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Developing Research Questions
Once you have selected a topic, the next step is to develop research questions.
- Write down what you already know or don't know about the topic.
- Use that information to develop questions.
- Use probing questions. (why? what if?)
- Avoid "yes" and "no" questions.
Purpose of Background Research
Once you have identified some keywords, the next step is to find background information on your topic. Background research:
- Provides a good overview of the topic if you are unfamiliar with it.
- Helps identify important facts -- terminology, dates, events, history, organizations, etc.
- Can help refine your topic.
- Leads to bibliographies which provide additional sources of information.
Sources of Background Information
Background information can be found in:
- general encyclopedias
- subject-specific encyclopedias
- article databases
Use the sources listed on the Academy of Art Library's subject guides.
Oxford Art This link opens in a new window
An online encyclopedia of world art and art history, spanning from prehistoric to modern art. Contains artist biographies, information about art movements, timelines of world art, definitions of art terms, and links to image collections.
Picking your Topic is Research
What is a Concept Map?
A concept map is a good way to begin the research process.
- help you to graphically represent and organize ideas.
- show how those ideas are related to each other.
- help you translate your ideas into a manageable topic.
- generate questions to focus on in your research.
Example: Compare and contrast two works of art
What do or don't I know about the two works of art?
- I know they are from two different period styles.
- I know where and when the work was created.
- I know who the artists were for each work and some biographical information about them.
- I know that the work that was produced later has a direct reference to the earlier work.
- I know what type of composition, perspective and colors are used to create the work.
- I know what type of work it is. (religious, historical, allegorical, still life, portrait, landscape, etc.)
I don't know:
- what criteria I will use to compare and contrast the works of art.
- why these particular works are considered significant in the art periods they represent.
- what elements or images repeat and what do these patterns mean.
- the political, societal, and religious context in which the art works were produced
- What are the visual elements, symbolism, and/or iconography in each work of art?
- How do the formal/visual elements convey theme, mood or meaning?
- What is the subject matter or story of each work?
- What is the function of each piece?
- Were the artists who created these works primary or secondary artists in the art period they worked in?
- What political, societal, or religious situation or figure do the works represent?