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AH 10: Origins and Transformations in Western Art (Paqua)

Welcome AH 10

Spring 2017

How to Use This Guide

Hello and welcome to the DiMenna-Nyselius Library! My name is Lisa Thornell and I am the librarian who will be helping you begin your research project in class today. You can use this course guide as a starting point for your research in our library research session and for the remainder of the semester.

Research Librarians are here to help you with your assignment so please contact us should you need any assistance. You can stop by the Library Services and Information Desk when you are in the library, contact us via instant message on email, text us at (203) 295-7542, or schedule an individual research appointment. Additional information about library hours, citation help, etc. is located on the library home page

Starting Your Research:

Use the steps in the boxes below to refine your research topic before beginning. It will save you time!

Before you even begin your research, find your selected work of art on the museum's website, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Yale University Art Gallery. It is important to have this in front of you so that you can use your formal analysis skills and the details provided in the museum's catalog record to formulate some research topics or questions.

Class Example: Dionysus on Ship with Dolphins by Exekias

Title: Dionysus on ship with dolphins, interior of an Attic black-figure kylix

By: Exekias

Retrived from: ARTstor

Common Misconceptions About This Assignment

  • I will find sources that refer directly to my work of art and / or artist. Not necessarily / probably not!
  • I will know what my paper thesis is when I begin researching. It's important to ask many questions about the artwork and seek answers to those questions through your research before refining your thesis.
  • I will be able to find all of my sources online. While this guide does include many valuable online sources, in the past, many students have found their best information in print books.

Step 1: Formulating and Clarifying Your Research Topic

The Research Assignment (from Prof. Paqua's handout):

  • Your research will focus on one of the following topics in relation to your artwork: religion, war, politics, family, the artwork's original environment

Think of questions relating to your chosen work of art in the context of your research assignment requirements (above). These questions may relate to the object's:

  • subject and symbolism
  • historical context
  • style and function

Hint: Doing a thorough visual analysis of the art prior to this will help you generate questions. Also use details from the museum's information associated with the art to inform these questions.

Question Examples:

What interests you about the object? What do you notice?

Think: Who, What, When, Where, Medium, Subject, Composition/style

  •     Who is Exekias? (artist)
  •     What is a kylix? (what)
  •     When did he live? (historical context)
  •     Where? What era & place must I research? (historical context)
  •     What medium did he use? (materials and form)
  •     What is the subject? Who is Dionysus?
  •     Why was it made? (function)
  •     What distinguishes this artist’s style from others?

Step 2: Gathering Sources

You can use this guide to locate sources that will help answer your questions. 

Look at your research questions and decide what category each one falls into.


If I want to find out information about a Greek or Egyptian mythological figure, I would probably start with the subject matter and symbolism tab, and possibly also check the historical context tab afterwards.

If I want to learn about sculpting techniques or how a piece of jewelry was made, I would look under the style and function tab first. 

Also, use your research questions to isolate and brainstorm keywords that you can use to search online sources and look up in the index of print sources.

Step 3: Writing your paper

Refer to the assignment instructions, which include:


  • Introduction

Introduce your work of art (artist if known, title, period/date, country where it was created, museum and city where it is located today, subject, medium, scale), summarize the topic of your research, and state your thesis. Write the introduction after you have completed the paper. Do not include irrelevant background information or grand overarching statements, stay focused on your artwork.


  • Thesis

Your thesis will be your statement of the main idea of your paper. It links your visual analysis to your research theme or themes (religion, politics, war, original environment, family) in a creative, original manner—do not just re-word what someone else has written.

"A good thesis is not the assertion of an undisputed fact (The vase was created in Classical Greece) nor is it a broad, obvious generalization that cannot be supported interestingly (Vases were important in ancient Greece). Normally a thesis names the topic and makes an assertion about it that the writer will support with details later in the essay." (Barnet, 13)  (On this kylix depicting Theseus and the Minotaur, the vase painter uses the red-figure painting medium to emphasize Theseus’ muscles and strength as a symbol of the Athenians’ power.)


  • Description/Focused visual analysis

Discuss the subject and style, what the artist expresses and how he or she does so (style); focus on aspects that relate to your research and thesis.


  • Research  (visual analysis and research can be combined together if you like) *****this is where you include your findings from the sources you locate using this course guide

Your paper will incorporate research from three or more sources (not your textbook, class lectures, World Encylopedia, Encyclopedia Brittanica, or websites that are not those of a museum/on the library webguide/approved by your professor). Relate your research findings to your thesis and your visual analysis. Make sure your paragraphs are organized in a logical manner, and each one has a single theme.

Step 4: Citing your Sources

All sources that you summarize or quote must be cited in a footnote, Chicago style. At the end of your paper will be a bibliography of works cited in the paper. At least FIVE citations required. See the Chicago Citations tab of this guide for resources to help you cite.

Some databases may include a built-in citation tool that wil provide you with the Chicago style citation. For print sources, and other online sources that do not provide the citation, you will need to use the Citation guide. First determine what type of source you have (ex: book, ebook, website), then find the category it fits into on the Chicago guide, then follow the formula to plug in the components needed. Ex: author last name, first name, title of work, etc.

Include an image of the subject of your paper, and others you reference. Label them "figure 1", "figure 2," and direct your
reader to them by figure number. Under the picture, indicate the source where the picture is from (Met website, etc.)
"The image of Hercules at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (figure 1) bears a strong resemblance to one in the Louvre
(figure 2).