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Music History

Resources for music history library research

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Searching Online Databases

University Libraries provides online access to more than 300 databases across numerous fields of study. Databases collect scholarly articles and information, and they can direct you to academic journals available from the Libraries. Searching a relevant database is often your best place to start for items not held in the physical collections. A complete list of databases can be found at the Libraries website. There are also databases specific to Music which can be selected through the subject filter.

Databases for Music Research:

Many journals can be found in multiple online databases while others are in-print at Bracken Library. Click here to search for a specific journal title, including online and physical locations. Use the filters on the left and the search bar above to narrow your results. You can also download the browser extension LibKey Nomad to eliminate paywalls you might encounter, if you find an article on Google, Wikipedia, or a publisher's website.

Tutorial: RILM Abstracts of Music Literature

OneSearch includes indexes to articles in the Libraries' online and print subscriptions. You can also use these specialized indexing services for music, accessible from the Databases page: 

  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature includes information about articles, books, dissertations, and reviews published since the mid-1960s in dozens of languages. You can limit your search to peer-reviewed/scholarly articles, and further limit by date and language.
  • Music Index lists scholarly and non-scholarly articles, mainly in English, published since the 1960s.  

Neither of these services includes full text of articles, but you can use Find It @ BALL STATE to connect to full text when it is available. When the article is not available, Find It @ BALL STATE gives you the option to request it via Interlibrary Loan.

About RILM Abstracts

Search Tips and Tricks

The following are some tips and tricks you may wish to keep in mind when using databases:

>> Search a Specific Publication  Often it is desirable to search within a specific publication, such as the Music Educators Journal (MEJ). On EBSCOhost databases, this can be accomplished by finding the journal itself and clicking "search within this publication." On JSTOR, you can launch an Advanced Search and then find the specific journal under "Journal Filter" to narrow results by discipline or publication.

>> Journal Browse  Browse lets you see every article published in a particular journal volume or issue, almost as if you were looking at the print journal from the stacks. Again, find the specific publication, such as the Journal of Research in Music Education (JRME), and click on "All Issues and Articles" (EBSCO) or "All Issues" (JSTOR). Then simply select the year, volume, or issue of interest.

>> Multiple Databases  Databases that are subscribed through EBSCOhost may be searched simultaneously. Just start with one database and then click on "Choose Databases" to select more databases. EBSCO databases include RILM Abstracts, Music Index, Academic Search Complete, ERIC, APA PsycInfo, and others.

>> Plan Ahead  After finding an article, plan to download a PDF or add a citation to a folder within the database in case your next search does not yield the same results. On EBSCO databases, citations can be added to a folder by creating a personal login and clicking the folder icon to the right of the article title. You can also setup email alerts for new items that match your search criteria by clicking the Share button.

>> Permalinks  Finally, it's always best practice to use a permalink within citations. A permalink, also called a DOI or PURL, is different from the regular URL in the search bar. It is a "permanent link" in that every time anyone clicks that link, it should take them back to the same page. A regular URL might change depending on your search criteria. Find the permalink by clicking on the chain icon on EBSCO or OneSearch. On JSTOR, it is the link which includes jstor.org/stable and a set of numbers.

Finding Scholarly Articles in OneSearch

OneSearch is Ball State University Libraries' integrated discovery tool for books, scores, articles, recordings, and other library materials. It also indexes selected online resources and incorporates subscription databases such as Academic Search Complete and JSTOR. Although not specific to music resources, it can also be a valuable tool for locating scholarly articles on a topic. Find OneSearch on its dedicated page or as a simple search box on the University Libraries main page. Follow these steps to find scholarly articles through OneSearch:

1. Enter keywords for your topic into the OneSearch field. Keywords should be as specific as possible without being too specific. Typically you should avoid something as broad as "music." If your first keyword does not succeed, try a synonym or related term. Include numbers such as Opus or BWV when applicable. Press the magnifying glass to run your search.

2. Refine your search by applying filters on the left side of the screen. Check "Scholarly & Peer-Reviewed" to eliminate non-scholarly articles. Adjust Publication Date and set the Language filter to further narrow results. Set the Discipline filter to "music" to eliminate non-music results.

3. Select an item to view access options online or to check physical holdings at Bracken Library. Under View Online, full text availability options will be shown through databases like Academic Search Complete or JSTOR. Locations shows physical holdings. Some articles can be found in-print in Bound Periodicals (2 West) or in Current Periodicals (1 East). These locations are outside of Education, Music and Media on the first and second levels of Bracken Library. Click the arrow to the right for more details.

How to Tell if a Journal is Scholarly

We will explore this topic more at the workshop "Understanding Sources in Music Research" to be held in-person on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 and online Wednesday, February 7, 2024. Register here!

Scholarly or peer-reviewed journals share these characteristics:

Scholars write the articles:

  • The author has a PhD or another graduate-level degree.
  • The author is an expert in the field.
  • The author is usually a university professor.

Scholars decide which articles are published:

  • The main editor is a scholar in the same field.
  • There is a panel of editors (the "peers" who review the articles). They are usually called an "editorial board." They are also experts in the same field.
  • Authors submit their articles to the editorial board, which decides if the articles are appropriate for the journal.

Scholars are cited in the articles:

  • The article has a bibliography and footnotes or end-notes
  • Authors of the articles and books in the bibliography are scholars.
  • The article may refer to the fellow researchers' theories or findings in the body of the article.

Other features:

  • The journal is published by an association.
  • The word "journal" is in the title.
  • Advertising is minimal, usually book publishers or upcoming scholarly events.
  • Book reviews are lengthy, often with footnotes or end-notes.

For examples and a comparative chart, see Popular Literature vs. Scholarly Articles from Rutgers University.

Interlibrary Loan

Users are encouraged to search for items beyond University Libraries' catalog via RILM Abstracts of Music Literature and WorldCat. Materials not available in print or online may be requested through Interlibrary Loan. Please allow up to seven days for electronic delivery and up to fourteen days for delivery of physical items.