UCB Libraries

WRTG 1150: Writing Words, Writing Images

  • Getting Started
  • Find Books
  • Find Articles
  • Find Images
  • Evaluate & Cite Sources


Contemporary artists and their work can be difficult to research simply because it takes time for a large body of scholarship (books, articles, etc.) to develop around a given topic. In addition, certain media and groups of artists are marginalized or under-represented in traditional research resources like books and journal articles.This guide will help you get started on your research. As always, if you need additional help, feel free to contact your Art & Architecture Librarian via email or phone.


Finding Basic Information in Reference Sources

Reference sources such as dictionaries and encyclopedias are a valuable tool for learning more about the work or the artist(s) you have chosen. These sources can provide basic information to place your topic in a larger historical, theoretical, or formal context.


Oxford Art Online

Provides access to the Grove Dictionary of Art, the most important reference work for art history. Individual entries are written by scholars in the field and typically include a bibliography of relevant resources.


The Art & Architecture Reference Collection contains a number of specialized dictionaries and encylopedias. Please feel free to browse the collection to see what is available. Examples of the kinds of works you will find include:


The Concise Focal encyclopedia of photography

Art & Arch REF TR9 .C65 2008


The Oxford dictionary of American art and artists

Art & Arch REF N6505 .M59 2007


The queer encyclopedia of the visual arts

Art & Arch REF N72.H64 Q44 2004


Encyclopedia of Latin American and Caribbean art

Art & Arch REF N6502 .E53 1999


An encyclopedia of women artists of the American West

Art & Arch REF N8214.5.U6 K68 1998


What are you looking for?

Choosing appropriate search terms is an important first step in the research process. Take a few moments to brainstorm a list of keywords that describe your topic. For contemporary artists, this list could include the artist's name or particular groups and movements the artist belongs to. Also pay close attention to art dealers, galleries, or exhibitions mentioned in a resource as these may provide additional clues to locating information on an artist.


For example, if you were interested in the work of Nikki S. Lee (Korean-born photographer and filmmaker, currently active in the US), some of your keywords could include:


Artist's Name: Nikki S. Lee

Other Names: Nikki Lee
Prominent Works: Projects; Parts; AKA Nikki S. Lee

Dealer or Gallery Representation: Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
Media: Photography, Film

Stylistic, Theoretical, or Conceptual Terms: feminism, gender, race, representation


When searching for books, articles, and other material, the artist's name will likely be the most useful search term. However, taking time to think about other aspects (media, conceptual or theoretical concepts, etc.) can be helpful for organizing potential ideas for your paper or project.




Chinook is the catalog for materials owned by the CU Libraries. You can do a title search for a specific book, or a keyword search if you are looking for books on a particular topic. You can also use MyChinook to manage your library account (including renewals, holds, recalls, saved searches, etc.)

Chinook Catalog

When searching Chinook, you can connect your keywords using terms like AND, OR, NOT. You can also used parentheses, quotation marks, and asterisks.




AND: Cindy Sherman AND Gender
(must find both terms)

Phrases: “Cindy Sherman” (must find phrase in that order)

OR: film stills OR photography (must find one of the terms)

Synonyms: (gender OR sexuality) AND photography

NOT: performance NOT theater (must find first term and not second term)

Wildcards: feminis* will find feminism, feminist, feminists, etc.


Prospector - How to Find Books @ Other Libraries in Colorado

If you search Chinook and find that the CU Libraries do not have the item you are looking for (or if the item you are looking for is checked out), you can search Prospector, which is a combined library catalog of many libraries in Colorado and Wyoming.


Prospector is the FASTEST way to get a book if it is unavailable here at CU-Boulder.



WorldCat is an online catalog for over 9,000 libraries in the US and world wide, and it allows you to do a more thorough search than Chinook because you are not limited to only the items we already own. Instead, you are effectively searching the catalogs of most major libraries world wide.


For any books you find in WorldCat, you will be able to see if CU-Boulder owns that item. If you find something in WorldCat that we do not own, you should:

  1. Search Prospector to see if the book is available. If it is, request it via Prospector. The book will typically arrive in a few days, and you'll receive an email when it is ready for pick up.
  2. If the book isn't available via Prospector, you can request it via Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Please be aware that items ordered via ILL can take up to several weeks to arrive. Obviously, if your assignment is due very soon, this will not be an option.


Interlibrary Loan
If the item you are looking for is not in Chinook or Prospector, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Generally, an ILL request will take longer to be delivered than material requested through Prospector.



Accessing Resources from Off Campus
In order to use the databases listed below (and any other licensed resources provided by the library), you MUST download, install, and run VPN software. For more information about VPN, please see the library's page on Off Campus Access.


Choosing a Database

You will not find articles in Chinook. In order to find individual articles on your topic, you will need to use a database. The library provides access to hundreds of databases, and many of them focus on a particular discipline such art, art history, or film studies.


The Find Articles & More page provides access to all of these resources and arranges them by topic. To see databases for art, click on the plus sign next to "Art & Art History." To see databases for film, click on the plus sign next to "Film Studies."


Relevant Databases for Your Assignment

Art Bibliographies Modern
ABM covers journal articles, books, essays, exhibition catalogs, PhD dissertations, and exhibition reviews on all forms of modern and contemporary art.


Art Full Text
An excellent general resource for art, art history, and related topics.  Covers a range of media in all periods, with publications going back to 1929.


Film and Television Literature Index
Covers the entire spectrum of television and film writing, including film & television theory, preservation & restoration, writing, production, cinematography, technical aspects, and reviews.



Full text of articles from important scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences.


LexisNexis Academic

Contains the full text of national, international, and regional news, newswires, transcripts, magazine articles, legal and business information, public opinion polls, and other sources.  Very useful for finding exhibition and film reviews.



Image Resources from the Libraries


Over one million images of visual and material culture, covering all geographic areas and historical periods. VPN required for off-campus access.


Art & Art History Collection via CU Digital Library

Maintained by the Department of Art & Art History Visual Resources Collection. Provides access to a growing collection of high-quality digital images. VPN required for off-campus access.


AP Images

Search for images from the Associated Press. Useful for finding images from newspapers, magazines, wires, etc. Excellent source for contemporary photos of historical sites. VPN required for off-campus access.


Image Resources on the Web

Flickr & Flickr Commons

Useful source for images of architecture and historical sites. Note that user-contributed photos vary in quality. Flickr Commons contains images from photographic archives, museums, and libraries.


Google Image Search

Use the advanced search options to find larger, higher quality images.



Scholarly vs. Popular Sources





Original research presented with evidence, critical arguments, and other material.

Discussion includes personal opinions, and typically focuses on material for entertainment or leisure.


Author's credentials are given, usually a scholar with subject expertise.

Author may or may not be named; often a professional writer; may or may not have subject expertise.


Editorial board is listed on cover or near the Table of Contents. Some publications may also note that articles are refereed by peer reviewers.

No editors listed and no referee process described.


Scholars, researchers, students.

General public; the interested non-specialist.


May use specialized terminology.

Vocabulary in general usage; understandable to most readers.

References (Endnotes, Footnotes, etc)

Required. All quotes and facts can be verified. A bibliography is also usually included.

Rare. Little, if any, information about sources.


Contribute to your understanding of the text; could include diagrams, charts, or other technical material.

Often merely provide pleasing visual content rather than support for assertions in the text.

Example Publication

Art in America

American Artist


Citation Styles & Management

For information about citing print and electronic sources in a range of styles, see “How to Cite a Source.”


Using MLA Style? See the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Using Chicago Style?  See the Chicago Style Quick Guide or the full version of the Chicago Manual of Style.


Writing a longer paper and need to keep track of citations? RefWorks is a web-based citation management tool that allows you to save citations and retrieve them later using "Find it at CU" buttons. Citations from most databases can be easily exported directly to RefWorks.


Need More Help?

Wondering if you're citing something correctly? Or maybe you need help with structuring your paper? Take advantage of the CU Writing Center. Making an appointment with a consultant at the Writing Center allows you to receive one-on-one help with your writing.


Want to speak with a librarian right now? You can contact us in person, via the phone, or even over IM. Use the Ask Us page to chat with a librarian even if you're away from campus.