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ENGL 394MN: Music and the Irish Novel

Getting an Overview - Reference Works

When taking an interdisciplinary approach to a topic, you may face the challenge of needing to familiarize yourself with a field of study that's new to you.  A quick way to orient yourself is to consult reference works in that field.  These can provide a helpful overview, information about key concepts and figures, and even bibliographies for further reading. Since ENGL 394MN is an English course, the focus in Interdisciplinary Research section of this guide is on resources that will help you familiarize yourself with topics in music. However, if your background is in music, you might also check out the Background Info page of the English Research Guide for reference sources that can help you get up to speed on the study of literature.


Find more reference works

There are a couple of ways to find more reference works in the library collection:

  • Do an Advanced search in the Five College Library Catalog on terms that describe your topic (e.g., music) and the terms encyclopedias or dictionaries or handbooks.Catalog advanced search screen
  • In the Five College Catalog, restrict your search to just Mount Holyoke, click into the Advanced search form, enter the terms for your topic (e.g., history science) and use the Location drop down menu to select MH Reference:

Going Deeper - Books & Articles


If you're looking for more in-depth/book-length studies on music in general or of a particular kind of music, try searching the Five College Library Catalog or WorldCat.  Try a combination of keywords like 

irish music


ireland music

You can narrow further to a particular time period by adding keywords like "20th century" or to a specific genre by adding keywords like "traditional" or "ballads."

If you have a particular literary figure in mind and you'd like to find out if anyone has written about that author and how his/her work relates to music, you might also try searching on that author's name and music or a particular kind of music. For example,

kate o' brien opera

or, more broadly,

ireland literature music

Keep in mind that library catalog records are only a brief synopsis of the book they represent. Sometimes you need to get your hands on the book and flip through the table of contents and index to find out if it covers the particular author or literary work in which you are interested.


There are a few different approaches you might take to finding interdisciplinary articles that cover both music and literature. One is to search an interdisciplinary database like Discover Supersearch that covers all subject areas.  In that case, you'd want your search terms to include "music" or related terms, and the name of an author, specific work of literature, or a type of literature (e.g. Irish literature). Another is to search in a subject specific database, covering either music or literature, on the topic that you might not normally think of searching in that subject database. In the case of a music database, like RILM/Abstracts of Music Literature, your search terms should include a specific literary author or work, or, more broadly, Irish literature.  In the case of a literature database you might try the opposite, searching more heavily on musical terms expecting that you'll find articles that talk about the use of music in literature. MLA International Bibliography, however, covers not only literature literary theory but also related fields (dramatic arts, folklore, and  linguistics). It's best to search "music" or related terms combined with a specific author, or work, or possibly type of literature (e.g., Irish literature).

Springshare's information on Accessibility in Libguides - - MHC Accessibility Barriers Form