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Syracuse University Libraries

Music Research Process

Example Log & Plan Spreadsheet

Research logs and plans are very personal to your method of thinking and workflow. The important part is to document! This will help you organize your thoughts and make searching more efficient. 

View your music librarian's sample research log and plan on Google Docs. The sample topic is:

What is Lady Gaga's religious identity, and how is that expressed in her music videos?

Research Logs

An important part of this process is keeping a research log. Some research assignments are short, and you likely already naturally keep some sort of log in your head as you do your library searching in an afternoon or two. However, longer research assignments will stretch out over multiple days or weeks, and you are busy! It is more efficient, and helpful for future research, if you keep a written log.

Research logs help you to: 

  • Keep track of where you have looked 
  • Keep track of the words & subjects you've used - what worked, what didn't
  • Keep track of the sources you find
  • Think about what makes a source useful, and how you might use it

The log can be kept in whatever form makes the most sense to you! See this example log from the University of Connecticut Library 

Research Plans

The first several rounds of searching for sources will be more broad and generalized as you refine your topic and formulate your research question. 

Later rounds of searching for sources will be more targeted and specific, as you will begin to formulate a thesis statement and answer your research question. You will need both a) pieces of direct evidence that support your answer and b) sources that are from other researchers that discuss your conclusion or provide different conclusions for context and discussion.

Make a list of the types of sources you need to find. Add additional parameters to those sources, such as date range or geographic limits, to document what would best fulfill that need. Some questions to ask as you make your list:

  1. What primary sources are available? What data, musical works, performances, letters, recordings, or interviews can I analyze
  2. What have other scholars said about my topic? What scholarly journal articles and scholarly books or book chapters can I locate?
  3. Are popular sources appropriate for my topic? Should I analyze popular opinion of a work or reception of an event as presented in newspapers, magazines, or blog posts? Are the scholars who are writing about my topic writing in non-scholarly publications?
  4. Does the age of the source affect my research? Have there been more recent discoveries in relation to my topic? Am I looking at how researchers' views on my topic have changed over time?

For each source, make a plan on where you will search for that source. Library databases and websites provide a different mix of sources, so it is best to plan out where you are going to search. Ask your librarian for advice on recommended databases for different source types, and explore the Music Research Guide for suggestions.