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ARTH 102: Introduction to Western Art: Renaissance through Modern (Leopardi): Getting Started with Art History Research

Background Research

Reference sources are useful for getting basic background information about the artist(s) you are researching before you dive into searching for articles and books.

Ask yourself:

  1. Do I know this artist's nationality?
  2. Was his/her/their work limited to their country of origin?
  3. Do I know when (what time period or era) this artist flourished?
  4. Was this artist chiefly known for one medium, or were there others used? (Example: painting AND drawing)
  5. Am I familiar with some of this individual's best known work(s)?
  6. Are there any particular themes this artist was known for?

Art History has several well-known key reference sources for getting exactly this type of background information on your artist.


Search Strategies

Strategy Why Use It
place quotation marks around two or more words searches words together in that exact order
truncate a word stem with an asterisk ( * ) finds word variants automatically (think: femini* = feminine, feminism, femininity, etc.)
select relevant item types (e.g., articles, books) removes potentially irrelevant and/or hard-to-use items from your results list
select languages you read easily removes unuseful items from your results list

Popular vs. Scholarly Journals

Not all articles are created equal. You will, at times, hear your professors request scholarly or peer-reviewed journal articles in your research. Being aware of these differences will help you direct the best sources for your research.


  Popular Scholarly Trade
audience written for a general audience targeted to scholars in a particular discipline targeted to professionals in a particular field
authors usually general staff writers scholars in the field with degrees, credentials, and affiliations staff writers or others in the field, most familiar with the area at hand
sources or bibliography usually none extensively cited may refer to reports or other sources in the text of an article or have short lists of citations
articles vary in length and subject tend to be lengthy, broken in sections, summarizing research varying in length, related to a single area or discipline, often news and reports
language simple and non-technical uses terms and concepts specific to a particular discipline mix of jargon and technical terminology of a given field
use current events and general trends summarizes in depth research of a particular discipline current news and trends in a given field or discipline

Citing Your Work

A research paper with a correct citation style not only establishes your reputation as a researcher, but allows your reader to find copies of texts you used to further their own reading and knowledge.

Following are a few links to helpful cites about citing your work in the Chicago style:

See also the HWS Library's Citation Help guide:

Find Articles & Books

Find Images

Tips for Finding Books on the Shelf

Read call numbers line by line.


Read the first line in alphabetical order:

A, B, BF, C, D, DS... M, ML, N, NA, NB, NC


Read the second line as a whole number:

1, 2, 3, 20, 23, 100, 101, 200, 237


The third line is a combination of a letter and a number. Read the letter alphabetically. Read the number as a decimal:

.C28 comes before .C3

.C3 comes before .C52


Read this line as above. Some books, not all, have more than one of these combination letter-number lines.


The last line is the year the book was published. Read in chronological order:

1985, 1991, 1998, 2000

Associate Librarian

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Sara Greenleaf