A brief introduction
It is really impossible to give adequate treatment to this topic in this context, since it has many facets depending on the question you are researching. We encourage anyone who is unsure about research techniques to contact a librarian. You may also wish to take the Music Bibliography class. However, since this question is asked very frequently, here's a brief treatment of the topic.
I. Searching for articles
Briefly, the first step in finding a periodical article is to find a citation--a reference to the title, author, location, and subject of the article. These may be found in any number of places, including book bibliographies, periodical indices, encyclopedias, and other journals. If you are specifically looking for journal articles (as opposed to any information on a given subject), we recommend checking one of the many online databases to which we subscribe. A collection of the most popular databases for music students may be found on our Electronic Resources page. Some of these provide full texts of articles, but many provide only citations and/or abstracts (short summaries).
Online indexes are often the fastest and easiest way to find citations, but remember their coverage is not perfect. These are a few of the more useful ones for music research:
RILM Abstracts (Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale) is an international index of books, articles, conference proceedings, and other publications relating to music in hundreds of languages. RILM provides English abstracts but no full text. RILM is also available in print.
RIPM is a retrospective index to music periodicals, covering publications in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries--roughly 1800-1950.
JSTOR is a full-text database of periodicals covering a wide range of subject areas; it indexes around forty music-specific titles and a number of interdisciplinary journals that also deal with music. As with many full-text databases, JSTOR keeps many of its available titles behind a "moving wall"--the full-text volumes available through JSTOR may lag behind print publication by a period of three to ten years, depending on JSTOR's agreements with the publishers.
Google Scholar indexes a wide range of resources, including books and reports as well as periodicals; its music coverage is limited compared to a dedicated music index, and it is frequently hard to sort out relevant results, but it is good for cross-disciplinary searching and often turns up unexpected but useful results.
Consult our list of FSU subscribed databases for additional databases.
For older articles, it may be necessary to use printed indexes. All of our print indexes are on the periodicals index table on the second floor of the music library, near the microfilm cabinets. These are some of the more noteworthy:
Music Article Guide (for American publications)
Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature (Strozier item: AI3 .R4)
RILM Abstracts (also online)
Bibliographies are another good place to look. If you already have books or articles on your subject, check their bibliographies and see if they provide any useful references. Major reference works typically also have bibliographies at the end of their articles, and even foreign ones usually include a substantial number of English-language references. Three excellent first-stop reference works for music with extensive bibliographies:
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (REF ML100.N48 2000), also available as part of Oxford Music Online
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (REF ML100.M92)
The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (REF ML100.G16 1998)
If you have difficulty finding the article you need, feel free to ask one of our full-time staff for help. They will be happy to assist you.
II. Getting a copy of an article
Once you find a citation for an article which interests you, assuming you didn't find it in a full-text database, the next step is to find a copy. This can typically be accomplished via the following process:
Check the catalog for the journal or other item containing the article
Check available full-text databases and journals
Request the article through ILL if it is not available elsewhere
Keep in mind that though many articles appear in periodicals, many more will appear in serials, collections, festschrifts, etc. with the rest of our books. To save time, be sure to check the catalog for the source material first!
If we don't have the title you need in print, or we are missing the volume or volumes that contain your article, we may have electronic access to it. There are a couple of ways you can check this. Our catalog and most of our subscribed databases will have a "Find it @ FSU" button attached to results; clicking this should pull up links to the article if it is in any of the electronic resources we subscribe to. This is convenient, but it is not a perfect system; if you get no results, you may wish to search for the title of the journal that contains your article in the FSU electronic journal locator.
Finally, if you cannot find your article in one of our print volumes or online, you may request it through Interlibrary Loan. Barring any extraordinary circumstances, ILL will probably be able to obtain a copy for you within a week. Articles requested through ILL will be delivered to your email account as .pdf files. For more information on the ILL process, see the main ILL site or our ILL page.