How to Write Art Research Paper | Outline & Format

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An art research paper provides a means of studying the expression of human creativity and culture through a visual representation of beauty and emotions. As a researcher, you will explain your perspective and impression of a technical form of artwork through your paper. To write an excellent art research paper, you must be able to accurately but creatively describe the artwork to give the reader an imaginative experience of your writing.

You will also need to describe the significance of that particular piece of art, its impact on human culture and its representation of its time of creation. Your research paper could either be a narration or an analytical piece.

Table of Contents

  1. Understand Your Assignment.
  2. Create an overview of the paper.
  3. Choose a topic.
  4. Do your Research.
  5. Introduce your Paper.
  6. Write the Research Paper’s Body.
  7. Conclude your Research paper.
  8. Edit and Proofread your Paper.

 Here are some pointers to writing a great art research paper

1.      Understand Your Assignment

A thorough understanding of the expectations of your art research paper will guide your writing and help you achieve great results. For a college art research assignment, read the guidelines stated by your instructor. Remember to inquire if any of the instructions are unclear. For independent art research projects, seek the assistance of your local librarian in finding art project reviews and books that may be of assistance. If you are uncertain about the specific art category for your assignment, use the internet to gather information about categories like:

  • Medieval art
  • Baroque art
  • Art history
  • Photography
  • Art from- a specific period, geographical location or a specific artist

Additionally, use the internet to find information on how to write about paintings, photography and other analyses of art.

2.      Create an overview of the paper

An overview of your work is an excellent tool for writing a good research paper. An outline will help you gather your thoughts, list the tools and sources necessary for your research and create the general framework of your paper. Remember not to give details of the contents of your paper in the outline but, to list in bullet points the key points that define the scope of your research paper.

Examples of points you can use in your art research paper overview include:

  • Preliminary research on forms of art in the 19th century
  • Topic selection
  • Defining audience
  • Conducting research
  • Organize sources and references

In your overview, you may also include the research question or hypothesis, if already determined, a brief description of how you intend to achieve the objective of the research paper the main contribution of the art.

3.      Choose a topic

Even though selecting a topic for art research is difficult, you must spend sufficient time researching topics that fit you best because the right topic will greatly improve your chances of writing a high-quality art research paper. You can use two major perspectives to select a good topic for your research paper.

  • An art category you are knowledgeable and interested in
  • An art category you feel requires new and unconventional viewpoints.

Remember to avoid broad topics with too much available information. You will likely not be exploring any new ideas regarding a topic that is already popular. Similarly, avoid too specific topics with only a few sources to back up your research.

Here are a few examples of art research paper topics you can consider.

  1. What is the significance and impact of sculpting on the evolution of art in the 18th-century society
  2. What are the major differences between existing forms of visual art in Africa and Asia
  3. The analysis of music as a cultural expression in the early modern era
  4. A comparison on changes in the world of art between early modern and modern eras
  5. Evolution of photography
  6. An analysis of digital photography and its impact on the evolution of visual storytelling

If you cannot select or develop a topic on your own, ask your friends and peers for fresh and interesting art topic ideas. Remember to refer to your assignment guidelines on topic selection for college assignments.

4.      Do your Research

After selecting a topic, the next step is to conduct research. At this point, it is important to create a research design or formulate research questions that will help you research in a particular order.

If you are researching a specific piece of art, the research stage is when you determine when and why that piece of art was created. During research, you also understand the events, environment, economic and religious settings that influenced changes in art in different eras. You must use this information to make comparisons, draw conclusions and highlight important details of the main topic.

When doing your research, make a list of complex art terms and artistic concepts to expound later. Ensure that you verify the credibility of your sources and make notes after answering each research question.

5.      Introduce your Paper

A reader will evaluate the quality of your work through the introduction. For this reason, it is essential to be brief but intriguing and informative when writing your research paper introduction. Below are some of the functions of an outstanding introduction to an art research paper.

  • To capture the reader’s attention- the first few sentences of your introduction should be interesting and thought-provoking enough to convince the reader to continue reading.
  • To define your audience- After topic selection, you likely had your research paper’s audience in mind. An introduction is a chance to explain how this audience can relate to your
  • To introduce the thesis statement- an art research paper introduction will state the main argument and make a clear point on the direction of your research and its significance to the reader.

Other details to include in the introduction, especially for history and visual analysis art research papers, include:

  • The name of the artist.
  • Title of the work of art.
  • Period of creation and current location.

Remember to keep the introduction short and avoid including information intended for the body of the paper.

6.      Write the Research Paper’s Body

The majority of your writing should go to the body of the paper, including all the supporting evidence gathered through research. Even though there are no size limitations on the research paper’s body, it should compare well to the rest of the sections and occupy about two-thirds of the length of the entire paper.

When writing the body, organize your ideas in paragraphs and ensure each paragraph relates to your thesis statement. Additionally, ensure that paragraphs begin with sentences that touch on the thesis and are written conclusively.

Remember that an artwork analysis is not the same as a description of the artwork. If you are writing an analysis of a particular piece of art, include insightful and personal observations to help the reader understand your point of view. It is also common for novice art researchers to leave out varying design principles and visual elements of artworks when writing a research paper. Omitting these details gives the reader an incomplete analysis of the artwork and can affect the overall quality of your paper.

The last thing to note when writing your art research paper’s body is to include your emotional or visual responses to the art to try and invoke the same feelings in your readers. Elaborate on these responses and remember to back up this information with evidence from credible sources.

7.      Conclude your Research paper

Similar to an introduction, a proper research paper conclusion is an important indicator of a high-quality research paper. An effective research paper conclusion will focus the reader’s attention on the most significant points of the research paper and remind them of the soundness and impact of your ideas.

Below are some forms of conclusions you can use for an art research paper.

  • Summarizing conclusion- use this type of conclusion to summarize the main points of your research and to highlight the thesis’s goal. Remember that this type of conclusion may not apply to all art research papers. First, ensure this type of conclusion is appropriate for your paper before using it.
  • Externalizing conclusion- use this type of conclusion to encourage your readers to introspect on the ideas presented in your paper or to think in a different direction from the obvious conclusion of the paper.
  • Editorial conclusion- use this type of conclusion to explain your feelings concerning the research topic and the ideas presented in your paper. This type of conclusion works well with art research papers comparing past and present artworks and those analyzing controversial fields of art like nudity as a form of expression.

8.      Edit and Proofread your Paper

Poor sentence structure, repetitions, and grammatical errors can ruin even the best art research paper. For this reason, you must go through your research paper to find and correct any errors. The basic steps of editing your paper include checking paragraph structure and ensuring that paragraphs begin with thesis statements and follow in logical order. Additionally, ensure that every paragraph is clear and coherent.

After editing, review your paper for misspellings, formatting, and referencing errors. After making all the necessary corrections, go through your research paper one more time, and if you don’t find any other errors, you may submit your paper.