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SSI1-120: Hagia Sophia: From the Emperor's Church to the Sultan's Mosque

Research Tactics

Get organized by keeping a record of what you've searched along with keywords and subject terms. If you need help organizing your time, search Google for an assignment calculator.

If you are unfamiliar with your topic, establish basic facts, including artist, alternate tiles of the work, dates,  period, etc. Use Oxford Art Online or any overview.

Start with Primo to find books and selected articles and request books not owned by Collins through SUMMIT.

Use Google Books to search inside a book and then search Primo to borrow the book.

Use bibliographies and reviews of books to gain an understanding of the state of current scholarship on your topic.

Try cited searching. One very useful feature of Google Scholar is its ability to allow for easily finding subsequent articles which have cited a particular article that you have located.

Go beyond JSTOR. Search multiple databases for the most current scholarly conversations for journals. Limit searches to scholarly or peer reviewed journals.When you find relevant articles, review the bibliography for even more articles.  Use interlibrary loan to request articles not available fulltext.

Art research is international in scope and you will discover many sources are written in other languages. If you do not have a reading knowledge of the language, keep in mind that the source may still be useful for illustrations and the bibliography.

Basic Research Methodology: Using Sources

As you encounter sources, think about the ways in which they can be used in researching and writing about art. The illustration below identifies four uses.

BEAM Framework

BEAM is a framework for thinking about the various ways in which a resource might be used to make a researched argument.

What could a writer do with this source?

Background: general information, establish facts

Exhibit: explicate, interpret, analyze

Argument: affirm, dispute, refine, extend

Method: critical lens, key terms, theory, style, perspective, discourse

Types of Sources: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary

For your research assignments, professors may request that you use different types of sources, including primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.

Primary sources are the raw materials of research. They provide firsthand access to words, images, or objects created directly by the persons involved in the activity or event. The value of primary sources is that they allow the researcher to get as close as possible to the original work. It is important to note that the types of information that can be considered primary sources may vary depending on the subject discipline, and also on how you are using the material. Time is also a defining element.

Primary Source Examples: works of art and architecture, letters, diaries, interviews, original documents, anything produced during that time period; Artstor is one specific example of a image database that includes primary sources.

Secondary sources discuss, report on, or provide commentary about primary sources. They are important to researchers as they offer an interpretation of information gathered from primary sources.

Secondary Source Examples: journal, magazine & newspaper articles, biographies, monographs; Mirror affect: seeing self, observing others in contemporary art is one example of a secondary source.

Tertiary sources  present summaries, condense, or collect information from primary and/or secondary sources. They can be a good place to look up facts, get a general overview of a subject, or locate primary and secondary sources.

Tertiary Source Examples: encyclopedias, dictionaries, textbooks, handbooks, timelines, bibliographies; Oxford Art Online is one specific example of a tertiary source.

Types of Sources: Popular and Scholarly


Scholarly sources present sophisticated, researched arguments using both primary and secondary sources and are written by experts. Journals are examples of scholarly sources.

Popular sources aim to inform or entertain and are intended for a general, non-specialized audience.  In academic writing, popular sources most often are analyzed as primary sources. Magazines are examples of  popular sources.

To determine the difference between these two types of sources, ask yourself:

  • Who reads them?
  • Who writes them?
  • Who decides what get published in them?
  • What's in them?
  • What do they look like?
  • When are they available?
  • What can you use them for?