This course acquaints students with the field of music bibliography. We will explore the types of research and reference tools employed in the study of music, and we will discuss the variety of problems these resources present. The purpose of this course is to provide a foundation of skills for pursuing music-related research throughout your careers. At the conclusion of the course, you will be able to:

  1. Identify, summarize, and apply principles and methods of (music) research.
  2. Name, distinguish between, and critically evaluate the sources and tools used in music research, including library catalogs, periodicals indexes, databases, literature about music, and editions of music.
  3. Demonstrate the elements that constitute an effective research paper, including developing a paper topic, developing research questions, formulating an argument, writing clearly, and citing sources consistently using an appropriate documentation style.
  4. Plan and develop a search strategy to find useful information for your research project, incorporating both digital and “traditional” print resources.
  5. Seek, find, and evaluate information for a research project.
  6. Present and summarize your research project and findings in a professional presentation suitable for an audience of your peers.

The success of the course depends on your active participation. You are expected to engage with the material, evaluate and discuss it in class, and assume a teaching role when introducing new tools and concepts to others. By working closely with the sources and applying evaluative skills, you will begin to gain mastery over the research process.


Graduate standing in a degree program of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance or the School of Information. If you have special interests or needs, please speak with the instructor.

Materials (Readings)


Please purchase these books from your preferred vendor as soon as possible. Links to the books are provided via Amazon, but this is not intended as an endorsement; used books (often cheaper) can also be found through Alibris, Abebooks (an Amazon subsidiary), etc. Shop around!

Additional texts will be available on the CTools site ( or at the library (


In addition to the required texts, a list of other useful books is given below. None of them is required, but you may find them helpful for finding other perspectives or more detail on certain topics. NB: many are available on the reference shelf in the music library.

Books on music research, writing


General research


Music Library Journals (available online or through the library)

Useful databases

Blogs (just links, not intended to endorse reliability of content)


Course readings and class participation (20%)

The success of this course depends on the participation of each and every person. Attendance is crucial. Excessive unexcused absences (more than two) will affect your final grade.

Conscientious participation in class is equally important and requires thoughtful engagement with the readings. In short: Students are expected to do the reading for each meeting, as outlined in the schedule below, in a timely manner (i.e., before class meetings). Longer version: There will be regular reading assignments, typically for each class meeting. The assignments are listed on the schedule below. Unless otherwise instructed, please complete the week’s readings before Tuesday’s class.

The following two activities will also be included in your participation grade:

  1. “Writing about music well” exercise (October 2)
  2. Writing sample, for peer review (TBD)

Response Papers and Projects (40%)

These assignments are meant to build toward your final bibliographic essay. With this in mind, you should feel free to tailor your work to meet your own particular needs and interests.

  1. Grove response paper (September 18)
  2. Online exploratory blogpost (October 9)
  3. Annotated bibliography (October 18)
  4. Critique a critical edition (November 6)

Project and Presentation (40%)

The final project for this course consists of a 10–15 page bibliographic essay. The topic may relate to your instrument and its repertory; it may be historical or theoretical in emphasis; or it may focus on either one musical work or an identifiable group of musical works. Project presentations, to be held at the end of the semester, offer a semi-formal opportunity to share what you have learned with others. Given the substantial nature of the project, it is divided into smaller deliverables that you will hand in throughout the term:

  1. Project prospectus (due September 25)
  2. Introduction (incl. research question) and outline (due October 23)
  3. Rough draft (incl. complete lit. review) (due November 13)
  4. Presentation (last class sessions)
  5. Final draft (due December 18)

Resources. This may be the first time you are taking a course with a substantial scholarly research component. If so, you might find the amount of reading and style of academic presentation (for the final project) challenging. The following guides from Paul Edwards (Professor, School of Information) may be helpful:

Note on Written Assignments

Written assignments are due before the first meeting of the week (i.e., usually on Tuesday)

For all written assignments. Strive to write clearly at all times, using consistent citation style with accurate spelling, punctuation, and format. Grammar, syntax, writing style, spelling, consistency, and accuracy must be suitable for graduate-level research in English. You are expected to follow and maintain consistent formatting according to standard academic format (see below). These formatting and style elements are parts of the research process, and your work will be evaluated accordingly.

Standard humanities citations should follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th or 16th edition. (You may, however, choose a different citation format. If you do so, you are still responsible for consistency, accuracy, and discussing it with the instructor in advance.)

Papers should be submitted in electronic format (.docx, .doc, or .odt only) via CTools. Files should be named with a combination of your last name and the assignment, with no spaces in the filename (e.g., my version of the Grove response paper could be johnston-groveresponse.doc). Standard format is: Times New Roman or Arial typeface, 12-point font size, and double-spaced paragraphs. Avoid odd-looking fonts, or anything unusually large or small.

Overview of Deliverables

Due Date Points
Participation (20)
Writing well

Peer review


Papers (40)
Grove response paper

Online exploratory

Annotated bibliography


Project (40)

Introduction + outline

Rough draft


Final draft


Academic Integrity

Upholding the standards of academic integrity is the responsibility of all members of the university community, both scholarly and artistic. Cheating and plagiarism are antithetical to the aims of this course and damage your academic and professional integrity; they cannot be tolerated in any circumstance. (First offense results in a zero on the assignment; second offense results in a conference with the assistant dean.) If you have any questions regarding these issues, please discuss the matter with the instructor and refer to these resources:


(Note: some changes and modifications may take place during the term.)

Date Topic Reading Due / Notes
Part I: Research Process and Tools
Week 1
4 & 6
Introduction; defining music bibliography; classifying music materials; using catalogs: MIRLYN (MIRLYN Classic), WorldCat
MR (Music Research), Ch. 4;
Cook, Ch. 1
something more current...on documents (Buckland? Levy's "Document Heroism"?), searching strategies (Ellis, Markey, or Swanson [2005])
Intro blog posts
Week 2
11 & 13
Dictionaries (topical and biographical) and encyclopedias;
search strategies (information seeking)
MR, Chs. 2 & 3;
Duckles, “Library of the Mind”(???);
Shirky, “Ontology Is Overrated”
Gillie, “Fauré at Your Fingertips”
Search exercise (blog entry)
Week 3
18 & 20
Style, research, writing guides; RefWorks
MR, Chs. 15 & 16;
Booth et al., Chs. 1, 3, & 4 (skim);
Zinsser excerpts

Week 4
25 & 27
Finding articles: RILM Abstracts, IIMP, Music Index, SearchTools, RIPM
Guest: Kristen Castellana (Music Librarian)
MR, Chs. 5 & 6;
Cook, Ch. 2, additional chapter
Booth et al., Chs. 5 & 6 (skim)

Week 5
2 & 4
Writing a literature review; writing about music Krabbe, “A Survey of the Written Reception of Carl Nielsen, 1931–2006”; other example(s) TBA
Booth et al.?

Week 6
9 & 11
Directories, guides to analysis, music histories, source readings, chronologies MR, Chs. 9 & 13
Week 7
Oct. 16 No Class: Fall Study Break

Writing time!
Oct. 18
Writing program notes Keller, “Program Notes”;
Booth et al., Ch. 15 (skim)

Part II: Editions
Week 8
23 & 25
Editions of musical works; Using complete works editions, musical monuments, historical sets, and anthologies
Guest: Dorothea Gail (MUSA)
MR, Ch. 7; Clague, “Portraits in Beams and Barlines”
Week 9
Oct. 30
Nov. 1
Thematic catalogues, bibliographies of music (RISM) MR, Chs. 8 & 10
Part III: Beyond the Printed Word
Week 10
6 & 8
Music iconographies, more Internet resources for music
Guest: Rebecca Price (Visual Resources Librarian)
MR, Chs. 12 & 14

Week 11
13 & 15
Copyright and intellectual property
Guest: Jack Bernard (UM Assoc. General Counsel)
TBD; browse SI 519 materials
Rough draft
Week 12
Nov. 20 Sound and video as documents, discography, sound archives MR, Ch. 11

Nov. 22 No Class: Thanksgiving Recess

Week 13
27 & 29
Term project presentations

Week 14
4 & 6
Term project presentations

Week 15
Dec. 11 Wrap up

Dec. 18 Final paper due at 5 p.m.
(no class meeting, submit on CTools)