I have been thinking about, and concerned about, how music therapists get information to inform and support their research and clinical work. I love the exchange of information that happens through Voices, which I conceive broadly as columns and articles on various topics of interest to music therapists, then with the opportunity for discussion of these, primarily through the Moderated Discussions. This is one of the most exciting developments in music therapy for me, since it provides a forum for the international exchange of ideas.
Of course, Voices is not the only way for music therapists to receive and exchange information. There are other web-based forums, primarily (from my experience) Music Therapy World (http://www.musictherapyworld.net/) and the Moderated Discussions of The Nordic Journal of Music Therapy (http://www.hisf.no/njmt/). Each of these sites includes articles/columns that provide information, then a means of responding to the information that is given and exchanging ideas about it.
There are also music therapy listserves. These are a way for people to share thoughts and information. I enjoy the Music Therapy ListServ that is based in the U.S., although it has participants from many countries, and can be subscribed to by writing to one of several people (their names and e-mail address are available on the American Music Therapy Association website, http://www.musictherapy.org/listserv.html). In some ways the Unmoderated Discussion section of Voices serves a similar purpose as people can share their ideas and respond to others' ideas without having a moderator for what is said. The thing that I enjoy the most about the listserve that I use is that it is a way of learning what other music therapists are doing and thinking, and at times of receiving support from a large community of people. (My use of the word "community" in reference to a listserve is interesting - although many people belong to the ListServ, many of whom I do not know and some whom I know read but never write to the ListServ, it does feel like a community of music therapists.)
In terms of opportunities for the exchange of information, there are conferences and also journals and books. These are the traditional and, in my opinion, still the primary means for the exchange of much music therapy information. Conferences provide an opportunity to hear people present their current work and, of course, are a wonderful way to network and exchange information informally. Journals are a very important way of gathering information. An advantage of a journal article over, for instance, an article that is published on many web sites, is that most or at least many journal articles have been refereed. (For those who may not be familiar with this term, this means that an article has been reviewed by other professionals [often as a "blind" review, or one in which the reviewers do not know the identity of the author].) The refereeing process does much to insure that articles that are published in a journal are of high quality. Publishers go through varying procedures in the process of deciding what books to publish. While the quality of books is not assured just because they are published, books from recognized publishers have generally gone through a process of review so that someone in the publishing process has felt that the content of the book is valuable. Books that have been positively reviewed in professional publications have an additional level of review for quality. There are, of course, also many many resources available through the Worldwide Web, although in some cases their quality is not validated.
My concern is that music therapists may not always use an appropriate means of getting information for a particular purpose. As is probably evident from what I have written above, I am completely in support of, and enthusiastic about, what I would term "informal" means of exchanging information, including conferences, listserves, and Web-based discussions. But I think that it is important that we not use these informal means when the information that we need is more appropriately found through more formal means. It is these more formal means that I would like to describe, in the hope that some readers will find this information useful and be encouraged to access information through these sources.
Before I do this, I would like to note that I am sensitive to some of the cultural issues that influence how we get information. There may be other issues to which I am not sensitive -- I hope that, if this is the case, those who have other sensitivities will share these, perhaps through the Moderated Discussion of Voices. One major issue is that I am only going to speak of sources that are available in English. I assume that some of the same principles apply to sources in other languages but do not know this for sure. Of course, the very fact that some people do not speak English (or that resources are published in one language but not translated into other languages) is a major factor in the exchange of information. I also believe that some cultures value the "personal" exchange of information more than do others. I do feel, though, that in the scholarly work which must be part of our music therapy culture, what I am writing about should be strongly considered over what might be people's preferences as to how to acquire information. Finally, I am very aware that some of the ways that I will suggest that people get information require some financial investment. I cannot make a judgment as to how people should use money and, coming from the U.S. where our economy is strong, do not truly understand how much money these resources would cost in another culture. But, as I will emphasize, I think that getting the most accurate information to back up our research and clinical work must be a very high priority. I hope that what I say here will be helpful to others who want to expand their knowledge of the music therapy literature.
There are a number of sources of information available to me as a university professor in the United States, some of which may not be available to people who are not in university settings and/or who are not in the U.S. I will try to share what I can as to how people in other settings and/or countries can find information; hopefully, some of it is relevant and useful. I am sure that, as people work with this, they will be able to find other sources and means of accessing information.
The most common and most efficient way of doing searches for information on a particular topic is to use databases. Many of these are available through libraries; others are available on the Web. Two that are most useful and which include, but are not limited to, music therapy information are PsycLit and Medline. PsycLit is a database of psychological literature and is sponsored by the American Psychological Association. It is available through libraries that subscribe to the service. (Most university libraries in the U.S. subscribe to some of these services and people who live near a university may be able to access them through some type of guest privileges through the university. It makes sense that some people who are in other countries or not near a university should be able to make these arrangements over the internet, but I have not confirmed this possibility.) Medline is a database of medical literature; the Journal of Music Therapy is indexed on Medline. Medline can be searched for free through PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine (a public institution) at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.
The website for the American Music Therapy Association (http://www.musictherapy.org/research.html) gives information on a database, the Ingenta/UnCover Database. The website says:
The Ingenta (previously, UnCover) database allows one to search for articles by keyword, author, or name. Searching the Ingenta database is easy and free; you only pay for the articles that you order.
Once you have performed your search, a list of articles can be emailed to you for use in your research free of charge. Individual full-text articles can be ordered on the site with a credit card payment and faxed to you directly within 24 hours. Members of AMTA may find many articles are contained in journals they already own.
To access articles, go to the Ingenta website and type in a topic for search. Searching can be done in two available databases by choosing either the Online Articles or UnCover Plus option.
The Ingenta website is: http://www.ingenta.com/ and reports that it will search "13,753,422 articles from 27,456 publications."
There are several databases devoted to music therapy, music psychology, and related research. One of these is CAIRSS, which is available at: http://imr.utsa.edu/CAIRSS.htm. This is an extensive database developed over a number of years by Charles Eagle and Donald Hodges, and focuses on music therapy and music psychology research. Other databases of which I am aware have been developed by David Aldridge and made available on some of the CD-ROMs that he has made available through the University of Witten-Herdecke; additional material is available through Music Therapy World (http://www.musictherapyworld.net/). Also available through that site is a listing of research being done by music therapists in the European Music Therapy Confederation (EMTC). There is a list of all publications written by Australian music therapists (including refereed papers, book chapters and books) at http://www.austmta.org.au/; it is likely that similar sites exist for some other countries. The Nordic Journal of Music Therapy provides a list of data bases, including many that I am listing here but also some additional ones, at
Most university library catalogs, especially in the U.S., can be accessed via the Web. In addition, the U.S. Library of Congress catalog has a huge listing of books at: http://catalog.loc.gov/ and the catalog of the National Library of Medicine, LOCATORplus, is at http://locatorplus.gov. The NLM Gateway (http://gateway.nlm.nih.gov/gw/Cmd) allows users to search in multiple retrieval systems at the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). The current Gateway searches MEDLINE/PubMed, OLDMEDLINE, LOCATORplus, MEDLINEplus, DIRLINE, AIDS Meetings, Health Services Research Meetings, Space Life Sciences Meetings, and HSRProj. It is also easy to look up many books through the web sites of large book distributors such as Amazon.com (www.amazon.com).
Many music therapists have listings of their own research or related research that can be accessed through their university or personal web sites. Examples of which I am aware are the Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) literature which has been gathered by Michael Thaut as part of the NMT web site, http://www.colostate.edu/depts/cbrm/references.htm. An example of literature related to individuals is that of Jayne Standley, Clifford Madsen, Dianne Gregory, and others at Florida State University, where links to lists of their publications are provided through: http://otto.cmr.fsu.edu/memt/research/index.html. As I said, many others would be available through others' university and personal Web sites. Some university music therapy programs also have other music therapy resources available on their websites.
After someone finds a citation to an article, it may be possible to procure the article without cost. In the U.S., we have Interlibrary Loan, through which a person can request a book or article and the Interlibrary Loan service will search for the book article. A person does not have to be affiliated with a university to place a request. This can be done through public libraries as well. There may be a charge for this service. It seems likely that something similar is available outside the U. S., although it may have a different name.
Sometimes individuals might be able to obtain articles through document delivery services for a fee. These services contract with specific publishers and often provide articles to institutions, sometimes also to individuals. However, there are many of these services and not every service has contracts with every publisher. The best way to obtain an article might be to contact the publisher of the particular journal (this information is in most cases easily found on the web). If the publisher does not provide individual articles, they should be able to let someone know through what source a particular article from one of their journals can be acquired (i.e. through a specific document delivery service they might contract with). In general, there is a good chance that it will be necessary to pay in order to get an article which was found through a database. Some articles may be available through the Web.
At times, it may be appropriate to write to the author of the article and ask for a copy of the article. I suspect that many authors will respond positively to this request if they understand that the writer does not have easy access to the article through other means. I discourage people from doing this as a first means of getting the article, though, as there are so many other means of obtaining articles.
While I know that I may be opening up more questions than I answer, I hope that these thoughts and resources will help people to find ways of gathering information to back up their music therapy research and clinical work. It seems to me that the quality of information that we work with will have a positive impact on our music therapy, and I encourage music therapists to strive to make this information of the highest quality.
Thank you to Julia Graepel, Assistant Director of the Dwight Anderson Memorial Music Library at the University of Louisville for her assistance in gathering this information and to Jane Edwards, Director of Music Therapy, Irish World Music Centre, University of Limerick, Ireland, for feedback.
Wheeler, Barbara (2002) How Can Music Therapists Get Useful Information for Our Work?. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 17, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2002-how-can-music-therapists-get-useful-information-our-work