RILM database instructional presentation for undergraduate students

The homepage of RILM - screenshot

For a course on information retrieval systems, I researched the information literacy needs and obstacles of undergraduate music students. Based on my findings, I developed and led an effective and engaging student-centred lesson on how and why to use the database RILM when researching music. Preparing and leading this lesson was fun for me because I got to apply my teaching skills acquired from my previous jobs in Korean universities to the information literacy field.

I geared my lesson on RILM (Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale) towards a specific audience, undergraduate music students, and set it up as if I were teaching to a 300 level required class where students had to do a major research paper on music. A large part of my lesson was activity-based, culminating in the students peer teaching each other.

Lesson on RILM

Class: MUS 320 Introduction to Musicology & Music Research
Assignment: Major Music Research Project
Research tool: RILM

Today: RILM How & Why

A screenshot of the RILM homepage

What is RILM?

THE online database for (most) music research
→ contains citations and abstracts & access to full-text materials

  • RILM can help you find WAY more relevant, varied, and high-quality resources on music than The Music Index database or just searching online (Google, etc).

What is RILM for?

Use RILM to:

  • Find scholarly articles, books, conference proceedings, etc.
  • Find concert reviews, recording notes, pedagogical manuals, etc.
  • Find articles, books etc, in English and MANY other languages
  • Explore research on music
  • Discover many different approaches to studying music
  • Focus your research topic
  • Do a literature review
  • Pass MUS 320!

Don’t use RILM to:

  • Look up a fact
  • Find a recording
  • Find a musical score
  • Find a musician’s biography


Explore - learn - peer teach graphic

(I made sure students were grouped into four groups and assigned each group a name: Group Red, Group Gold, Group Blue, and Group Purple. I gave each group their activity handout and introduced what they will do at each step - explore, learn, peer teach.

* NOTE: Each team's activity sheet has a different research project topic idea, and different search tasks. **Also, the research project topic ideas are taken from the students' proposed research topics.)

Activity handouts

Group Purple's handout, as an example:

Activity handout for team purple explaining each stage: instruction, explore, and peer teach

Peer Teach

After the teams finished the explore and learn sections of the activity, they transitioned to the peer teach section. I used this diagram to help students seamlessly move to the correct table to begin their peer teaching:

Peer teach - diagram to transition to a new table


  • RILM can help you do research that isn’t just about satisfying your personal curiosity on some music you like.
  • RILM can help you do research that contributes to ongoing debates on music → you can be part of scholarly conversation.

Don’t forget: A component of your research project is a contribution statement →

You must explain how your project represents a contribution to the field of music research.

Questions you will have to answer:

  • How does your research question engage with the works cited in your literature review?
  • How does your research question fit within the existing debates you encountered during your literature review?

TIP: If you don’t use RILM, there is a 99% chance you will not be able to answer these questions properly.


RILM Guide Handout

A houndout for RILM - database guide p. 1
A houndout for RILM - database guide p. 2

Open and read the activity handouts, RILM guide handout, and list of references


Association of College & Research Libraries. (2019). Characteristics of programs of information literacy that illustrate best practices: A guideline. Retrieved 7 February 2020, from

Barnett, R. (2016, November 7). RILM tutorial. [Video]. YouTube.

Campbell, S. (2016). Peer teach-in database handout example. CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments).

Cary, P., & Sampsel, L. J. (2006). Information literacy instructional objectives for undergraduate music students. Music Library Association.Notes, 62(3), 663–679.

Clark, J., & Johnstone, J. (2018). Exploring the research mindset and information-seeking behaviors of undergraduate music students. College & Research Libraries, 79(4), 499–516.

Conor, E. (2016). Engaging students in disciplinary practices: Music information literacy and the ARCL framework for information literacy in higher education. Music Library Association.
Notes, 73(1), 9–21.

Duffy, M. J. (2018). Contemporary analysis of information literacy in music: A literature review and selected annotated bibliography. Music Reference Services Quarterly, 21(2), 45–77.

Froehlich, H., & Frierson-Campbell, C. (2012). Inquiry in music education: Concepts and methods for the beginning researcher. Routledge.

Henry, S. (2018). Using RILM. University of Maryland - University Libraries. Retrieved 22 January 2020, from

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