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Art History

This guide is for all sections of the undergraduate ART 400 series and graduate ART 800 series Art History sections taught by Erica Bittel, It provides an overview of the research process, how to find information in the library, citation, and suggested r

Search Strategies

Planning is one of the MOST IMPORTANT steps to take during a research project.

Taking the time to plan your research, your keywords, and your use of Boolean Operators may seem like a waste at first, but as you search and complete several iterations and add to your plan, it will become invaluable in saving you time and energy later.

You may want to create a research log, this helps you retrace your steps and/or explain how you came to find a piece of information.  Many times searchers assume that they will remember, but find they have no idea how they found a source when they look at it days, weeks, or even months later.  

Research is an iterative process. It grows and changes and loops back on itself.  

Most people think of a research assignment like as a straight line:

Straight line from topic to research to writing paper
 

But really, it's a much messier tangle:

Messy lines between Topic, Research, and Writing Paper


Re-thinking your research and research strategies is normal and encouraged! Don't feel discouraged or "stupid" if you need to change your plan.  Our Search Strategies can help.

In order to create a specific research question that you can use for your course, try using the 5W's to brainstorm ideas.

Who?   What?   When?   Where?   Why?

For example, we can create a  research question for Art after 1945 by answering the 5W's.

anonymous by Gregor Cresnar from the Noun ProjectWho? Marcela Donoso, Gregory Gillespie, Peter Doig, John Baeder, Tom Blackwell, Billy Childish, Charles Thompson, Ella Guru

 

what by Dinosoft Labs from the Noun ProjectWhat?  magic realism, photo realism, Stuckism, contemporary art, fabulism, new objectivity, figurative painting, manifestos & demonstrations

 

clock by Iconika from the Noun ProjectWhen? 1960-1970s, 1999 Present

 

Map By Parallel Digital Studio vis The Noun ProjectWhere? Germany, America, US, Latin America, Britain

 

Cloud Question Mark by Dinosoft Labs from the Noun ProjectWhy? figurative, not conceptual- "anti-anti-art"

 

By using these criteria we can put together a very specific Research Question

Research Question: How does the painting "Sir Nicholas Serota Makes an Acquisitions Decision" reflect the ideals outlined in the manifestos of the Stuckism art movement?

 

Sir Nicholas Serota Makes an Acquisitions Decision by Charles Thomson

Charles Thomson. Sir Nicholas Serota Makes an Acquisitions Decision.

In order to find the information that answers your research question, you must feed it the right words: keywords. Before you start searching in databases, create a list of possible keywords you can use in your search.  Think of similar ideas, antonyms, and synonyms to use when searching.  Keywords can be more or less specific than your original idea.

For example, here are some keywords from our research question:

Research Question: How does the painting "Sir Nicholas Serota Makes an Acquisitions Decision" reflect the ideals outlined in the manifestos of the Stuckism art movement?

Stuckism: remodernism, anti-anti-art

figurative: representational, figurativism, NOT conceptual or abstract

manifesto: intentions, motives, ideals

A Venn Diagram of three primary colors, combining to create three secondary colors CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay

Once you've brainstormed keywords for your research question, think about what operators you may use. Operators are a way of combining keywords to get the best results from your search.

Boolean Operators

Ampersand by Cristina from the Noun Project  AND    Use AND when you want to find articles or other information that contains both/all keywords

         stuckism AND manifesto

toggles by Curve from the Noun Project  OR    Use OR when you want to find articles or other information that contains at least one of the keywords

         stuckism or remodernism

wrong by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project  NOT    Use NOT when you want to find articles or other information that does not have a certain keyword

           figurative NOT conceptual

You can use Boolean Operators together to perform a very specific search.  You might want to use parentheses to group your keywords together:

          stucksim OR remodernism NOT conceptual

          AND figurative

 

Other Search Tricks:

Quotation Marks   Put quotes around phrases when you want that phrase to be found in that exact order

       Quote By Consumer Financial Protection Bureau   "anti-anti-art"

 

Wildcards   Use wildcards when there are unknown characters, multiple spellings, or endings.  Symbols for wildcards may differ, so check the Help in your databases to see what symbols they use. 

    Question by Gregor Cresnar from the Noun Project            Replace a single character   

 

Truncation   Use truncation to find all forms of a word. Symbols for truncation may differ, so check the Help in your databases to see what symbols they use. 

     Asterisk by Caio Ranieri from the Noun Project    *     paint* will find paint, painting,painters

 

Note that Wildcards and truncation can NOT be combined in one keyword for your search

Combining Keywords, Operators, and Truncation creates a very specific search:

        "stucksim paint*" OR "anti-anti-art" NOT conceptual

          AND manifesto