Music Research: A Handbook

By Dougan, Kirstin | Fontes Artis Musicae, January-March 2009 | Go to article overview

Music Research: A Handbook

Dougan, Kirstin, Fontes Artis Musicae

Music Research: A Handbook. By Laurie Sampsel. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. [xxvii, 323 p. ISBN: 978-0-1951-7110-9; 01951-7119-5. $39.95]

When I first saw the title of this book I thought, "Another guide to music research?" However, that reaction was a bit hasty. While there are several well-established tools in this area (Wingell's Introduction to Research in Music, Prentice Hall, 2001, and Crabtree's Sourcebook for Research in Music, Indiana University Press, 2005, come to mind), Music Research distinguishes itself as a textbook, as it is "a handbook designed for classroom use, rather than a bibliography intended for use by librarians and scholars" (p. xix). Wingell, while also intended as a classroom text, includes more writing resources (not surprising since his other major text is Writing About Music (Prentice Hall, 2002)). Crabtree, intended more as a reference resource, is more comprehensive in its bibliographies, but has less narrative and information about the research process. Sampsel includes both Wingell and Crabtree in her citations and falls somewhere between the two in scope and content. "This book is informed by the information literacy movement, which is broader than traditional bibliography classes or bibliographic instruction. Music Research emphasizes learning research skills, critically evaluating information, writing effectively, and citing sources properly" (p. xviii).

The target audience for Music Research is students in graduate-level bibliography and research classes (p. xviii). Sampsel speaks directly to the reader, frequently using phrases such as "your research" and "you will want to use." The approach is personable, appropriate for a college-level classroom, and clearly comes from years of teaching this material. Sampsel is also realistic about today's students (they are not called the "Google Generation" for nothing) and how they approach scholarship. She does not diminish the tools that they might first be tempted to use, but instead counsels caution. For example,

   The use of an online encyclopedia such as
   Wikipedia should be considered carefully. While
   much of the content is excellent, it is all user contributed,
   and information should be verified before
   use in research. Other concerns with online
   encyclopedias include the inability to browse in
   the traditional sense, and, more significantly, the
   differences in preserving an "edition" as an historical
   document. (p. 11)

She has given the reader a good reason not to rely solely on such resources without being condescending. A possible reason for this gentler tone is that this book is from a librarian's perspective and not that of a music professor. While Sampsel has undoubtedly collaborated with music faculty for many years, she has the advantage of having worked first-hand with students during their research process, as a practicing librarian and as a professor. Sampsel also includes polite reminders to the reader (both student and faculty) at various points to check with a librarian for help if necessary. While this might seem like obvious advice, many students do not realize the extent of help librarians can offer, and that it goes beyond finding books on the shelf.

The arrangement of the text is logical, divided into sixteen chapters to correspond to a typical semester (p. xxi) and "was designed to proceed in the order reference tools are often used by students in the research process." (p. xx) Contents include:

Part One: Research Process and Research Tools

Guides to the Research Process and Research Tools

General Music Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Special Music Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Library Catalogs

Periodical Indexes for Music

Indexes to Music Dissertations, Theses, Conference Papers, and Festschriften

Indexes to Music in Complete Works Editions, Musical Monuments, Historical Sets, and Anthologies

Thematic Catalogs

Music Histories, Source Readings, and Chronologies

Bibliographies of Music and Music Literature


Music Iconographies

Music Directories

Internet Resources for Music

Part Two: Writing, Style Manuals, and Citation


Style Manuals and Citation of Sources


LC Classification: Class M Outline

Search Tips

Composers Included as Examples in This Text

International Inventory of Musical Sources (RISM) Publications

Chicago Style at Your Fingertips

APA Style at Your Fingertips

MLA Style at Your Fingertips


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