Library Subject Guides

Art: Assignment Research

Recommended databases

1. Define your topic

It might seem obvious, but the first step is to make sure you understand the topic.

1) Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question to help you develop a search strategy.

2) Work out why the topic is being been offered. Is it:

controversial ? complicated? what makes the topic interesting?

2. Gather background information

Use dictionaries and encyclopaedias to find definitions and background information. Articles from specialized subject encyclopaedias are authoritative and often substantial.

Browse a list of:

3. Think about what information you need

  • How much information do you need? Lecturers often give guidelines on the number of sources you should use.
  • Do you need current information or is older material relevant? Sometimes you might need both, as you might have to give both the historic background and the current thinking on a topic.
  • Do you need primary sources that give an original accounts from the time and place, or secondary sources which are interpretations of someone else's work?

If you don't understand what you have to do for an assignment, ask your lecturer, your tutor or someone at the Learning Skills Centre.

4. Find books

Search the Library catalogue:

  • Check for ARTH books on High Demand
  • Use Title, Subject and Keyword anywhere searches to find additional material.
  • When you find a useful title, click on its subject headings to find books on similar subjects.
  •  Browse the library shelves in the classification sequence for Art

Read more on:

5. Find journal articles

The catalogue lists journal titles, but not the titles of the articles inside the journals. To find these you'll need to search the recommended databases for Art (see box above, on left).
Read more on:

If you can't find the kind of information you want on these databases, ask a subject librarian - we can help you choose the right database and the right keywords to use.

6. Find information on the internet

 The internet has a lot of information, but not all of it is useful or reliable. Consider the source of the page. Suitable sources are

  • a government department
  • an academic or university department
  • a research institute

Use the Advanced Search features of Google to restrict your search to results from reputable sources.

See our list of  useful web sites for Art.

Do not use articles directly from Wikipedia, although you can use its content (eg keywords or phrases) to search other sources

Use Google Scholar to find academically reliable journal articles. Adjust the Scholar Preference to recognise the University of Canterbury, and you will get full text whenever it is available through our library subscriptions.

For information on evaluating websites, see:

Evaluating Web Sites: Criteria and Tools (Cornell University)


7. Analyze your sources

Learning how to determine the relevance and authority of a given resource for your research is one of the core skills of the research process.

For information on analyzing sources, see:

Critically Analyzing Information Sources (Cornell University)


8. Cite your sources

 Look professional and keep out of trouble by citing all the sources of information you use in your essay, using the MLA Referencing style

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9. Write your assignment

The Library has some useful writing and research guides for this subject area.



Liaison Librarian

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Elizabeth Cooke
Central Library, Puaka-James Hight
ext. 93898

Normal working hours: Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 9am-1pm
Subjects: Arts