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Music: Popular: Researching Pop Music


Popular music research can involve historical, archival, ethnographic and even virtual methods. 

Need ideas?

To come up with research questions for your project, ask yourself:

  • Why is this music important?
  • To whom is this music important?
  • What kinds of ideological messages does this music communicate?
  • What is striking about the way the music is organized?

Searching by Subject

 Searching the library catalog by *subject* provides a comprehensive listing of books on popular music.

What is a subject search?

When an item is cataloged, it is placed under a topic heading (or headings), devised by the Library of Congress. The cataloger chooses the subject heading most relevant to the item's subject matter. When you search by subject, then, all items classified under this topic are listed.

How do I do a subject search?

From the library home page, choose "Library Catalog". In the Keyword search, click on "Alphabetic search" and change the drop-down menu to "Subject."  Type "popular music" into the search box. Like this:

Results will look like the following. Click on the subject heading of your choice to see details.

Popular Media

How do I evaluate websites and other popular media?

  • What is the nature of the site? Does it serve a commercial, civic, scholarly or other purpose?
  • Who is the publisher and/or sponsor of the website? How is it funded? Does funding affect bias?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Who authored the information on the site? Is anything attributed to specific individuals? If so, are verifiable credentials cited for the named individual(s)?
  • Is the information accurate? Can it be corroborated by other, reliable sources? How was the information gathered? Are references (footnotes, bibliography) provided that can be checked?
  • How current is the information presented? Are dates indicated? Can older information be located in an online archive?


Featured article...

Who writes the popular songs you listen to?

Hit Charade - October 2015 Atlantic