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Topical Guides: Music Research

Music Research > 4: Supporting Data, Documents & Artifacts

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4A: Types of Resources

Data (such as facts or statistics), documents, artifacts (objects) and biographical information related to your topic will provide support, evidence or credence to your research thesis or claims. The best source for your project will depend on what type of information you are researching. For example, biographical information provides context to a subject's life. Data and statistics illustrate trends or provide support for ideas. Artifacts provide visual evidence for your findings.

It is important to distinguish between the two basic types of information: primary sources and secondary sources.

Primary sources are from the time period you are researching (from the historical context). These sources can include artifacts, statistics, autobiographies or newspapers. Primary sources often form the foundation for a research project. Examples are: American newspapers from 1950, artifacts from an archaeological dig, contracts from 1760, correspondence between Protestant Reformers, Medieval religious texts, etc.

Secondary sources may also form a foundation for research, but more often these sources provide additional support for your ideas. They include Web pages, articles, or contemporary books. The key distinction between primary and secondary sources is that secondary sources interpret primary sources. Textbooks, biographies, and book reviews are good examples of secondary sources.

4B: Examples

Neue Mozart Ausgabe Online

The first of its kind, this is the Neue Mozart Ausgabe (complete works of Mozart) in their most authoritative scholarly edition. The scores and critical reports are scanned at a high quality, so that the researcher may study not only the content, but the facsimiles as historical documents.


The International Music Score Library Project Petrucci Music Library is a wiki-styled, freely available collection of music in the public domain. It contains over 200,000 music scores and over 20,000 recordings. Most scores are scans of old documents which have entered the public domain through age, through some users and members have submitted original scores as part of the project. Some scores even have associated recordings. It is an excellent source for conveniently accessing scores published before 1923; newer publications, due to copyright protection, are not nearly as likely to be available here.


Compiled by a now-retired OSU School of Music faculty member, this database allows one to search for musical works by the melody and musical form. It's the best place to look for a work which you might remember the theme or beginning to (i.e., be able to sing or hum to yourself), but cannot otherwise identify.

OSU Libraries Catalog

Along with the OhioLINK and WorldCat catalogs, the best source for musical scores and recordings that you may acquire at your library. Classical music works are often organized by uniform titles, and understanding their use is of great importance to the researcher of classical music. There is an excellent guide to understanding uniform titles.

Internet Broadway Database

Akin to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), this is an online resource for everything Broadway. It is a project and product of The Broadway League, a trade association of the Broadway industry.

Musicians Necrology

Maintained by the Gaylord Music Library at Washington University, this database collects authoritative birth and death years for musicians.


Similar to Themefinder, Musipedia aids in searching for musical works by melody, rhythm, or contour. It is distinct from Themefinder in that it covers popular music as well as classical.

Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary

This online dictionary includes a wide variety of musical terms in several languages. Definitions are concise, without much background or history, but accurate. Pronunciation for each term is provided in a sound file. Entries for terms in foreign languages include not only translations to English, but also to other languages commonly used in music.


RidIM is a database of musical iconography. The number of indexed images is still relatively small, but is growing constantly. Its content and approach is wholly unique in the musical world.

4C: How to Find More

Oxford Reference online (OSU access)

Oxford has collected a number of their reference publications (dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies, etc.) here in their most up-to-date and easily searchable form. Music-specific works are listed under the Performing Arts rubric and allow for searching and browsing independently or as a group. Bilingual dictionaries, quotations, maps, and other resources may also be of interest for certain research topics.

Lexis Nexis Academic Universe (OSU access)

Primarily a legal database, Lexis Nexis also has excellent indexing of general news sources. This news indexing may interest the music researcher for the reporting of music premiers and performances, recording reviews, and general coverage or interviews of musicians.

OhioLINK & WorldCat.org (OSU access: WorldCat@OSU)

These union catalogs collect the holdings of many libraries together in one place. OhioLINK is a near 90 member-strong group of primarily academic libraries in the state of Ohio. Most items found in the OhioLINK catalog may be requested directly. WorldCat is a catalog of OCLC member libraries, of which there are nearly 26,000 in 112 countries. Interlibrary loan at your library may be able to get items from other locations. WorldCat@OSU allows OSU users to find books via OSU, OhioLINK, and beyond and also to search for article content.



Go to Musicians Necrology and look up singer/actress Nell Carter by last name.

Pop Quiz

Which of the following is NOT a primary source?

Correct answer: [NOTE: Score is not recorded]

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