Skip to main content
Research Guides

Art: Art Research Process

This guide offers the top recommended resources for Art, Art History, and Design.

Searching Tips I - V

I. Reference Resources

Oxford Reference Online

Oxford Reference Online is a useful tool when you want to find background information on a specific subject, such as Art In International Relations or the Oxford Dictionary of Art. In addition to background information, articles in reference resources usually include a bibliography of resources.

For additional print resources,  click on the "Get Started: Art Reference" tab in this guide.

II. Keywords and Subject Headings in Library Catalogs

In preparation for searching for Art, Art History, or Design related topics in library catalogs and databases, you may want to think of a list of terms to use. As well, it is important to consider resources that can help you brainstorm keywords to use. For example, reference materials will often contain key terminology used throughout the ages.

Sample List of Keywords & LC Subject Headings


  • Art and design

  • Applied art

  • Semiotics

  • Typography

  • Universal design

  • Visual communication

  • Visual anthropology

  • Visual persuasion

  • Visual intelligence

  • Specific movements, for example:

    • "Art Nouveau"

    • "Pre-Raphaelitism"

    • "Dadaism"

    • "Surrealism"

  • Specific artists, for example:

    • "Olafur Eliasson"

    • "Stefan Sagmeister"

Subject Headings

The library's catalog utilizes subject headings to link similar items together for easier access. Here is a very brief list of subject headings to get you started.

  • Art, British -- 18th century -- Exhibitions.

  • Art, British -- 19th century -- Exhibitions.

  • Art, British -- 20th century -- Exhibitions.

  • Art, Modern -- 20th century -- Exhibitions.

  • Decoration and ornament.

  • Decorative arts.

  • Graphic design (Typography)

  • Graphic design (Typography) Data processing.

  • Interactive multimedia.

  • Industrial design -- United States.

Additional Tips:

  • Phrase searching: In library catalogs, if you want to find words as a phrase or name, put the words in quotes, otherwise the system will look for those two words separately. In this case, the results are the same but with more common words, the results may be drastically different. Generally, results with the words as a phrase are ranked higher in the list, so if you forget the quotes, you'll still see the phrase results first.

  • Keyword vs. subject headings searches: In general, if the system lets you browse a list of subject headings or if it will give you options for subject headings like the online catalog does, then you may want to do a subject search for a single concept rather than a keyword search. If there is no subject heading, select the option to search as keywords to retrieve relevant records and then click on the subject headings if they're provided and are useful.

  • Boolean Operators: Use "AND" between search terms to narrow your search results to articles that have both search terms.Use "OR" between search terms to broaden your results to articles that have either one term or the other.

  • Expanding or narrowing down search results: If you are getting too many hits, you may need to narrow your search by focusing on subsets of the information you've found. If you are getting too few hits, you may need to broaden your search.

III. Periodical Databases Part 1: Arts and Humanities Databases

Art Full Text

Comprehensive resource covering fine, decorative and commercial art, as well as photography, folk art, film, and architecture. 1995 - present.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index

Multidisciplinary database covering the journal literature of the arts and humanities. Indexes world's leading arts and humanities journals with selected, relevant items from major science and social science journals

IV. Periodical Databases Part 2: General Periodical Databases and Newspapers

New York Times Historical

Here is where you would access articles and reviews from past New York Times editions.

ProQuest Newspapers

Here is where you would access articles and reviews from the current New York Times edition.

Nexis Uni

Formerly called Lexis Nexis Academic

Articles from major newspapers and legal publications.

V. Searching for Dissertations

Good sources for bibliographies

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses: Full Text

Citations and abstracts are included for the dissertations and theses back to the beginning but only the most recent dissertations are available in .pdf format and only if the author has given permission for ProQuest to make it available.

UW dissertations are available in the University Libraries (at least one circulating copy); UW dissertations produced after 1997 may be available online for free through ProQuestor through the UW Libraries ResearchWorks database.

To get copies of dissertations not produced at UW and not available online, in general, request through Interlibrary Loan. Sometimes libraries purchase copies of select dissertations for their collections so check the online catalog first.