U.C. Berkeley Library Web


Compiled by Kathryn Wayne, Fine Arts Librarian, 2002, revised January 2005
University of California, Berkeley

An excellent research paper is generally the result of being able to pinpoint numerous sources that may exist on a particular topic.  The following basic steps describe an effective research strategy that will lead to finding the key sources for any topic.

DETERMINE A TOPIC.  If your topic is too broad, you will find too many sources.  If it is too narrow, you will find very little information. If at all possible, try to discuss your topic with your GSI or professor prior to beginning the research process.  When you have evaluated several of the basic sources recommended, it is always a good idea to REFINE YOUR TOPIC mid-way through the research process, by clarifying the scope or depth of the subject you are doing research on.

STANDARDIZE NOTE-TAKING.  Most students who are doing research for a paper consult various sources and often, half-way through the research process, forget which sources they've used, or have forgotten to take down important information such as dates, pages, and are never able to locate the source again.  To save time, keep consistent notes about sources in one place.  Consider using bibliographic software such as Endnote.

EXAMINE STANDARD HISTORICAL TEXTS.  A general text such as Janson’s History of Art can provide good overviews that cover many periods and artists.  Bibliographies are also usually contained at the end of each chapter.  Footnotes citing additional publications can also be useful.

CONSULT AN ENCYCLOPEDIA.  A general  (Encyclopedia Britannica) or subject-specific (Grove Art Online) encyclopedia can provide an excellent overview of a topic, and often provide historical context.  Encyclopedia articles are written by notable scholars in the field, and often contain excellent bibliographies which will lead to additional sources.

DICTIONARIES (general or subject-specific) can be useful for tracking down unknown or obscure words and terms, and for related terms.

FINDING A COMPREHENSIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY published on your subject will give you access to lists of books and/or journal articles already gathered by another researcher.  A bibliography is a compilation of resources written on a particular topic, or artist.

CATALOGUES RAISONNÉS present the complete works of an artist, often accompanied by a comprehensive bibliography.

SEARCH FOR BOOKS using OskiCat (online catalog for UCB only) or MELVYL (Online catalog for all UC campuses and more).  Search by author, title, or subject.  Use the personal author command in OskiCat when searching for artists.
ART-RELATED PERIODICAL INDEXES lead to articles in the journal literature. Once you have identified a list of articles, check the Library's journal holdings in OskiCat using the title command in Advanced Search and limit by publication format “Journals/Magazines/Newspapers” in the box named "Books or Journals".  The following periodical indexes are located on the Art History/Classics Library home page under Art History Resources / Art Indexes.


Marmor, Max and Alex Ross.  Guide to the Literature of Art History 2.  Chicago: American Library Association, 2005. 
N380.A12.M3 2005 Art History/Classics Library & Doe Reference

Barnet, Sylvan.  A Short Guide to Writing About Art. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 2003.
N7476.B37.2003 Moffitt Library

Jones, Lois Swan.  Art  Information: Research Methods and Resources. 3rd ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt 1990.
N85.J64 1990 Art History/Classics Library Reference


Bolner, Myrtle S.  The Research Process: Books and Beyond.  Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt, 1997.  ZA3060.B655.1997 Gardner Stacks/Doe Library

Goldman, Bernard.  Reading and Writing in the Arts.  Rev. ed. Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1978.
N7425.A12.G6.1978 Doe Reference

Mann, Thomas.  A Guide to Library Research Methods.  NY: Oxford University Press, 1987.  Z710.M231.1987 Gardner Stacks/Doe Library

Metter, Ellen.  The Writer’s Ultimate Research Guide.  Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1995.  PN146.M47.1995 Gardner Stacks/Doe Library


Atchert, Walter S.  The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing.  2nd ed.  NY: Modern Language Association of America, 1998.  PN147.G444.1998 Doe Reference

Chicago Manual of Style.  15th ed.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. PE1408.U69.2003 Doe Library

Gibaldi, Joseph.  MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.  6th ed. New York:  Modern Language Association, 2003.  LB2369.G53.2003 Doe Reference

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