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BC1212: First-Year Writing - The Americas (Rosenthal)

About this Guide

Welcome to my research guide for The Americas

Here you will find resources to help you with your art history research. Use the side navigation to find:

You can book and appointment with me by following this link, or by using the "Book Now" button in my profile box on the left.


Image: Andés de Islas, Retrato de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, 1772. Oil on canvas. Museo de América. Wikimedia Commons. 

The Research Process

Developing a research question

Developing a research question can feel like an impossible first step. In the beginning it is helpful to keep your ideas broad, and then hone in on your research question as you encounter new materials. Often it is through the process of research itself that we find a research topic.

Research is iterative. There is no correct way to do research, but the following guidelines might be useful to keep in mind as you begin:

  • Pick a text that interests you and a theme or idea that you want write about
  • Come up with a preliminary question, but keep it loose
  • Brainstorm some keywords to help you begin your research

Finding background information

Background information is useful for getting your footing on an unfamiliar topic. 

  • Use web resources like Wikipedia and Google searches to brainstorm and identify additional keywords for your topic
  • For authoritative reference resources (see the reference resources tab) to back up things you found on the web. These resources:
    • Are written by scholars in their fields, so you can trust the information they provide
    • Give you an overview of your topic,  background information, and help define terms you aren't familiar with
    • Contain bibliographies to help you find more information related to your topic
    • Can help you find more keywords, phrases, people and ideas to further your research

Refining your topic

After gathering your background information, refine your initial topic and question based off of what you learned. A good rule of thumb: if there is an entire book on your topic, it is too broad for a research paper. On the other hand, if the topic can be discussed in a few paragraphs, then it is too narrow.

Example: "The role of women in the plays of Shakespeare" is too broad because hundreds of books and articles have been written on this topic; "The symbolism of Ariel's costume in the Tempest" is likely too narrow because there are not enough books and articles discussing this specific detail.

Remember, don't worry if refining your topic happens more than once!