How do we find titles of articles or essays

How do we find titles of articles or essays (or books) by a specific author (or on a specific topic) found in periodical literature such as professional journals, magazines and newspapers? The traditional way – look.

My experiences teaching students at the secondary level have taught me that research is often approached in the same manner as a game of catch.  However, many students will only catch things that are thrown directly at them.  If the ball (or facts) is tossed slightly to the left or right, the student does not adjust their position to catch it. I can remember several instances where students have told me to tell them what they should know, rebuffing any attempts to steer them toward any deductive reasoning exercises.  Imagine the sport of baseball, where an outfielder always must make adjustments to his position in order to catch the hit ball, thus completing the play and generating an out. What would happen if these athletes refused to run after a ball, and only caught balls aimed directly at them? Baseball scores would start to resemble basketball scores, and all outfielders would resemble Moe Vaughn.

The truth is, the average student is often not willing to commit the time and effort needed to conduct any serious research. The art of research is an active sport, and more often than not, desirable results are only achieved by those who take the initiative and reach for the ball.  Research requires perseverance, mental acuity, stamina, and focus. In an environment where those four traits are only practiced when playing Nintendo, it is indeed a challenge to not only conduct research with a certain intensity, but to also maintain that intensity for any sustained amount of time.

Another barrier to conduct good research is the lighthearted, fluffy WYSIWYG format of the Internet, or more specifically, the World Wide Web. Internet searches sometimes cheapen the research experience, equivalent to having the ball thrown directly at you.  My students have come to me often complaining that they “are finished,” and cannot find any more information on a particular subject.  The problem is, many students simply don’t know how to look for what they are looking for.

When conducting research, it is important first to know exactly what it is you are looking for. It is ironic to need to know what you know before you can find what you need to know, though it not entirely unlike the need for experience in order to get the job that will give you the experience you need in order to get the job. As convoluted as that is, it is a necessary part of research. The more you know about your subject, the easier it is to find more information.  Besides, knowledge develops intuition, a key tool in any research process. Sometimes, the next step simply “comes” to you in a flash of insight. Of course, insight needs a trigger.  My own experiences with research have improved only because of other things I’ve have learned throughout the years. My interest in the martial arts, gourmet cuisine and Physics are subjects that I would never have thought about at 25, much less 15 (the median age of my students). Teachers can often fall into the trap of accusing students of not paying attention to the facts, when in actuality, those facts have no reference point within the student’s realm of experience. But, in a discussion about Hildegard von Bingen, it is relevant to ask if the abbess was more like Madonna or Cher, regardless of how heretical that may seem.  In the context of the audience, in my case, high school students who listen to 50 cent and P!nk, this is entirely appropriate, because now they can associate Hildegard with something they are familiar with, and thus open an entire area of learning. My money’s on Cher.

Therefore, when introducing students to periodical literature, I also have to introduce them to the library. A daytime hangout, the library has lost much of its original mission. A shame, really.  Not more than six blocks east of my school is the awesome Central branch of the Queens Public Library , which is second only to The New York Public Library in holdings, and number one in the nation for circulation.  Among its sixty-four branches throughout the borough of Queens are books in hundreds of languages, audiovisual materials in nearly every subject, museum exhibits and performances, and scores of computers with full Internet access free to the public.  Possibly, a resource this valuable may appear threatening to the uninitiated. Certainly, research is made more complicated because of it. Fortunately, most of the resources needed to examine periodicals are located in two sections: the Fine Arts department (RILM, The Music Index), and Foreign Language and Literature (The Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature).

For those unfamiliar with musicological research, I would advise The Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature as a starting point.  RGPL is perfectly valuable when examining information on laymen’s terms and essential when a more scholarly article appears outside of academia.  Personally, I found RGPL indispensable while conducting research on the Hammond organ, an instrument long associated with popular music and folk traditions. A sturdy resource, RGPL dates back to 1890, which is important since other periodical indices for music do not begin until the twentieth century. Other indices that challenge RGPL in the age department are the Times Index and The New York Times Index. RGPL remains valuable when conducting periodical searches before 1949, when The Music Index was first published.

Culturally, RGPL is definitively Eurocentric; the other cultures of the world are given secondary treatment. However, this may be a sign of the times; judging by the article titles alone, most non-European subjects were addressed with some degree of bias. Therfore, the RGPL cannot help but be biased as well.  The RGPL also does not provide prefaces, introductions or abstracts, meaning that a researcher cannot ascertain the value of a potential source before reading it.  Nevertheless, the RGPL is the primary index for major periodicals, averaging about 75 general periodicals for its duration, a tenth being music-based. Down Beat, Etude, Musical Quarterly, Musician and Rolling Stone are among the music periodicals indexed.

After 1949, the musicological community began to see an increased need to catalog articles within their fields of study exclusively.  Apparently, the need for such a catalog grew out of an increased scrutiny within the field of research as aspiring musicologists and graduate students wrote dissertations and articles on a higher level.  I can speculate that an attempt to include all music periodicals was made; as unlikely as that seems.  The Music Index began with forty-one periodicals indexed as of January 1949, all in English.  By December of that year, that list increased to eighty, including periodicals in other languages such as French, German, Italian and Danish.   The technology of the time allowed such an increase in indexing.

With each generation, language evolves. Therefore, searching for information becomes more difficult if one does not know the context upon which a subject is listed based on the era researched. For example, when researching the realtionship between drug use and musicians, a researcher has to be clear about his terminology. The term ‘Narcotics’ is more appropriate before 1960. After 1960, the term ‘Drugs’ is applicable.

By 1980, 405 periodicals are indexed. 15 periodicals were added since the previous culmination, while 17 were reinstated. Only one periodical ceased publication, and two were never received. For brevity, the periodical titles are usually abbreviated. Of course, periodicals come and go; a list of periodicals requires updating constantly in any fluid index.

In 1967, the musicological community shifted gears yet again.  The most comprehensive and descriptive of the music indexes, RILM, or the International Repertory of Musical Literature, is separated into two parts: Index and Abstracts. The RILM index provides a brief coded entry organized by subject, author, title, and composer. The entry is tailed by a reference number, which includes year of publication. Plus, a record number is used for easy access within the RILM Abstracts.  Document type is labeled by a two-letter code (i.e. bm – monograph).  Each entry is tagged with a code that corresponds to a classification scheme of 99 categories.  Separated into a dozen Classes: Reference and research materials, Collected writings, Universal perspectives, Historical musicology (Western music), Ethnomusicology, Sound sources, Performance practice and notation, Theory, analysis and composition, Pedagogy, Music and other arts, Music and related disciplines, and Music in liturgy and ritual. Classification is indicated by a two digit code. If RILM was not so valuable, it would be prohibitive in its scope. What makes the RILM Index so valuable is the number of entries compiled; more than 12,000 entries are listed. Imagine the chagrin of your average researcher, purusing over thousands of potentially relevent abstracts without the aid of an index.

The RILM Abstract is rather unique, providing burgeoning researchers with a brief description of the articles listed. It is updated every month, available on CD-ROM  and online and bound cumulatively annually.  Possibly to conserve space, a RILM abstract is limited to no more than 100 words. Entries are accepted in six official RILM languages (French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and English).  Abstracts are organized numerically by reference number.  Again, the entries are categorized by the RILM classification system, starting with Reference and research materials, and ending with Music in liturgy and ritual. Abstracts are most often written by the contributor, and if needed, translated into one of the six official languages for publication.

Of the RGPL, Music Index and RILM, the latter is the upgrade, an index that lead to an abstract, thus simplifying the backbreaking work of musicological research. The abstract negates the need for a list of periodicals, due to RILM’s exhaustive scope. It would be curious to see a list of dissertation included in RILM¸ catelogued by University or department, or subject.  The RGPL was the most temporally exhaustive, providing resources fin de 19th siecle, as well as being very easy to use.  The Music Index is patterned after the RGPL, matching in accesibility and ease of use. RILM adds a level of complexity with the incoporation of the Abstract. My suggestions would be to use the RGPL for articles dated before 1949, switching to the Music Index after 1949, and referring to the the Music Index for periodicals mostly, while using RILM for all other documents. One must refer to the Abstracts after using the Index.  Fortunately, the Abstracts can tell you if you are wasting your time with a particular reference before searching out a facsimile, making the extra legwork worthwhile.

1. Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. (Including Nineteenth century Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature) Minneapolis, Minn.: H. W. Wilson, 1890-Present
2. The Music Index. Detroit, Information Coordinators, 1949- 2000.
3. RILM Abstracts of Music Literature. International Repertory of Musical Literature. New York, 1967-2000.
4. G. K. Hall Index to Black Periodicals.
5. The New York Times Index.
6. Rolling Stone Index. Ann Arbor, MI : Popular Culture, Ink., 1993 –