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Art & Art History

This guide is intended to help you get started with your art research.

Getting Started

Writing your artist's statement, crafting a research paper on an artist or artwork, doing a visual analysis, preparing a digital exhibition, even creating a work of art - all these activities can require you to find relevant sources that inspire or inform whatever work you make. This is research.

This section provides tips on how to get started on your art and art history research.

If you are completely new to conducting research, take a look at our Learn the Library Guide to get some general tips and tricks on the research process, including choosing a topic, finding sources, writing, citing and more.

Search Terms

Once you've decided on a topic, the first step in your search is to brainstorm some keywords: the main concepts you are searching.

The main topics of your assignment will be your first keywords to use. You'll also need to think creatively about your topic and think about other terms people might use to describe your topic. Look to your course readings, or do some background research. Find synonyms or other useful terms from the terms used in relevant materials you have found.

Searching with a single term can yield a lot of results. To narrow, use a combination of search terms. You can connect these in a library search using Boolean Logic.

Boolean logic uses AND, OR and NOT to connect keywords.

“AND” - Narrows your search strategy - if your search strategy is: sculpture AND France

“OR” Broadens your search strategy - if your search strategy is: sculpture OR "installation art"

“NOT” Eliminates certain search terms - if your search strategy is: painting NOT watercolour


If you are searching for an exact phrase, use quotation marks around the phrase to ensure the catalogue or database searches for that combination of words.

contemporary painting will return resources that have the word contemporary OR painting in them

"contemporary painting" will return resources that contain the exact phrase "contemporary painting" in them.


Watch the video below for more examples of keywords and Boolean logic.