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Introduction to Visual Culture

How to Write the I-Search Paper

What Is an I-Search Paper?

An I-Search Paper helps you learn the nature of searching and discovery on a chosen topic. Your goal is to pay attention, track this exploration, and LEARN HOW YOU LEARN so that you can repeat the process in other courses.

The I-Search Paper should be the story of your search process, including chronological reflections on the phases of research in a narrative form. The I is for YOU. It's the story of YOUR search and what you learned.

Image: Franzi


Step 1. Document Your Research Process

Keep track of the actual search terms and specific databases you used and how you modified your strategy as you went along. You will include those details in your paper. Analyze the results. How many hits did you get? Say how and why you modified your search strategy to get more or less. What did you learn about each database that you tried? What kind of information did you find. Why were the names of the journals or magazines articles were in.

In all your research, include actual facts and theories that you discover about your topic as well as idiosyncratic information such as what surprised you. You could say what you already knew about the topic before beginning the research and how what you knew about that topic may have changed during the research process.

If you have trouble finding relevant materials in the Library, ask a librarian. They have Master's Degrees in research, are more discerning than search engines. Plus, they are happy to assist!

Image: InkFactory

Visual  notetaking.

Step 2. Search Wikipedia

What you want to learn is the facts about the object--context, movement, date, etc. To find more about how to appropriately use Wikipedia for college-level research, consult the Research Guide for Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia which is excellent for background information. Pay special attention to the footnotes and references at the bottom of the page. they may guide you to excellent academic sources.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

3. Look Through Survey Textbooks

There are several general art history textbooks available in the Reference section, including Art History by Marilyn Stokstad (Call Number: REFERENCE N5300 S923 1999).

They are concise sources for specific art historical contexts for your chosen objects. Many (but not all) of the Wall items are discusses, sometimes even with pictures.

Art History

Step 4. Search the Library Catalog

Next check the Otis Library's Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) for books. Many of the objects you are searching have entire books written about them. If not, find a book about the artist/desginer, or culture.

Once you find a suitable item, use its call number and browse the shelves for similar items.

Millard Sheets Library catalog.

Step 5. Search the Databases

Databases listed on the Library website are often an excellent source, especially for academic papers.

Art Source is arguably the best for art courses. Try it! However, many articles in the database are in academic journals that are aimed at other scholars. They often discuss subjects in much more depth than you may need for this assignment. If you can find an article in a more general magazine such as the Smithsonian, it will serve you better. But you will be required to use these sources in other advanced courses. So, please take this opportunity to try them now.

Art Source OmniFile

Step 6. Create a Bibliography

You will then create a bibliography of at least 2 sources--books, museum websites, or journal articles. Wikipedia won't really count as one of your sources since it's really just about finding background information or referrals to other sources.

If you include websites in your bibliography, make sure they are educationally oriented. Find out who wrote them and what their credentials are. For instance, museum websites are often written by curators/art historians whose purpose is the educate. Additionally, Smarthistory, now part of Khan Academy, discusses many iconic works and these are written by PhD. art historians. If you find something on this site, it would be a very good source. Make sure your web sources are Quality Web Sources.

Image: Reasonist Products

The Credible Hulk always cites his sources.

Step 7. Write Evaluative Annotations

You must annotate and evaluate the sources in the bibliography or works cited list. Remember, the annotations must include the credentials of the author and the type of information (scholarly, popular, etc.), and the intended audience of the publication. See:

Image: FuzzBones

Search the Library Catalog:
EBSCO ArtSource and OmniFile

"Believing Is Seeing"

Electronic copy of the book is available from the Open Library; part of the National Emergency Library.

Reading Guide available in the Student Learning Center

Video: Develop a Research Question

Writing Help

Need help signing up or using it? Visit the Grammarly@EDU Guide.

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