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Topical Guides: Music Research

Music Research > 5: Online Communities

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5A: Types of Resources

Online communities are discussion groups that gather around a particular topic. They take many forms: mailing lists, newsgroups, web forums, chat, and blogs. They may be moderated or un-moderated; local or worldwide; include amateurs, enthusiasts, professionals, or just curious people; and cover virtually any topic, from splicing genes to home schooling. These groups are rich sources for current information and networking. Blogs and Web forums generally publish updates on hot topics before printed or online newspapers. Further, online communities may contain experts who are able to lend guidance or insight on hard-to-research topics. Many reputable magazines are beginning to sponsor blogs written by resident experts. Browse your favorite online topical magazine to see if there is a sponsored blog documenting current events and hot topics. While online communities can be a valuable source of information, use caution. Often, the credentials of bloggers or commentators are unknown, making the information that they provide somewhat suspect. Therefore, online communities are best used once you have established yourself as a member and have listened to the conversation over time. Online communities are not reliable sources for quick data, involved research, or for getting started on a topic. Blogs can be run for free and with relative ease, so almost anyone can have a blog. Some people use them as a soapbox for personal, religious, political, or social viewpoints. Others sponsor blogs in a professional capacity and strive to represent a variety of issues and points of view. Most blog sites are heavily influenced by the values of the author. Be sure to read blogs carefully in order to identify bias in the information you are gathering.

5B: Examples

SEM Listserv

This mailing list of the Society for Ethnomusicology is over 1,100 members strong. Anyone with an interest in ethnomusicology, or related fields, may post to the list; it is not limited to SEM members. The link above will take you to the archived list history, which is can be browsed by date or searched.

The Taruskin Challenge

Two graduate students of musicology started this blog as a means to track and reflect upon their reading of Richard Taruskin's 3,865-page Oxford History of Western Music. Using this work as a starting point, they have delved intelligently into a wide variety of musicological topics.


Started in 2005 as a blog by a music professor to get word out about news and topics in music education and technology, it has since grown to become a much larger and more integrated website.

5C: How to Find More


A searchable directory listing of over 50,000 public listservs (mailing lists).

Google Blog Search

Find blogs and blog posts on your favorite topic.


Technorati is a near real time search engine focused primarily on blogs, but it also indexes many RSS feeds. Technorati currently tracks 50.5 million blogs.


Use Technorati to find a blog entry discussing music and copyright. Click the Click to refine this search link to reveal the limiters. Note the different types of content that is returned when you select different options. Can you find any news on the case involving Youtube and the National Music Publishers Association?

Pop Quiz

Which type of online community is most likely to present reliable information and data?

Correct answer: [NOTE: Score is not recorded]


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