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Assignment | Art Mini-Research Sequence (Armstrong): Research

Fall 2020 | Art History & Art Appreciation | Prof. J. Armstrong

Before You Research

Scholarly articles are not the place to start your research. First, you need to get familiar enough with your topic that you can start to narrow it down, and for that you need more general information. This will help you develop context for your topic as well as get to know the specialized terms used by experts.

Find Popular Sources for Articles

Evaluate for: currency, relevance, accuracy, authority, and purpose

What counts: newspaper articles, magazines, museum websites... credible sources but not scholarly. Random blogs do not count! Really take a look at who is producing the information and whether or not they've given you any reason to trust them.

Do not use:

  • Pretty much any [artist name].org website, like or (The tutorial from the Getting Started page gets into why.)
    • There a couple other variations with a .net ending -- same kind of site, same low credibility. Remember the evaluation strategy from the tutorial!
  • Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica: too casual.

Make Google Work Harder

Rather than browsing or even using the in-site search on any of the above, you can make Google work harder for you. Just name the site in your search to limit your results to that page! Try it below:

Google Web Search

Look for Scholarly Articles

Best Bets:

JSTOR and Project MUSE are exclusively scholarly -- but make sure you're not using anything labeled a "review' (i.e. a book review, which is a tertiary source and not what you're looking for).

Also Try:

Depending on what info you're trying to tackle, different subject-area databases may be helpful -- e.g. Van Gogh's well-known struggles with mental illness could warrant a trip into Psych & Behavioral Sciences Collection.

I've given a few starting points, but you may also want to explore the larger lists of databases for more options.

Be sure to look for the checkboxes for "full text" and "scholarly (peer-reviewed)" in these!

Accessing the Databases

Access 100+ databases organized by subject area from the Research Databases page. Also try our dynamic, sortable database list!

Student ID BadgeTo access the databases locked icon (same icon that displays by the LSC-limited access resources) from off-campus, you must provide the 14-digit library barcode.

Don't have one yet? Request a barcode number online.


What about books? Are books scholarly?

They can be! Note that a scholarly book is not just any old nonfiction title, but they can be a little harder to distinguish sometimes.

  • Was it published by a university (e.g. Oxford University Press, University of North Carolina Press)? Pretty good odds that it's scholarly.
  • Does it have citations, both in-text and at the end? (It could use footnotes... but the important thing is all the information is very clearly documented as to its original source.)
  • Who's the author? If they're a PhD in the topic of discussion (i.e. an expert), again, it's pretty good odds they've written something scholarly... but still pay attention to the style (is it formal or fun and friendly? again, are there thorough citations?).

Search for the name of the piece you’re researching (if it’s a famous one) and/or the artist’s name to find related ebooks. Relevant subject terms include:

How can I get paper books?

You can search the library catalog (below) with keyword, title, author, etc -- pretty much like using Amazon. (The catalog also finds most of our e-books, but it's still a good idea to search those collections directly.)

COVID update: Some of the campuses are doing item pick-up but most (including UP) still are not. The Harris County Public Library branches are, though. You can request books be sent to an HCPL branch near you (Barbara Bush is the closest location to campus) for curbside pick-up. Return items to a contactless item return drop at the library.

You are on a bit of a deadline, so you want to be sure you can get a book your want on time!

  1. Click into the book to see how many copies there are, and whether anyone else has a hold ahead of you. If there's one copy and 3 people waiting, it could be 6 weeks before it's your turn.
  2. If all looks good, click "Place Hold" to request the book. You'll have to sign in with your library barcode number (2313660xxxxxxx) and 4-digit PIN, typically the last 4 numbers of the phone number you provided when you had your ID card made. You can choose which location the book is sent to (caveat: it can take 3-5 business days!).
  3. You'll receive an email when your item is ready for you to pick up.

If you really want a book and don't have time to wait for it, call the library that has a copy, ask them to verify it's there, and they'll usually pull the book for you, just like placing a hold through the catalog. Then drive over to that library to get it -- but definitely call before committing to the drive!

Not sure if you have a library account or what your PIN is? Contact our front desk at

Do not use:

  • Children's books, YA, Juvenile Nonfiction
    • Does it have pictures, and not just of the art? Not a good sign.
    • If you're uncertain, look the book up on Amazon to see how they categorize it. If it's got an age group -- especially one that's younger than college age -- move on to a new source.