Instructions How to Write

Art History

Title/Name of the Work: (even if untitled, is should read as Untitled). Again, every time you mention the work’s title, is should be italicized. The title of the work (object you are writing about) should be italicized such as, “Thomas Cole’s painting, The Oxbow is reminiscent of….”Utilize a variety of terms in addition to the title to vary the language in your paper. You may use words such as the work, the sculpture, the painting, the photography, the piece, the work of art, etc.The paper is about ONE work of art.

Name of Artist: Please use the artist’s full name the first time you use the artist’s name. Thereafter, refer to the artist by last name, and for language variation consider alternating other words such as “the artist” “he or she.” Never use only the artist’s first name, or nicknames.

Use the Chicago Manual of Style: Citations can be in endnote or footnote form and you must accurately cite all sources, including lectures, online resources, museum labels, emails with the artist, docent talks, etc. Your bibliography should be in this style too. Please note that the Chicago style is discipline specific to Art History, and other disciplines use APA, MLA, etc. Do not pick and choose these writing styles or combine them to form a new style!

Research: Use a minimum of three SCHOLARLY resources, other than your text books. One of the sources must be a library data base electronically sourced document. You may also use your text book(s), but two sources from elsewhere. You are evaluated on the quality of your sources.

Common mistakes: An artist is not an “author” and a painting is not a photograph. Please know the medium of the work of art and reference it correctly in the essay. A sculptor makes sculpture, and photographer creates photographs.

Avoid Tangents in Body of the Paper: Complex points of debate or material which is necessary for background but somewhat tangential to your thesis can often be treated in Endnotes or Footnotes, so as not to interfere with your main argument.

Sentences: Short sentences are often easier to control. This helps you to make your points clearly and forcefully. Frequent paragraph divisions may also help to maintain interest and to separate thoughts from each other. How you handle sentence and paragraph divisions is naturally a matter of taste. But keeping things short will usually at least ensure that your points come over clearly, your first responsibility. You can go after elegance at a later stage.

Paragraphs: Each paragraph should contain one major point with advances your argument. Use about 3 or 4 paragraphs to a page. Don't write the paper as a "stream of consciousness" with the stages of the argument undifferentiated.

Quotations: Keep all quotes VERY short or NOT at all: I am more interested in what you have to say than in anyone else's words. In general, I prefer students paraphrasing information into their own words, and citing. Only quotations from artists/critics that are so uniquely interesting or well written should be used. If you can say it in your own way, do so with proper citations. Limit paper to one or two VERY SHORT quotes. All quotes must fit smoothly into the text. Acknowledge the source of all direct quotations in a footnote -- author, work, page etc.

Revisions/Re-writing/Editing: Upon completion of paper, do a minimum of 1-3 revisions, and use reading as part of the revision part of the process. Read the paper aloud, edit and re-write. Have someone proof-read your paper and ask them for feedback. After you have done at least three edited versions, you are almost ready to submit your paper. MANAGE DEADLINES!!

No No’s: Do not use colloquial or abbreviated English. Words to avoid: masterpiece, genius, fantastic, vibe, superb, artsy, terrific, great, awesome. Phrases to avoid: In conclusion, as a matter of fact, In summary, to start out, I guess, I anything, or me anything..remember third person. Do not ask questions within the paper. Do not write about the museum, or the exhibition the work is in. Don’t write, clever, gimmicky introductions that sound grandiose. Do not write about your experience as a visitor. Avoid vague flowery effusive language. Example: “The artist’s inherent genius is evident in this masterpiece.” Avoid disorganized and journal entry style writing. Some scholarly resources are necessary, but this is not just a research paper. Research should support your argument/observations about the work. Do NOT pad the essay with long unnecessary facts that do not pertain to your own observations about the work. Do not break up essay with subheadings, subtitles, or include your Roman numerals from your outline.

Biggest NO-NO: PLAGIARISM: You submit your paper via TURNITIN which is a plagiarism detector. Do not take even ONE SENTENCE from anyone, anywhere. If I find even one sentence that is not yours in turnitin, you will receive a zero, and may also face disciplinary action based on Irvine Valley College’s Plagiarism Policy. See IVC Catalog.

Museum Paper Requirements-Structure-Organization

The Cover Page: The first page of the paper (Must include: Artist, Title,(italicized) Date, Medium, your first and last name, name of the museum you visited and the date you visited, your paper title

Introduction: Start strongly. This is where you manage (or fail) to capture interest and thereby improve your grade. You need to provide the full name of the artist, title of work, brief factual information about the category of work, and you should introduce the argument/THESIS STATEMENT. A thesis statement should not be vague and wishy/washy, like “this artist did a great job because this work of art means different things to different people.” This should be one paragraph.

Brief Biography on artist: You need to address the broad context of the artist's life, time, style influences, and small specific details as you feel necessary. Don't put in every single fact about the artist's life but provide a good overview of who is this person, where are they from, what type of art they created and during what period of time. Here are questions for your notetaking and writing inspiration. I don't want a long list answering these questions but these prompts should help direct some of your research. What is important or noteworthy about this artist? Is this work emblematic of the artist’s work? Is this an unusual work compared to the other works created by the artist? Early/Middle/Late career work? Education, Family background, nationality, influences, inspiration for interest in creating this work. Any significant events that shaped the artist’s work. Achievements? Awards? Birth/Death dates? Where is his/her work collected, other than the museum you visited? What can you learn about the art making process, technique, materials? This should be between 1-3 paragraphs.

Description: When taking notes and beginning your writing, make sure you utilize all materials from your museum visit, notes, photographs, post-cards. Looking at the formal elements, describe, color, tones, scale, line/balance/form/texture/depth/lack of depth, etc. I need details, I want you to use your words to describe both the formal elements as stated above, as well as identifying all visually representative elements, such as: landscape, with trees, portrait, of female sitting in chair…and again, these MUST include a detailed description. Provide a comprehensive, organized description of the visual/formal characteristics of the work of art (color, line, scale, materials, etc), in addition to identifying any representational elements, identifiable or implied subject matter, and address the title of the work. I should understand what the work looks like, very well without seeing any images please. Do not attach an image to the paper. Please utilize art history terminology appropriately. This should be between 1-3 paragraphs.

Interpretation/Meaning: The interpretation follows after your research and description. What is the meaning of this work? This can come from your visual observations and research. The best arguments provide evidence from your observations and/or research. Marshall evidence to support your thesis. Using as much as you can from your Bio/Research/Description, and your gut responses, what argument/meaning can you derive from this work. This should be stated with those things stated in the paper that prove your thesis statement/and complete your interpretation…ie: what does it mean? This does not mean that you simply pile up facts. If others take different lines of argument on your topic, indicate why you agree or disagree with them. What did you learn about the artist’s intentions/if any? Do you agree? How the work of art succeeds or fails in terms of what you think the artist’s intentions were? This should be between 1-3 paragraphs.

Conclusion/Summary: Finish with a bang not a whimper. Not a simple restatement of thesis, but some cohesive details, go back to the title of work, date/materials, and provide information on how by looking at bio/your observations/research you came to the final conclusion/thesis statement proven…how did you prove it? Summarize the debate neatly in a paragraph or two. Save a point of interest to end on -- a comment on the significance of the subject, what is original about your argument, etc. The conclusion should reinforce, in the reader's mind, the persuasiveness of your whole argument. You should also wrap it up…meaning, do not just suddenly stop writing, create a summary. Your thoughts need to be coherent and organized with direction and flow, leading to your summary. This should be one paragraph.

Chicago Style: Citations-Footnotes or Endnotes: If you choose footnotes, they are included a the foot of each page, or endnotes are immediately after the essay, but before the bibliography. See example. Bibliography-In the Chicago style. This is an alphabetized list of all sources you used and cited throughout your paper. See example.

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