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Sampsel: Ch 2

Crucial to any research topic are the tools used to acquire accurate factual
information. The purpose of lexicography, or the making of dictionaries is to provide
such information in an authoritative manner. They can provide important dates, places,
and facts related to a musician or a particular piece. Also, this in formation may be found
in encyclopedias as well.
Summaries of musical topics are helpful when trying to commit to a research
topic. If a topic on Beethoven is desired, then it would be beneficial to look at his article
on The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2
nd
edition. This would provide
an overview on Beethoven and allow the researcher to make a decision on rather or not to
continue with the topic. A different result may come from looking into such article; the
topic may change or become less broad and more specific.
When using an encyclopedia its important to know about the encyclopedia itself.
For example, The Oxford Companion to Music is a one-volume encyclopedia and while
attractive to musical amateurs, it wont cover as much information as multi-volume
encyclopedia such as The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2
nd
edition. So
before diving deep into an encyclopedia, know first the information youre trying to find.
If dates regarding birth and death are the only information desired, a one-volume would
be more appropriate. If information on a city that a composer lived, musical organizations
contemporary to the composer, or contemporary performance practice, a multi-volume
would be more appropriate.
The quality of the scholarship of an encyclopedia is also very important.
Wikipedia for example is not an adequate encyclopedia to be used while research a topic
because its user contributed. A checklist provided at the end of the chapter can be used
to determine authenticity. Currency should a deciding factor when choosing an
encyclopedia; the most current is often the best source. On particular topics such as event
and common practice, it would be better to use an encyclopedia published closest to the
event. This could mean that since the event was fresher at the time, it was delved more
deeply into than say an encyclopedia sixty years after the event.
Another factor can aid in choosing the best encyclopedia for the topic is editorial
bias. If the topic being researched is related to the country of France, any research tool
from France will most likely have a bias inclination. If an unbiased point of view is
desired for the chosen topic, perhaps it would be best to opt for an international oriented
encyclopedia. Readability or usability is also to be put into consideration when choosing
a good research encyclopedia. Finally, encyclopedias in other languages can be a great
tool for research; some terms are easily translatable.
Special music encyclopedias and dictionaries have more focused content and a
less broad coverage. For example, when looking on a topic related to an opera, it would
be best to look in Grove Opera, rather than in New Grove 2
nd
edition. Special dictionaries
are more likely to be compiled in a hurry than comprehensive ones. Be watchful for error
for, haste breeds error. The source of the content on special music encyclopedias is not to
be overlooked. Who is the writer? A Scholar or a Journalist? How was the information
obtained? In person or via questionnaire? Keeping these suggestions in mind will guide
you to a reliable special music encyclopedia.