Writing a paper for an art history course is similar to the analytical, research-based papers that you may have written in English literature courses or history courses. Although art historical research and writing does include the analysis of written documents, there are distinctive differences between art history writing and other disciplines because the primary documents are works of art. A key reference guide for researching and analyzing works of art and for writing art history papers is the 10th edition (or later) of Sylvan Barnet’s work, A Short Guide to Writing about Art. Barnet directs students through the steps of thinking about a research topic, collecting information, and then writing and documenting a paper.
A website with helpful tips for writing art history papers is posted by the University of North Carolina,
Wesleyan University Writing Center has a useful guide for finding online writing resources,
The following are basic guidelines that you must use when documenting research papers for any art history class at UALR. Solid, thoughtful research and correct documentation of the sources used in this research (i.e., footnotes/endnotes, bibliography, and illustrations**) are essential. Additionally, these Guidelines remind students about plagiarism, a serious academic offense.
Research papers should be in a 12-point font, double-spaced. Ample margins should be left for the instructor’s comments. All margins should be one inch to allow for comments. Number all pages. The cover sheet for the paper should include the following information: title of paper, your name, course title and number, course instructor, and date paper is submitted. A simple presentation of a paper is sufficient. Staple the pages together at the upper left or put them in a simple three-ring folder or binder. Do not put individual pages in plastic sleeves.
Documentation of Resources
The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), as described in the most recent edition of Sylvan Barnet’s A Short Guide to Writing about Art is the department standard. Although you may have used MLA style for English papers or other disciplines, the Chicago Style is required for all students taking art history courses at UALR. There are significant differences between MLA style and Chicago Style. A “Quick Guide” for the Chicago Manual of Style footnote and bibliography format is found http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html. The footnote examples are numbered and the bibliography example is last. Please note that the place of publication and the publisher are enclosed in parentheses in the footnote, but they are not in parentheses in the bibliography. Examples of CMS for some types of note and bibliography references are given below in this Guideline. Arabic numbers are used for footnotes. Some word processing programs may have Roman numerals as a choice, but the standard is Arabic numbers. The use of super script numbers, as given in examples below, is the standard in UALR art history papers.
The chapter “Manuscript Form” in the Barnet book (10th edition or later) provides models for the correct forms for footnotes/endnotes and the bibliography. For example, the note form for the FIRST REFERENCE to a book with a single author is:
1Bruce Cole, Italian Art 1250-1550 (New York: New York University Press, 1971), 134.
But the BIBLIOGRAPHIC FORM for that same book is:
Cole, Bruce. Italian Art 1250-1550. New York: New York University Press. 1971.
The FIRST REFERENCE to a journal article (in a periodical that is paginated by volume) with a single author in a footnote is:
2 Anne H. Van Buren, “Madame Cézanne’s Fashions and the Dates of Her Portraits,” Art Quarterly 29 (1966): 199.
The FIRST REFERENCE to a journal article (in a periodical that is paginated by volume) with a single author in the BIBLIOGRAPHY is:
Van Buren, Anne H. “Madame Cézanne’s Fashions and the Dates of Her Portraits.” Art Quarterly 29 (1966): 185-204.
If you reference an article that you found through an electronic database such as JSTOR, you do not include the url for JSTOR or the date accessed in either the footnote or the bibliography. This is because the article is one that was originally printed in a hard-copy journal; what you located through JSTOR is simply a copy of printed pages. Your citation follows the same format for an article in a bound volume that you may have pulled from the library shelves. If, however, you use an article that originally was in an electronic format and is available only on-line, then follow the “non-print” forms listed below.
Citations for Internet sources such as online journals or scholarly web sites should follow the form described in Barnet’s chapter, “Writing a Research Paper.” For example, the footnote or endnote reference given by Barnet for a web site is:
3 Nigel Strudwick, Egyptology Resources, with the assistance of The Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge University, 1994, revised 16 June 2008, http://www.newton.ac.uk/egypt/, 24 July 2008.
If you use microform or microfilm resources, consult the most recent edition of Kate Turabian, A Manual of Term Paper, Theses and Dissertations. A copy of Turabian is available at the reference desk in the main library.
C. Visual Documentation (Illustrations)
Art history papers require visual documentation such as photographs, photocopies, or scanned images of the art works you discuss. In the chapter “Manuscript Form” in A Short Guide to Writing about Art, Barnet explains how to identify illustrations or “figures” in the text of your paper and how to caption the visual material. Each photograph, photocopy, or scanned image should appear on a single sheet of paper unless two images and their captions will fit on a single sheet of paper with one inch margins on all sides. Note also that the title of a work of art is always italicized. Within the text, the reference to the illustration is enclosed in parentheses and placed at the end of the sentence. A period for the sentence comes after the parenthetical reference to the illustration. For UALR art history papers, illustrations are placed at the end of the paper, not within the text. Illustration are not supplied as a Powerpoint presentation or as separate .jpgs submitted in an electronic format.
Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream, dated 1893, represents a highly personal, expressive response to an experience the artist had while walking one evening (Figure 1).
The caption that accompanies the illustration at the end of the paper would read:
Figure 1. Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893. Tempera and casein on cardboard, 36 x 29″ (91.3 x 73.7 cm). Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo, Norway.
Plagiarism is a form of thievery and is illegal. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, to plagiarize is to “take and pass off as one’s own the ideas, writings, etc. of another.” Barnet has some useful guidelines for acknowledging sources in his chapter “Manuscript Form;” review them so that you will not be mguilty of theft. Another useful website regarding plagiarism is provided by Cornell University, http://plagiarism.arts.cornell.edu/tutorial/index.cfm
Plagiarism is a serious offense, and students should understand that checking papers for plagiarized content is easy to do with Internet resources. Plagiarism will be reported as academic dishonesty to the Dean of Students; see Section VI of the Student Handbook which cites plagiarism as a specific violation. Take care that you fully and accurately acknowledge the source of another author, whether you are quoting the material verbatim or paraphrasing. Borrowing the idea of another author by merely changing some or even all of your source’s words does not allow you to claim the ideas as your own. You must credit both direct quotes and your paraphrases. Again, Barnet’s chapter “Manuscript Form” sets out clear guidelines for avoiding plagiarism.
An essay-writing guide for History of Art students
Posted by Katie in History of Art on December 5, 2015
About 2,500 words later and I’ve just finished writing my essay for Conceptual Art and its Aftermath in Britain.
It’s that time of year when the library starts getting busier, most of the books you need are on-loan, and the books you have taken out are being recalled (the other day I took a book out and one day later it was recalled. Ridiculous). And it’s all because most of us are busy with writing our pre-Christmas essays. Yay.
Seeing as I’ve just finished my essay, I’m going to give you some pointers on how I think a good History of Art essay should be written! Obviously each and everyone of us has their own way of doing things, and I may have missed some things out, so don’t take what I say as gospel. This is just how I go about it! Here goes…
- Find out which artist(s)/movement/period interests you. I recommend writing about a topic that actually interests you, because it makes everything so much more bearable. Going to lectures and seminars should help you decide which artists or movements you like the most.
- Do your research. This is an obvious one I guess. Have a look at the reading list provided by your professor for an idea on which books to take out the library. The David Wilson Library has loads of art history books, so really make the most of it. Also have a look online. Art museum websites are fairly good, such as the Tate, but avoid doing your research on unofficial websites that aren’t reliable. When doing research, try to learn as much as you can about the historical context and the biography of the artist(s) you’re focusing on, because this will help when analysing specific artworks. Look for things that you can discuss in your essay.
- Decide on a specific, interesting argument to discuss in your essay. For some modules, your tutor will provide you with a list of titles to choose from when writing your essay – this makes choosing a line of argument fairly easy. However, for Conceptual Art I had to come up with my own essay title. I really struggled at first to come up with an interesting line of argument that would make for a good, thought-provoking read. The best piece of advice I can give at this point is to make sure you have something to say. It sounds a bit obvious, I know, but you need to make sure that your reader has actually learned something after reading your essay. Focus on something specific about the artist, avoid talking generally about them, and avoid reciting their biography. Try to write critically and avoid being too descriptive.
- Choose a few artworks to discuss in your essay. With History of Art you’re going to want to analyse some artworks to back up your points. I think around four, maybe five artworks is enough if you want to go into quite a lot of depth for each one. The artworks you choose should provide a lot of scope for discussion and be relevant to your line of argument. When I choose artworks for my essays, I don’t necessarily choose the ones that I like most. I choose them based on whether they will help me develop my argument.
- Make an essay plan. Plan and structure what you’re going to say into an introduction, middle, and conclusion. You can even plan each individual paragraph if you want. I think a lot of people rush over essay planning and go straight into writing the real thing, which doesn’t work for everyone. Making a plan will help you to give your thoughts and ideas a bit more structure and coherence.
- Write your essay. Obviously quite an important part of the essay-writing process. I don’t really know what else to say apart from: write! I should mention at this point about coming up with an essay title. A lot of professors will tell you to write your essay and then come up with a title afterwards. While this can work for a lot of people, I like to have a good idea of what my title is going to be before I start writing. So, do whatever suits you best. Come up with a title either before or after writing the essay. Both ways work. If you come up with a title before writing, just make sure that when you do start writing, you stick to what the title is asking you to write. Coming up with a title afterwards is fairly easy as you can tailor it towards what you’ve discussed in the essay.
- Cite the sources you use and provide a bibliography. This can be tedious but it’s important that you don’t neglect this part. You don’t want to be penalised for plagiarism. Each department varies with the type of referencing they prefer, so make sure to ask your professor if you have any doubts.
- Check your work. Make sure what you’ve written is clear and makes sense. Make sure the information you provided is accurate. Check your grammar. Check for any spelling mistakes. You know the drill.
- Complete the final touches. Make sure your essay is paragraphed and double-spaced. Choose a simple, readable font. Add headers and footers for your student number, name of module, page numbers, etc.
- Submit your essay. You finished your essay! Woo! Once you’re completely happy with it, you’ll be ready to submit it. You’ll need to submit a hard copy and an electronic copy on Turnitin.
There we have it! Thank you for reading and I hope some of you found this useful!
Posted in Essay, Studying, Uncategorized| Tagged art, art history, essay, history of art, leicester, student blogs, university, university of leicester, UoL
Hey I'm Katie and I study Modern Languages with History of Art. I'll be blogging about my experiences as a final year student at the University of Leicester and letting you know how I'm coping after having just spent a year abroad in Italy! Alongside my studies I'll be spending my 4th year as Secretary for the Erasmus and Exchange Society, so you can expect an insight into both the academic and social side of Leicester. I love art, travelling and meeting new people.
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