4. Avenues of Inquiry

After writing your prospectus, and refining your research question, you will be able to outline the contents of the first draft of your paper. The most effective way to do this is to consider what aspects of your topic will you need to investigate in order to address your question. One of my graduate professors would call these aspects the ‘Avenues of Inquiry’. Don’t think about how these ‘Avenues’ are connected to one another and do not attempt to draw many conclusions; you can assess your evidence once you complete a first draft. Think of each ‘Avenue’ as a separate investigation, or a mini-research assignment. Summarize your findings, cite your sources, and incorporate comparative material when appropriate. Some common ‘Avenues’ include:

  • Your object’s place of origin.
  • The relationship between your object and a historical person or event.
  • The meaning of your object’s iconographic elements.
  • The function/use of your object.
  • The significance of your object’s materials and techniques.
  • Your object’s afterlife, provenance, or collection history.

*Please note that these ‘Avenues’ are not prescriptive. Some of these may be irrelevant for your topic and you may find other ‘Avenues’ not on this list that are more important/applicable. You need to consult with your professor in order to find the best ‘Avenues’ for your specific topic.