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Art & Design

Art and Design Subject Guide

Starting at the Start

When you are first starting out with any kind of research (especially if it is your first time using an academic library) it can be quite overwhelming. But if you divide it up into separate steps it doesn't have to be too scary.

Probably the first thing that your lecturer will give you is a reading list on a particular topic. Then they might give you an assignment based on that reading list/topic. What you want to know is how do you find the books/journals on that reading list. Here's what you need to do:
•Try Browsing - many students browse the shelves for books when first looking for information on a topic. Textbooks are arranged in order of 'call number' which is found on the spine of the book (e.g. 686- Printing or 709- Fine and Decorative Art). These numbers have been allocated according to the subject matter of the book. This means that books on a similar topic will usually be found together on the shelves. But you won't find everything you want this way so...

•Use the Library Catalogue - all material held in TU Dublin Libraries is on the Catalogue, which lists the books (or other material) that the library holds on a particular subject. It will give location details and list how many copies are available. Try a Keyword or Subject Search around your topic and then find the material on the shelves (using the call number). If you need any help using the catalogue or finding a particular book please ask a member of staff.

Expanding your Resaerch

What about Journals? - A journal is an academic magazine (also referred to as a Periodical or Serial). The latest research on a topic is reported in journals, usually printed on a monthly basis. Journal articles are subject specific and report on original research. The author(s) will also refer to other relevant papers that were used in its preparation. These "references" are collected and listed at the end of the article and can be useful in pointing you in the direction of more information on a specific topic. New issues of a journal are displayed on front-facing shelves in the library. Older issues are bound in hardback books nearby. They are all in order of call number as are the books. And journals on a certain subject will be at the same call number as books on that subject. Please note that some older issues, mostly those 5 years and older, are kept in storage off campus. Please ask at the issue desk for further information.

We also subscribe to hundreds of electronic journals (including many online versions of our print journals). These are available through the ejournals page.

And Databases, what are they? - Databases are collections of articles/conference papers/reports on a particular subject area. They provide a short summary of the article (the abstract) and some databases provide links to the full text of the article (i.e. a pdf of the entire article that you can print out). To choose a relevant database click on the Database section of the Art and Design Resources page. To see a list of all our Databases click here.

For more information on searching for journals and databases, please see the "Journals and Databases" section of this subject guide.


Working on a Specific Topic

Finding the right information for a project can be confusing:.Here are some ideas to get you started:
•First define your topic - know exactly what you want to research before you start using databases or the web. You can use encyclopaedia and dictionaries to define and narrow down a topic. It also makes life easier if you list some keywords or use a mind map to describe your topic and issues around it. When choosing keywords don't forget synonyms and related terms e.g. video art &/or digital art.
And also remember variations in American spellings e.g. Organisation/Organization, Theatre/Theater
•Next think about the scope of your topic - things like language, date, location, quality. Do you want references to current or to older historical material only, in English or in other languages? Are you looking for international information or local research? Don't forget that some information resources are of better academic quality than others.
•Think about the different types and sources of information - Books (ebooks, dictionaries, encyclopedia)/ejournals/databases/Google Scholar/newspapers/magazines/blogs etc. Choose and locate ones that best suit your assignment.
•Plan your search - using your keywords and chosen information resources.

•Evaluate information - when you have found enough information from different sources you need to evaluate it to make sure that it is useful and relevant before applying it to your topic.
•Record details of each resource - Save or note down the details of each resource that you plan to use (journal article/book details etc. [or use Referencing Software such as Mendeley to store this information for you]). You will need this information later to create your bibliography and reference list. The purpose of this is to show your supervisor the material that you have read around the subject and to avoid plagiarism (copying without acknowledgement). Each School follows its own citation style e.g. Art and Design follows the Chicago citation style. You can find further information and guides for using the Chicago style in the library at call no. 808.027


Evaluating Web Resources

No matter what information you find online you should always evaluate it to see if it is accurate, it supports the argument you were discussing and is appropriate for a college assignment/dissertation.

To do this you should use think about the following points:

Accuracy: is it clear to you that the information is correct? Can you easily verify the information on the website using another source?
Authority: where is the information coming from? Is the author affiliated with an organisation, company, or educational institution? Or are they just giving their own personal opinion?
Bias: What is the purpose of the website/article etc? Is it simply trying to inform you about the topic, or is it pushing a particular side of the argument in favour or against an issue? Is it there to promote/sell something? Can you see information about possible outside sponsorship that might indicate why a particular argument is being made? Bias is very important when evaluating something on the Web.
Currency: Is there a 'last updated' date anywhere on the page? Are the links provided still live? Any dead links will indicate that a site/resource hasn't been updated and therefore may not provide accurate information.
Peer Review: Is the author recognised as being an authority on this particular topic? Is it cited in other articles/ on other websites? Has someone recommended this particular resource?
Relevance: Is the information provided actually what you want? Has your understanding of the topic increased by reading this?
If you use these points to evaluate your online resource you should be able to narrow down what you should use and what you shouldn't. You should also produce work of a higher standard because your references have been critically evaluated. 

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0