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ARH102 Art History: Renaissance Through Contemporary Art (Hall)

Research guide designed for ARH102 students with links to library databases, tips for scholarly research, and detailed instruction in producing an annotated bibliography.


What is a Reference Resource?

 A good place to begin research on any topic is with a general reference resource. General reference articles:

  • Provide general overviews of a topic
  • Give essential background information 
  • Explain key concepts

Reference resources are best used for defining terms and general information. Don't rely entirely on these sources for a paper. Begin with these and then go deeper! 

Reference resources can be accessed electronically or in print form. Most people don't read a reference book from cover to cover. Instead they find the article within the reference book that addresses their specific topic. They refer to those articles to find information. Reference resources (electronic OR in print) include things like:

  • Encyclopedias
  • Specialized dictionaries
  • Almanacs
  • Handbooks

Examples of reference articles in art:

"Ivory" from The Bloomsbury Guide to Art

"Mexicofrom Countries and Their Cultures (a broad overview of the country with a brief section on art)

"Oil Painting (Youhua)" from Encyclopedia of Modern China

"Art - China" from Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History

All of these are brief overviews, tend to have broad information, and supply background context on a subject. 

Find Reference Articles

The search box below allows you to search multiple library databases (electronic, organized collections of information) for reference articles. You want to click on the radio button labeled Reference beneath the search box in order to find only reference materials.

Search by typing directly into the box below. Use keywords related to your art object. Don't use too many and don't use full, complete sentences. Databases look for the individual words you type in, regardless of the order in which those words exist in an article. Put quotation marks around words you want to find in a particular order.

Example search terms:

  • medieval AND art AND Africa
  • "witches at their incantations" (note: this is the specific title of a painting)
  • "oil painting" AND "Middle East"
  • "aboriginal art"

Search for Online Articles



What about Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is an example of a website containing reference articles available on the free web. Yes, most of these articles can be evaluated as reference (brief overviews of a topic that define key terms.) Many of us use Wikipedia and start our research there. The links to other sources located in the references section of a Wikipedia article can be especially useful for finding further sources of information. Since these Wikipedia articles can be edited by multiple people of varying degrees of expertise, it is always important to check the reliability of this source.

Many instructors will not allow Wikipedia to be used as a source. Check with your instructor!

Use Wikipedia to find search terms for articles you can find in the library databases or on an open website that has been created by experts in a field. When I look at the Wikipedia article for  "Mexican Art" I find phrases I might use as search terms in the library databases:



New Spain

Mexican baroque  

portraiture AND Mexico 

When I searched for Mexican baroque in the library databases I found "Mexican Art and Architecture" from Columbian Encyclopedia, which is a university press. 


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