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Art and Art History: Reference Sources

Why Use Reference Sources?

Reference sources are good places to gather background information on a topic or get ideas when choosing a topic.

Background information:

  • definitions
  • specific factual information such as dates
  • overviews or summaries of topics
  • recommendations for additional sources
  • research vocabulary

Types of reference sources

  • specialized encyclopedias
  • dictionaries
  • directories
  • statistical compilations
  • handbooks
  • bibliographies

First Steps

For background information, start with an exhaustive reference work such as  Oxford Art Online . Both the 'Guided Tour' and 'Tips for Users' (available from the Home page) provide useful information on searching.

Bibliographies located in books or at the end of journal articles can be very helpful. 

Online Reference Sources

Print Reference Sources

The Reference Collection on the 3rd Floor of Dimond Library is another good place to start your research. Reference sources can provide background on your area of study, help you focus your topic, and serve as a springboard to other research.  

In our collection you'll find:

  • dictionaries
  • general encyclopedias (such as World Book)
  • specialized encyclopedias that go into depth on one particular area of study
  • almanacs
  • bibliographies

Check with your instructor to verify which reference sources may be cited in your project and which should be used for background research only.