Research in Music Education I


Lecture:  How to Find Stuff

Annotated Bibliography  Primary and Secondary Sources

Syllabus    Course Outline    Links 





Yea, you can Google it and go directly to Wikipedia,




BUT . . .




There's so much more!!!



Remember from the first lecture that you have to find out what has already been written about your topic before you can create new knowledge about it.


Follow the

blinking arrows for


(drum roll please) 

How to Find Stuff






Start with the databases available through the Tarleton library


Note:  You must be on the Tarleton network to access articles on these sites.  The easiest way to do this is to go to the Tarleton library first (www.  Access to any of the databases from there requires your NTNET ID and Password which puts you on the network.  You will then have access to all of the databases below plus a whole lot more!



The best one for music is Oxford Music Online, accessible through the Tarleton library database page




These databases are the portals to many scholarly journals where you will probably find the most information on your topic.


Remember to check the bibliographies of the most relevant articles which will lead you to other good articles.


Note:  if you try to access periodicals or other portals and you are asked for a fee or for a password, just back out and go through the Tarleton library database first.  When you use your NTNet username and password, you are on the TSU network and will have free access to almost anything you need.  However, if you arrive at a source through Google or other search engine, you may not have access.



The databases below are all available through

These are the databases most specific to music education.  Take a few minutes to browse!

  • Oxford Music Online


  • International Index to Music Periodicals

  • World Cat

  • ProQuest

  • ProjectMuse


  • Academic Search Complete

  • Arts and Humanities Citation Index

  • Contemporary World Music

  • Eighteenth Century Collections

  • Classical Music Library



Search Engines

Speaking of Google , did you know that there is a search engine called Google Scholar?

If you have a Google toolbar, you can add that as a button.  Otherwise, just Google "Google Scholar."  It is a search engine within a search engine.  Results are focused on the academic and are filtered.



Google Books is a database of books.  If a book is in public domain, it can be downloaded.  Other books can be partially viewed.  It's like a preview, but you can read parts of the book, look at the table of contents, and often tell if the book would be useful for your research.  If so, our librarian can help you find it and you can get an ILL (interlibrary loan).

Questia (  This is a subscription site, but gives you access to thousands of books and articles and includes some research tools.

Check the online catalog of the Tarleton library.  As an online student you are eligible for document delivery services if you find a book in our library that you can use.  Check out all of the off-campus & distance learning services provided by the library.


Dissertations and theses

These are great sources of research and are often unpublished.  Go to ProQuest in the Tarleton database to locate those.



Now, let's go back to Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is not regarded very highly in academic circles.  However, a study was done comparing sample articles of Wikipedia to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and concluded that the accuracy was about the same1.  Nevertheless, you will be frowned upon by those in the ivory towers if you cite Wikipedia as a source, so don't.  It is, however, a great place to find other sources.  Some of the articles in Wikipedia are quite excellent (some are not!) and include a comprehensive bibliography at the end of the article.  It's a good place to gather a list of sources relevant to your topic.  Then go directly to those articles, which will also have additional sources in their reference lists . . .




How to search is also an important consideration.  Read this link for some great hints.


If you have trouble finding something,

Check out this Discussion Forum in Canvas: Ask Amy the Librarian

Amy is GREAT and will help you locate what you need.




Students can become very skilled at finding information. 

However, don't confuse fluency (navigating online information) with intelligent discovery.



which means - don't believe everything you read!




Use external cues:

For example, an .edu address, a lack of ads on the page, the credentials of the person supplying the information.



Now that you know how to find stuff, how do you know what you have found?

Primary and Secondary Sources


Primary sources are actual records of events or firsthand materials that are from the time period involved and have not been filtered through interpretation or commentary. They might include letters, diaries, photographs, manuscripts, public records, legal documents, newspaper articles, or anything else that might help historians to get as close as possible to the original event or time period.

Accordingly, sources that interpret, describe, or analyze primary sources are called secondary sources; examples of those include biographies, histories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, or historical books and articles. 

However, the distinction between the two categories is not always clear; for instance, a document one step removed from the original event might function as either a primary or a secondary source, depending on the focus of the researcher. For example, a biography will be considered a secondary source if the researcher uses it to study the composerís life. However, the book will become a primary source if the task is to write a review of it and evaluate the author's ideas. In many cases, however, we can determine the status of the source by considering its originality (is it an original work or document, or is it a commentary on such a work?) and its closeness to the original source (is it a first-hand or a second-hand account?).  

Primary sources are like pieces of a big puzzle. It is very difficult to interpret them on their own. That is why secondary sources are equally important for researchers: they provide a frame of reference for the interpretation of primary sources. Most researchers use both primary and secondary sources to write new accounts of past events, evaluate the evidence offered by the existing literature on a subject, or rearrange this information for a specific audience or publication.

Upon discovering a reference in a secondary source, it is also valuable to locate a primary source when possible. 






What do you do with all of these sources once you find them?


Back in the old days, we copied the citation (a reference to a source) onto a 3x5 card and wrote an annotation (notes commenting on the source) on the back of the card.

We copied the article and filed it by the author's last name.  We basically created our own "library" and "card catalog." 

Then we walked two miles uphill in the snow home from the library.

You young whippersnappers have it easier today!


These days, there are better options.

The best option (in my opinion) is to use a citation management system (software or web-based).  I use EndNote, but it's pricey. There are some good free ones out there. Here is a link to compare. Alternatively, you could keep a running annotated bibliography on a Word document and keep digital copies of the articles you find in a folder on your computer.  Do save the articles as pdfs.  Believe me, there will be something you remember reading that will be much easier to find/confirm if you have it in a file than searching for it all over again.

Annotated bibliography

As you find sources that may be applicable to your research, it is a good idea to make notes as you go.  It is wise to keep an annotated bibliography of your sources.  This is just an alphabetical list of sources with notes on each source summarizing and evaluating it.  A typical annotation will be100-200 words.  These descriptions are an accumulation of what has been done in the field of your research topic including a critical assessment of each work.

Organization is very important, so set up your system from the beginning.

I speak from experience when I say that without proper organization, trying to find something (an article, an author, a fact) later after having read tons of material in between can be like finding a . . . well, you know.


The important thing to remember about an annotated bibliography is that, even after you have forgotten what was in each article, book, etc., the annotation should help you decide if each source is worthy and if it will be useful to you. 

Therefore, include  the following in each annotation:


When looking at various examples, you may find some differences.  This is ok because:

  1. The APA manual does not explicitly outline the format

  2. The Annotated Bibliography is for your use and will not be included in the finished research paper.


That being said (ok, typed),

  1. The reference should be correctly formatted just as it will be in your final reference list.
  2. The purpose of the annotated bibliography should be maintained





  Home   Course Outline   Syllabus   Links    Turnitin    



Created and maintained by Vicky V. Johnson