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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

FSEM 100J2: Creating Art and Ideas: Home

Meet your librarian

The research assignment

The research assignment is broken into three parts. I've summarized the parts here, but this is merely a summary. Please see the official assignment description for the complete details.

  1. Topic
    • ​​​​​​​3-5 sentences about a potential topic.
  2. Bibliography
    • ​​​​​​​A list of seven potential sources.
    • Primary and secondary sources only (not tertiary).
    • Formatted in Chicago style.
    • On a separate page, write a 1-3 sentence description of each source.
  3. Research Paper
    • ​​​​​​​A 3-page research paper that cites at least 4 sources.

Types of sources

Here are the different types of sources that you'll use in your research:

  Primary sources Secondary sources Tertiary sources
What they are



Starting points

  • Artworks
  • Photos or videos
  • Interviews
  • Memoirs
  • Historical documents
  • SCHOLARLY analysis (books, journal articles)
  • POPULAR analysis (magazines, news articles, web articles)
  • Wikipedia
  • Reference books in Simpson Library
  • Webpages found by Googling
How they help you They provide evidence to support your statements. They tell you what other people think about your topic. They introduce you to new concepts and help you find citable sources -- but are not themselves citable.


Please make sure that your secondary sources are all scholarly analysis, not popular analysis. Here's the difference:

  • SCHOLARLY sources are written for a narrow audience of scholars (experts who specialize in a certain field).
  • POPULAR sources are written for a broad, general audience.

This video explains the difference in more detail:

Video credit: Carnegie Vincent Library at Lincoln Memorial University.


Use Quest to search the library's physical collection and the contents of most of the library's electronic databases.

Quest Logo
Search articles, books, and more...

Other tools you can use

The Wikipedia logo

Background information ("tertiary sources")

"Background information" means short overviews or summaries of a topic. It's also called "tertiary sources". Background information is commonly found in encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia.

Background information is really useful. It's meant to be used when you're first starting your research. It helps you find a topic and learn basic information about that topic. However, do not cite background information. The reason why you shouldn't cite it is that it is not original. It merely repeats and summarizes what other people have said. It's better to get the information straight from the original source.

There are plenty of encyclopedias in the Reference section on the first floor of Simpson Library. For art encyclopedias, look under letter N. I particularly recommend an art encyclopedia called the Dictionary of Art:



You can use Quest to search all subjects, or use individual databases to search specific subjects (such as Art & Art History). Out of the 200+ databases that UMW subscribes to, these are the most useful databases for this class:

Cartoon art of a book

Books in the library

Use Quest to discover books in the library, and then use call numbers to find those books on the shelves. Here's an explanation of how our call numbers work.

Books about art are shelved under letter N on the second floor. The N section is divided into several specific subject areas, each of which covers a particular topic within art.

My presentation to your class

Here are the PowerPoint slides for my presentation to your class. Click in the lower right corner to expand the slides to full screen.



Reference Librarian

Peter Catlin's picture
Peter Catlin

Other guides

These guides provide advice and recommendations for FSEMs in general, and for Art & Art History research.

The Citing Resources guide gives you examples of perfectly-formatted citations. Zotero is a free app that keeps track of the sources you've found, and generates citations without any typing.