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How to Search for Music in OskiCat: Inside a Library Catalog Record

Strategies for Finding Better Search Terms

Sometimes a keyword Quick Search using title terms you know doesn't retrieve adequate results. A very effective follow-up strategy is to look at the full catalog record of the most relevant search result (by clicking on the Title) and then revise the search using related keyword terms found in the record. Successful follow-up searches often find helpful title search terms in the "Contents" portion of a catalog record and in the "Uniform Title."

Inside the Catalog Record

The following, very reasonable keyword Quick Search for the printed music / score of an item that might be expected to be found in multiple editions:

chopin raindrop prelude

produces only two search results, While this may be enough to satisfy search needs-—the second item is even available online—sometimes more choices or a different edition is desired:

The full record of the second item retrieved in the search above (obtained by clicking on the title) contains a long "Contents" field note showing how this item is  published within a small group or collection of similar types of pieces, a group of Preludes, shown below.

This suggests that a revised search for this item might successfully use "op. 28" in place of "raindrop," or, even better, simply "chopin preludes." Using the genre /  title term in the plural would catch the many published editions of the work as found in collections of similar pieces:

chopin raindrop prelude 2 results
chopin prelude op. 28 15 results
chopin preludes 45 results

Finding the best title keyword terms to use in a search is not always intuitive; please don't hesitate to stop by the reference desk for assistance in searching for music materials.

Finding the best title keyword terms to use in a Quick Search may sometimes feel like a hit-or-miss endeavor. There are, however, standardized music title headings you can often find and use, if you are having trouble. The following, very reasonable looking search for a printed music / score, for example,

mahler third symphony

yields only two results—the first record is an arrangement for band and the full record of the second search result indicates that it does not even contain the desired piece, as there are other pieces by Mahler and a Third Symphony by a different composer in the collection:

OskiCat Screen Capture


Looking inside the full record of the first search result, however, illustrates that the search is more useful than it may first appear. Above the Title, at the top of the record indicated by the arrow below, is often another title added by the cataloger known as the "Uniform Title" or "Preferred Title:" 

OskiCat Screen Shot


The Preferred/Uniform Title identifies an item that has appeared under varying titles. It is a unique title assigned to all manifestations of a musical work, serving to group together (under a composer's name) all variants of a work under one title and identify a work that has one or more common or generic names or that may be published in many different languages. Finding a Preferred Title inside a full catalog record and then revising a search using that information is an excellent strategy.

mahler third symphony 2 results
mahler symphony 3 15 results
mahler symphonies 3 19 results

Learn more about Preferred/Uniform Titles at an excellent tutorial at the Indiana University Music Library. The Preferred Title is used in the browsing index of a composer's work and forms an essential part of a Comprehensive Browse, the second search technique recommended one learn in using OskiCat.

Identifying Title Keywords

Grove Music Online is also an excellent resource for help identifying title keyword terms for a search. A list of compositions is found on the "Works" tab of most biographies or at the end of the article in the printed volumes of the New Grove in the Reference Room at ML100.N48 2001 and often includes title information, keys, and opus numbers that can be used in a catalog search.

Other reference sources can help correctly identify musical works as well, particularly the research guides and thematic catalogs of individual composers, shelved in the Reference Room at ML134. Please don't hesitate to stop by the reference desk for assistance in searching for music materials.