Art History and Studio Art Research Guide: Getting Started

Know Your Assignment Requirements

Research Assignment and Instructor Expectations

  • Completed by due date (the Research Project Calculator can help you plan to finish on time)
  • Length of finished product
  • Sources selected and used
  • References/citation form
  • Organization and flow of ideas
  • Writing skills

Topic Selection

  • Select/define/refine/focus your idea
  • Brainstorm
  • 5 Ws (who, what, why, when, where) and how
  • Determine if you will be able to cover all the important points of your topic in the space you have to fill

Developing a Search Strategy

  1. Once you have chosen a topic, write it down in the form of a question or brief statement:
    What was the influence of the Ottoman Empire on the art & architecture in Venice?
  2. Underline the key words and phrases that are most specific to your topic.
    What is the relationship between Ottoman and Venice?
  3. Write down each key word or phrase, and underneath it, list synonyms or related terms.
    Use a dictionary or thesaurus to find additional keywords.  For example:
Ottoman Venice Arts
Turkish Turk  Northern Italy painting architecture sculpture 
  1. Think about the singular, plural, and other endings of words and write down the root of the word.
    Art Architecture  
    arts artists church churches basilica  
  2. Write down your key words and phrases along with their synonyms in the form of a Boolean search statement. Use the root word, and truncate it with an asterisk (*). Note: Different databases use different truncation or wildcard symbols. Check the database's help page. For example:

    (Art or painting or sculpture) and (turk* or ottoman) and (church* basilica)

Keyword Searching

  1. Use keyword when your term may be very new, very distinctive, or jargon, e.g. "instant messaging", "XML".
  2. Use a variety of keywords. There may be additional items on your topic that use different terms.
  3. Be aware that you may retrieve items not related to your topic (called false drops)
  4. When you cannot remember the exact title of an item, do a keyword search using the title words you remember.

Narrow or Broaden Your Search

Use AND between terms to narrow your search

example: television and violence and children

Use OR and/or truncate (*, ?) words to broaden your search

example: children or youth or adolescents
example: child* (will find child, children, etc.) Note: check online help for  the correct truncation symbol

Boolean Operators -- Art

Boolean operators are words (or, and, not) used to connect search terms to expand (or) or narrow (and, not) a search within a database to locate relevant information. Boolean operators are also called logical operators or connectors.

It is helpful to diagram the effects of these operators

Boolean operator And

Boolean Operator OR

Truncation  *

 A symbol *  used at the end of a word to retrieve variant endings of that word. It allows you to search the "root" form of a word with all its different endings.

Truncation  will broaden or increases search results. Truncation = OR

Example:

Teen* retrieves teen, teens, teenager, teenagers ....

The symbol ? can be used as one character or no character
Example: wom?n will retrieve woman and women

Scholarly Journals (Peer-Reviewed/Referred)

Peer-reviewed/Referred  

  • AuCover image for Vol. 17 Issue 4thors are authorities in their fields.
  • Authors cite their sources in endnotes, footnotes, or bibliographies.
  • Individual issues have little or no advertising.
  • Articles must go through a peer-review or refereed process.
  • Articles are usually reports on scholarly research.
  • Illustrations usually take the form of charts and graphs.
  • Articles use jargon of the discipline