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Art Research (Art Education, Art History, Fine Art, Design): Basic Art/Art Education/Art History Research

Quick Research Steps

  1. Define your topic as clearly and as completely as possible. Write down the main concepts as keywords, and then write down some synonyms for these keywords.
  2. Locate background information in encyclopedias, dictionaries, reference books, and other online sources. Example: Oxford Art Online
  3. Search SouthernSearch for books.  Note the call number and availability for materials in Buley Library. You must sign in  (enter your username and password) to request materials from other CSCU libraries.
  4. Search the Art Databases and print indexes for journal articles available in Buley Library, online, and in other libraries. Locate reproductions and images using the databases and Artstor.
  5. Use Interlibrary Loan (ILL) services if needed
  6. Document your sources

1. Define your topic

       Define your topic as clearly as possible. Before you begin looking for information, take some time to brainstorm your topic. Write down the main concepts as keywords, and then write down some synonyms for these keywords.

2. Locate background information

      Reference Sources (such as Encyclopedias and Dictionaries) present an overview of a topic and will also include links and lists of additional sources. Many reference sources are available online, while other paper volumes are located on the first floor in Buley Library and are marked with “Ref” before the call number. Here are some examples of art reference sources in the stacks and online:

  • Oxford Art Online
  • Oxford Reference includes The Oxford Companion to Western Art, The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, and the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms.
  • ArtStor- Digital Image Library
  • Dictionary of Art (Groves): Ref N31 D5-- Visual arts from prehistory to the 1990's in 34 volumes.

3. Use SouthernSearch to locate books and library materials on your topic


SouthernSearch is the shared library catalog for CSCU libraries. Use the SouthernSearch pull down menu to search for books and collections, articles, ebooks and course reserve material. Take note of the location of the book and the call number. SCSU students can request materials from other CSCU libraries by signing in with their username and password.

4. Search the online databases and indexes for journal articles

For a complete guide to finding articles see the Research Guide: Finding Articles in Periodicals.

The library subscribes to indexing tools in paper form as well as in the form of online databases. There are general as well as subject-specific databases and indexes. Refer the database tab above for links to the databases available through Buley Library. If you need retrospective materials from pre-1980's, then you will need to use some of the paper indexes in the library, for example Art Index, since it will lead you to citations of articles back to the 1920's. Ask a librarian for assistance with selecting the appropriate databases or if you are doing retrospective searching. 

General Tips for Database Searches:

  • Combine terms with "and" to limit your search. The search ‘impressionism and American' returns records where both terms appear. This will limit your search because both terms must be present in the record.
  • Use parentheses to combine 2 or more search strings:
    • (realism or naturalism) and art
  • Use quotation marks to keep words together as a phrase: “American Impressionists”

Once you have found the citations to the articles you need, the next step is to locate the articles. Some databases will include full-text documents, however in other cases you need to retrieve them from our collection, or from interlibrary loan. In our library, journals and newspapers are located on the ground floor (basement) level and are shelved alphabetically by the title of the journal.

5. Use the Journal Locator to access articles

Search the journal finder by the title of the journal to find out whether the article is available in full-text from any of our online databases, or if it is available in our print or microforms collections. Note that not all of the articles will be available in the full text format.

6. Use Interlibrary Loan services if necessary

If you need to request materials outside of the CSCU system, you may request these through the Interlibrary Loan. Interlibrary Loan is listed under "Services" on the Buley Library Homepage.

7. Document your Sources

Citing Books, Articles, Online Resources, and Information on the Web

       When researchers and scholars use books, articles, and other electronic sources, they need guidelines for formatting citations to those documents. Sometimes your instructor will indicate which guidelines they want you to use. There are printed style guides (such as the MLA Handbook or the APA Publication Manual ) available at the reference desk. These are some easy tools as well as links to more information about citing sources.


Sample citations from Chicago Manual of Style (A style chart from Purdue)


Duke University : Citing Sources The University of Wisconsin-Madison: Writing Center Purdue University : The Owl at Purdue

Arts and Special Collections

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Tina Re

Tina Re, Arts and Special Collections
(203) 392-5597

Borrowing Library Materials

Borrowing Library Materials

  • Your hootloot card functions as your library card
  • A maximum of 50 items can be check out
  • Books circulate for 28 days (Undergraduates) or 120 days (Graduate Students) and can be renewed twice. Library books are subject to recall after 2 weeks.
  • Media (CDs, DVDs, VHS ) circulate for one week

Requests for books from other CSCU libraries are done through the catalog. Select Buley Library as the pick-up location

Return materials at the Circulation/checkout desk or the drop box outside of the library.

Library materials that do not circulate include items in these collections: Reference Collection, Special Collections, Periodicals Collection and the Microfilm/Microfiche Collection