Conduct library research on it and its original cultural context, and write an a
Conduct library research on it and its original cultural context, and write an analysis organized around a thesis (a central argument or assertion about the artwork) that synthesizes (brings together) your own observations about the object with the information you learn from your research. To ensure that you have begun thinking about what you will be writing about and conducting research, your artwork choice and a preliminary bibliography of three scholarly sources. Choosing an Artwork and Making Notes To begin, you will need to select the artwork that you will be writing about. What is important is that you choose an artwork that interests you, one that you find intriguing and want to learn more about. Once you have chosen an artwork, spend some time closely observing it and taking notes about its features and attributes. Be as detailed and precise in your descriptions as possible. Consider all aspects of its appearance and the ways meaning is created not just through the subject matter (what is depicted), but also through its formal qualities (how it is depicted). It is also good to record your personal impressions of the artwork (e.g. “the depicted figure appears lifelike [or relaxed, or powerful, etc.]”), but always follow up such statements by trying to understand exactly what about the artwork causes you to think this. It is a good idea to make a sketch of the artwork, as this can help you to understand its forms and how they fit together more than just passive looking can. Researching Your Artwork Once you have spent time closely observing your artwork, the next step is to begin conducting research to find out what you can about it (or the general category of artwork to which it belongs) and the original cultural context for which it was made. While the web can be a useful resource and a good place to begin your research, the information found online is often spotty or inaccurate. Therefore, online sources are not allowed for this assignment. Rather, you are expected to find at least three scholarly sources (material that has been written by specialists and peer-reviewed) that you cite in your paper. Acceptable scholarly sources include full books or chapters from edited volumes published by academic presses, articles from peer-reviewed journals, and catalogs for major museum exhibitions. In addition to being scholarly, it is important that the sources you find are suitably relevant to your chosen artwork and help you to understand it. You might have to work your way through many sources to find three that are useful to you and the paper that you are writing. Books can be located through the library website, and articles can be found through databases available through the library, such as JSTOR and Academic Search Complete. In all cases, you will need to use keyword searches. If you are having trouble finding useful sources related to your topic, try adjusting your keywords to be either more narrowly focused or more broad in scope. When consulting sources, generally the more recent they are, the better, as older sources often contain information or interpretations that have become outdated. If you find some good initial sources that were published relatively recently, their bibliographies can point you to additional materials. If you need help, you can make an appointment with a librarian or reach out to the instructor for further guidance. Crafting a Thesis Statement Your paper must have a thesis statement or a central argument that organizes your discussion of the artwork you are writing about. In writing your paper you will be making a claim about the artwork, which should be supported with reference to the research you have done and the observations you have made about the artwork’s formal qualities. The thesis statement is a clear expression of this claim, typically in the first paragraph of the paper, so the reader knows what it is from the outset and can judge for themselves how convincingly you have supported your argument. Even though the claim is yours, it should be formulated without using the first person (e.g. “I will argue…”). See this helpful guide for examples of how to come up with a thesis statement and then adapt it to the third person. Although you are encouraged to come up with an original argument, you are also welcome to make an assertion about your chosen artwork that appears relatively obvious. The important thing is that you make a strong and contestable claim about the artwork (e.g. about its meaning, what it expresses, etc.) that is supported by both the research you have done and your own visual analysis. It is understood that your thinking about the artwork could change over the weeks you work on this paper assignment and that this might mean your thesis statement changes between February 28th and when you turn in your final paper. That is absolutely fine. The point of this earlier deadline is to ensure that your thinking about the artwork you have chosen to write about has progressed far enough for you to have formulated a workable preliminary thesis statement that can guide your further inquiries and writing process. Citations and Academic Honesty As you write your paper, you will be referring to facts or ideas you find in your research. Whenever you do so, you need to cite the source from which it came using a footnote and following the Chicago Manual of Style format. A footnote consists of a superscript number after the sentence containing the material being cited, and a (properly formatted) bibliographic entry at the bottom of the page introduced by the same superscript number. Most word processing applications (including Word and Google Docs) allow you to easily insert footnotes into your document as you work. All scholarly writing includes citations in order to 1) give credit to the scholar(s) responsible for the ideas or information being referred to, thereby situating one’s own writing within a lineage of past writings on the subject, and 2) enable future scholars to track down potentially useful material related to the subject. It is essential that you cite all information and ideas that originate from a source, whether you are using the exact original wording (in which case you must place the words within quotation marks) or you restate it in your own words (also called paraphrasing). The only exception is for common knowledge— something you can justifiably assume your reader will already know prior to reading your paper. When in doubt, you should cite. Failure to properly cite sources in your paper is plagiarism, a very serious infraction of academic ethics that will result, minimally, in the assignment receiving a failing grade. NOTE: Unintentional plagiarism is considered just as egregious an offense as intentional plagiarism, and ignorance of expectations is not considered an adequate defense. More information about plagiarism can be found here, and some strategies to avoid it can be found here. The Expectations for your Paper Your paper should: Be at least 1,250 words long, double-spaced, with a 12-point font. Include images at the end—labeled as fig. 1, fig. 2, etc.—that you refer to in the text. You must include at least one image of your artwork, and you may want to also include details, other views, or comparative images of other objects. Include properly formatted Chicago-style footnotes citing at least three appropriately scholarly sources relevant to your discussion (see above). Include, and be structured around a thesis. You should briefly introduce your object and clearly state your thesis in the introductory paragraph, and the rest of your paper should serve to support the argument you are making. If you are unsure about what a strong thesis statement looks like, more information can be found here. Include a title that relates specifically to your artwork and your thesis about it. Do not title your paper “Art History Paper” or something similarly generic. Be well constructed. Ideas should be logically developed in discrete paragraphs. Connections should be drawn—or transitions made—from one idea to the next and the full argument briefly restated in a concluding paragraph. Words should be carefully considered to convey ideas in the most precise or evocative way. Be grammatically sound. Proofread your paper multiple times before turning it in to catch any errors or typos. A handful of minor mistakes won’t count against you, but you will be marked down if the paper has so many grammatical issues that it becomes distracting. Use a sufficiently formal tone. Academic writing generally avoids the first person (the pronoun “I”) in favor of a more neutral, third-person voice. Your writing should also avoid using slang or the casual wording you might use when speaking. This is a matter of tone, not vocabulary. It is equally bad to use unnecessarily complex words or sentence structures, as these can trip up your reader. Keep things formal, but simple and clear.

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