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ART 300: Modern Art Before 1945: Background Research

Where can I find background information?

It is important to gather background information on a topic before diving into doing research. It can supply context information to give a better understanding of a topic, and it can also be a great way to start developing keywords to use during the research process. Background information on a topic can be gathered from a variety of sources, including textbooks, books, reference materials like encyclopedias, and reputable websites

Don't forget that museum websites can also be good sources of background information about artists, movements, specific works of art, general time periods, etc.

Concept Mapping

From Gendron, H. & Sclippa, E. (2014). Where visual and information literacies meet: Redesigning research skills teaching and assessment for large art history courses. Art Documentation: Bulletin of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 33(2), 327-344.


So you've done some background research. 
You've completed your concept map.
You've connected the dots and have an idea of a thesis you can argue in your paper.

But don't hop into researching your topic just yet! Take the time to develop a list of keywords to use throughout your research.

KEYWORDS carry some of the most important meanings that will open doors to vast amounts of information. You can develop keywords by using the sources you've already looked into, or pulling directly from the concept map you created. Keywords can include:

  • The object (if it's famous enough, i.e. the Mona Lisa)
  • Type of object (i.e. funerary monument or stele)
  • Artist or school
  • Patron
  • Themes occurring in the object
  • Historical events happening at the time
  • Etc.

Creating keyword lists are important in that you will use these terms to search library tools such as the library catalog and article research databases. 

Developing search strategies

As you create keywords, you should also begin piecing together those keywords to create "search strings," or search strategies. You can certainly plug these keywords into the catalog and databases to see what you can find on your narrow topic, or you can elevate and expand your searching by using boolean operators, nested searches and truncation.