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MUL 200: Music Literature Laboratory: Home

The Research Process


Step One: Singer Ma Rainey was known as "The Mother of the Blues"; for this assignment, you will need to focus on something specific about her life and work.  Start with a general source to get an overview of possible topics:


Step Two: Put your topic idea into the form of a research question. This should be something focused, clear and complex. Here is a guide to help you with this, and an example:

  • How did Ma Rainey's identity as a Black woman impact her musical career?


Step Three: Now you need to determine the types of information that will help answer your research question, AND who would create that information.


  • Biographical information 
  • Analysis of her performances
  • Scores/recordings


  • Rainey herself - autobiographical writings, interviews, scores
  • Historians/researchers - scholarly books, journal articles
  • Tributes - media, articles, books


Step Four: Now you are ready to begin your search for information.  The type of information, and the author, will impact where you look.  Generally, these will be your paths:

  • Library resources - for scholarly information authored or edited by researchers; also scores and recordings


  • Google - for general information, for interviews, and for information put out by music publishers

Finding Scholarly Information

We can use these sources to find biographical information and critical analysis

Evaluating Authority

In evaluating information the concept of Authority generally refers to the author's  (or if not an individual author, the organization's) credibility, i.e. why are they qualified to create this particular information. 

To help evaluate this:

  •      Look for information about the author/organization within the information itself
  •      For individuals, search the databases by Author to see examples of other scholarly writing
  •      Also for individuals, see if the author is cited in other information you have found
  •      Google the author's name( or the organization, if an unsigned source) to see if you find out more about them

Let's evaluate the following four sites for Authority.  Does/do the creator(s) have the credentials to provide relevant, well-researched information? Remember to look for individual authors and the publication/organization to help determine your answers.

General Background Sources


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Nancy Lewis
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