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​Art History & Architecture History

This guide identifies basic resources (many online and linked) for research in art and architectural history.


This page has resources for writing and doing research. It includes information about popular and scholarly source, primary and secondary sources, and other tips and tricks for finding and evaluating sources. If you have any questions about getting started with research, contact your librarian,!

Scholarly & Popular Sources

It can be hard to determine if an article is scholarly or popular. Here are some clues that can help identify is something is scholarly:

  • It is written by an expert in the field (Ph.D., etc.)
  • The institution (university or museum) where the author works is listed.
  • The article includes a bibliography.
  • The article is in a journal (usually scholarly) rather than a magazine (usually popular).
  • The journal might be described as "peer-reviewed" or "refereed."
  • Often scholarly articles have an abstract at the beginning that explains what the article is about.
  • The article is long - popular articles tend to be 1-5 pages; scholarly articles are often over 10 pages.

The 3-minute video below offers some great tips. Answer the questions below as you watch the video:

  • What clues in scholarly articles indicates that the author is an expert?
  • What do the footnotes and bibliography allow readers to do?
  • What is the part of a scholarly article that summarizes the main points?
  • What is it called when an article is reviewed by experts?
  • What are some ways you can visually identify a popular source?

Doing Library Research

Searching databases can be tricky. Here are some tips to help you think about ways to structure your searches to find more relevant results. Contact your librarian to get additional help or to see how these tricks can be used.

Limit your search to get fewer results:

  • Put phrases in quotations. For example, search "Mona Lisa" or "Art Nouveau" using quotation marks to keep those words next to each other.
  • Advanced Search. Use the Advanced Search feature in databases to make it easier to do multiple word searches, and to use AND/NOT operators.
  • AND. Putting AND between words makes sure your results include all of your key words.
  • NOT. Putting NOT between words makes it so that you do not get results with words you do not want.
  • Use the filters. Most databases have filters or facets to the side of the results. Use these to narrow by date, result type, language, and subject.

Expand your search to get more results:

  • Use asterisks: Putting an asterisk in place of a word ending will get more results. For example, build* will bring up results that include build(s), building(s), builder(s).
  • OR. Use OR in the search box for synonyms or related words. For example, type in Modern OR Contemporary.
  • Spell check! Most databases do not spell check. If you are not getting enough results, or if your results seem off, make sure the search terms are spelled correctly.

Primary & Secondary Sources

A primary source is something that was created at the time of an event or by someone who was at an event. Examples of primary sources are:

  • letters and diaries
  • interviews and oral histories and autobiographies
  • articles written at the time of the event
  • creative works such as paintings and plays
  • photographs

A secondary source is something that analyzes or interprets a primary source. Examples include:

  • books, including biographies
  • scholarly articles
  • articles that interpret an event after it has happened

The 3-minute video below can help clarify. As you watch the video answer the following:

  • What are primary sources?
  • Write down 4 examples of primary sources:
  • Write down 3 examples of secondary sources:
  • What do secondary sources do?
  • Write down 1 example of something that can be primary or secondary:
  • What makes the difference of if that item should be called primary or secondary?

Getting Started: Writing

Evaluating Sources

Below are some important things to consider when you are choosing which books, articles, and websites to use in your assignments.

Reliability: Is the information accurate and dependable? Do the facts match up?
Credibility: Is the author an expert? What are their credentials?
Validity: Where is the information coming from? It is personal opinion or research-based? Is there a bibliography or works cited section you can refer to?
Timeliness: When was it published?
Audience: Who was the article written for? Children? Scholars? Sometimes you can tell by the language - complexity and jargon suggest that it is written for a knowledgeable audience.
Bias: Does it discuss multiple sides of an issue or just one? Why was it written - for sales? to sway opinion?
Relevance: Does it address your research topic? How well? Read the abstract or introduction and conclusion to figure this out.

Considering all of these elements can help determine if your source is a good one to use for your topic. You often don't need to read the whole item to evaluate a source. Read the abstract or introduction and conclusion to make a decision about if the resource is going to work for you. If it is, then read the whole thing.