Research

How to find a research topic

  1. As art historians, we want to always start with the object as our foundation. To find an object, click on the “Courses” menu and navigate to your time period. Browse the resources that have been gathered for you. Start by flipping through “Exhibition Catalogues”. Next you can browse “Online Collections” by narrowing your search terms to objects that are relevant to your time period. Find three objects that interest you, and discuss them with your professor.
  2. Once you have agreed upon an object with your professor, you need to create a complete bibliography on that object. If your object can be found in an exhibition catalogue, then that book will give you a starter bibliography. If your object has an entry on its museum’s website, that museum may also post a bibliography for you. Gather those sources together in a single document that you can build as the semester progresses. Begin formatting your bibliography now, using the Chicago Manual of Style.
  3. It can take some time to acquire the sources in your bibliography so you better start now. If you are looking for a specific source, the best search tool would be CONSORT, which is the combined library catalogue of Denison University, Kenyon, Ohio Wesleyan University, and College of Wooster. If you cannot find your source on CONSORT, then click on the button that says “Search OhioLink.” This will expand your search to include all libraries in Ohio. Request your item, and it will be delivered to you at Kenyon. If you need a catalogue search that is more exploratory in nature, then you can try the Summon search. Only use this search if you are not looking for a specific source. When in doubt, you can always bring your bibliography to your professor who can help you figure out where specific sources can be found.
  4. Your sources have now been requested, and you are waiting for them to arrive. While you wait, start gathering images, diagramming, and writing a detailed visual description of your object (click here for a sample description). Through these fundamental art-historical exercises, questions will hopefully emerge. Keep a running list of these questions.
  5. As your sources arrive, read them. Annotate your bibliography with brief summaries. You also will need to continually evaluate the quality and trustworthiness of your sources. As new questions emerge through your reading, write them down.
  6. Look back over all the questions that you have written down, and choose one (or two that are related). How might you go about addressing the question(s)? Figure out what additional research is needed and what other comparable objects might be beneficial to your research. While the first set of sources helped you better understand your object, you will need more sources that help you find new ways to think about your object. This is where the readings on your syllabus will come in handy. At this stage it is critical that you talk with your professor to chart out a research plan.