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How to Develop an Informed Argument about Artworks and Texts

Identifying your research topic and thesis statement

For this assignment you will be required to choose a specific research topic and theme and use the artworks and texts from the course and from your own research to develop an academic argument related to the course content.

Therefore, in this paper, you need to discuss how you as a researcher interpret or analyze the evidence that you discovered (in this case, artworks and texts about methods, theories and approaches to looking at artworks). Think of the research paper as your response to the question, “What argument can I make that my sources will support?”

Your resulting argument is what you need to communicate to an audience of your peers.

The final product of this assignment is not a summary of your sources, but an informed argument about your topic.

Clearly identify your topic and clearly state your thesis on a specific theme/topic/artist from the art theories and methods we’ve learned.

Apply these methods to your analysis of the artworks, identifying a research question and working to answer it through your analysis.

What do the artworks tell you about this question? How do they help answer it? Which methods did you apply to arrive at this answer? Construct your paper by using the elements of argument, but do not identify them.

That is the readers’ task. In other words, do not restate the prompt by saying, “My evidence, my thesis is….” Remember that for the purposes of this paper, your primary sources are mainly artworks. Your analysis will include not only analyses of text-based sources, but also of these artworks. (See below) Contextualize your argument.

You should explain how your argument fits in with existing discussions about your topic, in this case, about different approaches to reading and analyzing artworks. Consider your (academic) audience and adopt an appropriate tone. Integrate your quotations or paraphrased sections.

Ask yourself: Who is writing and what is their objective? Who is the intended audience? What is the operation at hand in the text? What kinds of evidence does the source use and how?

Art Analysis As mentioned above, your main primary sources in a an art history/theory paper are artworks. When you identify your artworks, work to collect as much identifying information on each as possible; you’ll need this for your analysis. Approach artworks using the following general framework and/or others that you may identify and apply to your analyses: Identify the artwork/object by title (capitalized and in Italics), year (in parentheses following title, and artist (if this information is known).

Ancient artifacts/art objects for which you are missing any or part of this information may be referred to by geographic region, historical period, culture, etc. Give a brief description of the artwork including a discussion of the medium and process and the artist’s/commissioner’s interest in making the piece. Using your other sources (artworks and texts), historically contextualize, or ground this artwork in its social/political history.

What was going on at the place/time in which it was made? Why is this important today? To what other artworks/conversations is this work relevant? This part is the model for synthesis of artworks. Synthesis is the device of analytical writing that analyzes the relationships between sources.

This should take up the majority of your word count. When you are writing a synthesis of two or more sources (primary, secondary, or tertiary), you are exploring an overall relationship between the sources, and sub relationships that inform that overarching relationship. What relationship do you want to explore between the sources?

What sub-relationships help to support that overarching relationship?

For example, maybe the evidence in one source helps to extend, complicate, or expand the scope of the argument in another. Think critically about the sources, and decide the relationship that you would like to write about. There are usually many different possible relationships to be explored between sources. Which relationship to emphasize is a decision you need to make independently, in order to produce your own original synthesis.

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