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The Research Process : A Guide: Strategy


Comprehensive research using scholarly resources is essential when writing a research paper. The following key resources will be helpful in determining a research strategy for any topic.

DETERMINE A TOPIC.  If your topic is too broad, you may find too many sources.  If it is too narrow, you may 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 or Zotero. 

EXAMINE STANDARD HISTORICAL TEXTS.  General art historical texts can provide good overviews that cover many periods and artists.  Bibliographies are usually included 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 authored by scholars in the field, and often contain excellent bibliographies which can lead to additional sources.



Source Types

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

CATALOGUES RAISONNÉS present the complete works of an artist, often accompanied by a comprehensive bibliography. Search of these in UC Library Search or Melvyl.  

BOOKS Search by author, title, or subject in UC Library Search and Melvyl.

ART-RELATED PERIODICAL INDEXES lead to both popular and scholarly articles in the journal literature. List of Indexes. 


BOOK REVIEWS written by authorities in the field can help evaluate scholarship.

DISSERTATIONS can be found in UC Library Search or Dissertations & Theses. 

EXHIBITION CATALOGS contain scholarly essays and high quality images. Search in UC Library Search and Melvyl.

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES can be useful when searching for current artists and exhibition reviews. Search in News Databases.

PRIMARY SOURCES represent first-hand accounts, such as oral histories, personal interviews, an artist's archives, etc.  The Bancroft Library, and the Berkeley Art Museum are excellent sources for finding original source material.  Also see Calisphere for digitized collections from libraries and archives around California. See the Digital Public Library of America for digital collections from archives and libraries around the U.S. Also search WorldCat and limit to Archival Materials.

VIDEOS can provide documentaries on artists and can be viewed in the Media Resources Center, Moffitt Library. Search UC Library Search and limit to 'films/videos/slides'.

INTERNET resources can be useful, but should not be relied upon as a sole-source for research, especially in the field of art history.


By Kathryn Wayne, 2015

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