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How to write an art history paper?


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Collage of historical figures for a history paper

The history of art does far more than looking at genres, forms, and styles of art. It takes you to the world of your ancestors and allows you to look with their eyes on the state of things in a certain time and place; it helps to understand what they felt and thought. It shows how to analyze, compare and contrast, evaluate, and perceive all of the forms of art from different perspectives.

If you are struggling with an art history essay, try using these three simple tips that will help you to get the ball rolling:

  1. Pick a perfect topic.
    Such topic should be interesting and original so that you can write an art history paper about something you actually like. A perfect topic must also be quite precise and researchable, if you do not want to spend most of the time trying to gather some overly complex data.
  2. Do a thorough research.
    You will need to have a sufficient amount of background information to come up with a well-reasoned paper. Hence, it is necessary to find as much information on the topic as you can to have a clear understanding of what to write about.
  3. Choose your own point of view and stick to it.
    It is important to make a choice before you start working on a paper. As you have already done a research, you can evaluate the data and formulate a point of view based on factual information. Thus, it will be evident that you have thought over details and analyzed them in advance.

Art history paper outline: points to consider

When writing about art history, remember that the best example of essay structure is a well-known combination of introduction, body, and conclusion. Outlining the paper, you should decide what kind of information will go in each block and exactly which points you want to cover in paragraphs. Also, you need to come up with a comprehensive thesis, which will present the key message of the whole essay in a single sentence. Art history thesis statement is a thing you have to come back to and focus on after you outline all of the other parts, so that you could make it more concise and accurate.

How to write a good introduction?

Usually before writing any paper, you should study a number of selected and recommended readings, i.e. scientific publications of renown scientists. Then, use the knowledge obtained from these sources to:

  • determine the generally accepted position of reputable scientists;
  • identify the controversial issues or the insufficiently covered ones;
  • generalize the current state of the problem and formulate your own point of view.

If you include key information on all of the abovementioned points in your introductory part, it will come out concise and logically structured.

Thesis statement for an art history paper

In any essay or other scientific paper, it is extremely important to convey your thoughts to the reader. Therefore, it is necessary to come up with a concise thesis statement. Before you start writing, you should carefully study the topic.

The first step is to clearly formulate the thought that will be argued. In order to find out whether the statement is coherent and concise, you need to read it to several different people. If they don’t have any questions regarding the understandability of your point of view, you can proceed to the next stage of work.

How to write the body (a paragraph or a few chapters)?

The main part should contain only the relevant material that was selected for consideration when studying the knowledge base on the topic. All of it should be divided into chapters or paragraphs, according to the outline. Each chapter should have a title that reflects its main content. If you are writing a short paper, like an essay, every paragraph of the main part should contain the key statement. Consecutively reveal all the arguments, justify, explain, and back them up with specific examples and facts.

Conclusion in an art history paper: what to do and not to do?

When writing a good conclusion to any paper it is important to stay brief and avoid repetition of ideas and phrases. Also, there are points that should definitely be avoided:

  • Presenting completely new ideas. If they are really important, include them in the body;
  • Using indefinite statements. Be confident in your statements. Avoid phrases like “although I am not an expert” or “this is my personal opinion”;
  • Focusing on minor unimportant details;
  • Refuting the validity of arguments given in the body part.

Art history paper format

When writing an art history paper, consider all the requirements put forward in the assignment sheet. If no specific instructions have been given, you may use any formatting style, but most commonly APA is used for this kind of papers. Here are some basic tips you should follow when you’ve been given an art history writing assignment:

  • Make sure that style, format, and word count of the paper comply with the guidelines. Also, consider the spacing, font, and number of sources you need to include. Check whether you have followed all the instructions once again before you submit the paper.
  • Take some time to proofread and edit the paper. Always read the paper upon completion carefully. You may realize that some of sentences or paragraphs make no sense or do not reflect the topic, but it is better to face these issues before you submit the paper than get a bad mark.

Ideas for art history essay topics

If you are struggling with the choice of a good topic, here are some ideas that might help you:

  • The most famous pieces of art of a chosen era (brief characteristics)
  • Compare and contrast ancient Greek and Roman sculptures
  • Humanism in Renaissance art: characteristic features
  • Fashion and beauty standards of a chosen era (on the example of several paintings or sculptures)
  • Gothic style in art and architecture
  • Baroque and Rococo comparative analysis (with the most prominent examples)
  • The peculiarities of Van Gogh’s paintings
  • The role of light in the works of Claude Monet
  • The peculiarities of Salvador Dali’s surrealism in paintings and sculptures
  • Stained glass as a form of art and its development throughout the history

Writing a paper on art history is a great opportunity to not only learn more, but also to develop a personal taste, understand your own preferences in art, and gain analytical skills applicable in various spheres.

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