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Music Research Resources: Evaluate Your Sources

Music Resources at Copley Library

Tips for Finding "Good" Sources for Your Research

  • Use resources and databases that the library provides for these purposes.  These resources are typically requested or approved by faculty at USD, so the content is considered worthy of the research and scholarship of the USD community.
  • Don't "Google it."  Instead, if you go beyond the databases at Copley Library, try "Google Scholar-ing it."  Google Scholar provides some tools for evaluating your results when searching in it.  These tools include: how many times (and who) cited the research in their own research; other related articles; and, related searches.
  • Don't pay for articles.  If you hit a paywall (a website that requires you to pay to access an article), reach out to Copley's Music Liaison or Copley Library reference librarians to help you get the article without a charge.


Evaluation Checklist

ABSTRACT - Does your article have an abstract (short summary) at the beginning of the article?  This element is typically included in research-level articles.

AUTHOR - Can you determine the author(s) of your article?  What kind of information can you identify about them (ex. university affiliation, etc.) that might indicate their expertise in the field? 

DATES - Is your article recent?  If not, is the content still relevant to your topic?  Music scholarship often relies on building the historical body of knowledge, but be aware of the impact of an article's publication date on your topic.  You may need to see if scholarly perception of an article's conclusion has changed.

CITATIONS - Does your article contain bibliographic citaitons and a literature review?  Both are common elements of scholarly research articles.

GRAPHICS - Does the article include tables/charts/graphs that illustrate the author's points or are the graphics just visuals to break up space?  Scholarly articles do not tend to include graphics that are not referenced within the article.

BIAS - If your article comes from a source whose URL ends in .com or .org, can you find the mission of the organization publishing the article?  These sources are not always biased, but they require more scrutiny in your review.

Too Many Results? Let's Facet! Let's Limit!

Searching for information to support your research typically results in an unexpected quandary:  too many results rather than too few.  How do you begin narrowing down to the best sources you found?

1. Faceting tools in research databases let's you search for a list of results and then use checkboxes to reduce the number of your results. For example, you can select to reduce your results to only peer-reviewed articles (reviewed by experts in the field) by checking on the peer-reviewed box.

2. Limiting is usually done at the point of beginning your search, using an Advanced Search mechanism that the site provides.  This technique works best when you have factored out keywords, dates, etc. that you want to include.