General Guides

Guide to Starting a Research Project


Step 1: Choose Topic

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. What do I find interesting about the subject?
2. What do I already know about this topic?

Ex. 1

Interesting? Van Gogh
What do I know? Dutch painter, painted "Starry Night"

EX. 2

Interesting? Frank Lloyd Wright
What do I know? American architect, Taliesin, Fallingwater


Talk to an instructor or librarian
Browse through subject specific journals (i.e. Art History, Art Bulletin, Burlington Magazine, Architectural Record)


Step 2: Narrow Topic

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. What do you want to know more about in regards to your topic?
2. Are you interested in social, political, economic, gender, religious issues related to your topic?

Find a "slant" on your topic

EX. 1:

Topic = Van Gogh
Slant 1 = Landscape Painting
Slant 2 = Starry Night
Slant 3 = religion

EX. 2:

Topic = Frank Lloyd Wright
Slant 1 = Taliesin
Slant 2 = Falling Water
Slant 3 = Prairie School


Step 3: Look for Angles, Slants, and Sub-Topics

1. Use encyclopedias (see list below) to find "quick" information on subject.
2. Use Biographical Dictionaries (see list below) to find "quick" information on artists.

Use this "quick" information to develop a list of "keywords" (Step 4) that will be used to find scholarly resources on your topic.


Contemporary Artists . Detroit: St. James Press, 2001. 2 volumes

Encyclopedia of World Art . New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959-1987. 17 volumes

Xrefer Art and Architecture Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, etc.

Encyclopedia of Architecture: Design, Engineering and Construction. New York : Wiley, 1988-1990. 5 volumes

Encyclopedia of American Architecture New York : McGraw-Hill, 1995.


Step 4: Identify Keywords

Having learned a little more about your topic and chosen a "slant" within your topic, it is now time to brainstorm some keywords that will help you identify scholarly information in journals and books.

You will use these words by themselves and in combination in the Online Library Catalog to search for books and in article databases to search for articles.


Van Gogh = Topic
Slant = landscape painting


Van Gogh, Vincent
Dutch painters


Ex 2:

Frank Lloyd Wright = Topic
Slant = Fallingwater


Frank Lloyd Wright

Step 5: Find Resources

Use the keywords you have compiled and use them to search for books in the Online Library Catalog or articles in online article databases.  


Further Information...