How to do research in Music

Library resources for researchers working on music history, ethnomusicology, music theory, and composition


Topic-specific keywords will help improve your results in a general multidisciplinary database like Google, Google Scholar, HOLLIS, or Academic Search Premier

Add keywords like these to your search:

  • Subject terms - “Music theory”, Music And “History and literature”, criticism

  • Genre terms - operas, chamber music

  • Geographic terms - “United States”

  • Time period terms - 18th, “to 1500”


The best tool for your project may be a specialized search engine, also known as a database. These databases are subject-specific or format-specific search tools:

Oxford Music Online (via HarvardKey) – The top database for authoritative entries across a wide spectrum of genres, musical topics, and people; works lists; bibliographies.

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature (via HarvardKey) – An international bibliography of music articles, collections, and books. Indexes scholarly articles, reviews, conference papers, essays, book chapters, dissertations and more. Strong in ethnomusicological journals and topics.

Music & Performing Arts Online (via HarvardKey) – A family of audio and video collections, including: Classical Music Library; Classical Performance in Video, Jazz Music Library; Opera in Video; Dance in Video; American Music; Smithsonian Global Sound; Contemporary World Music; Popular Music Library; Theatre in Video.

Dig Deeper

The Harvard Library Music Research Guide provides a curated list of resources related to music.

Databases for Music - explore the full list of Harvard Library databases in this subject category.


Liz Berndt, the library liaison to Music, is available to support researchers via email or in-person consultation.

Featured Collection

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library is Harvard’s home for musical materials. We embrace performance and research in and about the world's musics.


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Talk to a librarian for advice on defining your topic, developing your research strategy, and locating and using sources. Make an appointment now.

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