task. In response to your entered words and phrases, Google and your chosen music database will list retrievals. Think about your reaction to and handling of these retrievals. Answer these questions: 

  1. What information from Google and the music database gives you clues that the item is relevant or less-than-relevant to your interests and makes you want to fetch the actual full text item in the form of a web page, the online journal article, or the journal article from a bound journal on the library’s book shelves?
  2. Is the amount of information and the nature of the information each source supplies sufficient for you to feel confident that the full text will be useful to you for increasing your knowledge about this topic that interests you?
    1. Why or why not?
    2. How would you improve the source so its information is better?  
  3. What is the purpose of this task? Why was it assigned? 

Sample Search Topics

If you have nothing in mind to search, consider these sample search topics and alter them as needed to fit your interests:

  1. Why are there so many recordings like “Bach for Babies”?
  2. Who holds the copyright for “Happy Birthday”?
  3. What is the sarunai? Is it indigenous to a certain location or culture?
  4. Are women more likely to play piano than trumpet?
  5. What is the geographic distribution of U.S. high schools that have music (or other arts) programs? Is there a correlation to socioeconomic status of communities with the likelihood that a school will have a music (or other arts) program?
  6. What effect does noise level have on violence in urban neighborhoods?
  7. What is the longest piece of music ever performed?
  8. What did Karlheinz Stockhausen really say in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001?

After You’re Done

Become an advanced searcher: