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Artists and Artworks: A Step-by-Step Research Guide: Home

step-by-step guide to researching artists and artworks

TCNJ Art Exhibition Catalogs

Click here to see a list of 40 TCNJ Art Gallery exhibition catalogs stretching back to 2001.

Outline for Researching Artworks

Step 1: At the Museum

  • Your artwork is your primary source. Viewing or even touching it gives you an intimate understanding of its qualities. We experience works of art and re-productions of those works (e.g., digital images in ARTstor) differently. That is, no way of understanding a work of art substitutes for experiencing it with your own senses. Think, for example, about picking up a ceramic pot and turning it over in your hands versus an illustration in an exhibition catalog.
  • Information gathered at the museum will make the rest of your research easier.

Step 2: Background Information

  • Encyclopedias and other reference works
  • Museum websites

Step 3: Find Books

  • Use the search box on the Gitenstein Library homepage to find books on your topic.
  • The main library search connects researchers with the library's physical holdings, e-books, online articles, and open access resources.

Step 4: Find Articles

  • Databases such as Art Abstracts provide access to scholarly journal articles.
  • Search the databases by keywords, artist, movement, period, style, and other search terms. Learn how to use the subject headings (if available) for targeted, relevant search results.

Step 5: Find Related Images

  • Looking at and writing about related objects by your artist, of the same style/period, or containing similar subject matter can strengthen your argument.

Step 6: Writing Help

  • You might very well be required to incorporate into your paper a formal analysis or description of your chosen artwork. Ask your professor if in doubt.
  • Writing about art requires a solid thesis statement in which you put forward a cogent argument based on evidence and in "conversation" with art historians' earlier writings about your object, artist, movement, or style/period.

Step 7: Cite Your Sources

  • Cite all quotes and paraphrased references used in the body of the paper. Plagiarism is a grave mistake in academic writing.

Guide Author (Humanities Librarian)

David C. Murray's picture
David C. Murray
TCNJ Library,
Room 216
Skype Contact: xpuhil


This research guide is adapted from a libguide created by Jill Luedke, Art Librarian, Temple University Libraries. I modified it with Jill's permission, adding and deleting resources and text as necessary for use by TCNJ faculty and students.