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VISC-1001 Course Library Guide

Starting Your Research with Encyclopedias

The ViSC-1001 research paper has two starting points:

  1. Address a theme in art history or visual culture
  2. Select an artwork or design object from an art gallery or museum in the GTA to explore this theme

Encyclopedias like Credo and Oxford Art Online are great for generating ideas about your theme and object. They provide quick and accessible insight while providing an alternative to Wikipedia which is discouraged for the first-year paper. While subscription databases can be less user friendly than Google, they information not available on the open web. Click on the videos on the left for a demonstration of how to use Credo and Oxford Art Online.

Scholarly sources like Credo function similarly to popular sources like Wikipedia

Library tools like Credo and the Library Search site are similar to popular platforms we use every day such as Wikipedia and Google.

While you may cite encyclopedias in your paper, they should not be all you rely on. Scholarly books and articles should make up the bulk of your library research. Credo and Oxford Art Online will provide you with terminology, historical context, and a quick understanding of new concepts to help guide your writing. 

Research your theme (Credo Reference)

James Young, in Critical Terms for Art History quotes Lewis Mumford who wrote:
  • [T]he actual consequence of a memorial's unyielding fixedness in space is also its death over time: a fixed image created in one time and carried over into a new time suddenly appears archaic, strange, or irrelevant altogether. For in its linear progression, time drags old meaning into new contexts, estranging a monument's memory from both past and present, holding past truths up to ridicule in present moments.

Research your object (Oxford Art Online)

Doran Ross, in Grove Art Online, writes

  • Probably the single most important Akan art free-standing, figurative funerary terracottas. Created as memorials to chiefs or other important individuals, the terracottas often represented not only the deceased but also surviving members of the court or family of the person being honoured. Generally, these figures were not grave-markers, but rather were situated at sacred spaces near the cemetery or, less commonly, in shrine or ancestral-stool rooms. Typically, they were given offerings of food and libations from time to time. In a few Akan areas, figurative terracottas, or in some cases terracotta heads, represent local deities rather than ancestors.

From these two excyclopedia sources we quickly gain valuable insight into one way of making sense of our theme as well as important information about what our object was used for and what it represented. We even have two sources for our references list (though encyclopedias should only make up part of your cited materials.

This information will guide the next steps in our research - setting a working thesis.


Ross, Doran H. "Akan." Grove Art Online. 2003. Oxford University Press. Accessed 11 May. 2020,

Young, James E. "Memory/Monument." Critical Terms for Art History, edited by Robert S. Nelson, and Richard Shiff, The University of Chicago Press, 2nd edition, 2003. Credo Reference, Accessed 11 May 2020