Skip to Main Content

Basic Music Research Guide

How to conduct research on music.

How Can I Find Good Keywords & Subject Terms?

The Library Catalog Method

If you are looking for strong keywords and subject terms use the ones you already have to search the library catalog. One way to do this is by doing a basic search by subject. Pick an item that appears to be in the right ballpark of what you are looking for and then scroll down in the record to find the subject terms used in the catalog.

For example, if I search for "gamelan" as a subject word I can find the following record:

Pointing out subject terms in a WorldCat UMD search result.

If I click one of the subjects listed, the catalog will show me all of the records that share that subject. My search just became super efficient!

The Google/Wikipedia Method

Another way to search for terms strongly related to your topic is by doing a simple search on Google or Wikipedia. This can be less reliable (NEVER quote Wikipedia in a paper, ever) but it can be a good place to start your research. When you search on Google or Wikipedia you should be looking for the following:

  • Related terms
  • Printed works related to your topic
  • What your topic is called in its original language

If you scroll down a Wikipedia page and find a listing of printed resources, you can search for those resources in WorldCat or the library catalog. WorldCat UMD is a great resource because aside from seeing what sources we have on campus, you can also see the sources that other schools in our consortium have.

Why is This Important?

Finding accurate and effective keywords and subject terms is a crucial factor to a successful search. You are more likely to retrieve records based on your topic.