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Art History Department


Writing and Research in Art History

Crafting an Essay

Your introduction will introduce your reader to your topic, generally by defining the terms of your analysis, articulating your thesis, and suggesting the direction and significance of your paper (often you can basically outline your paper in your introduction). Your thesis should clearly stake a claim, make a position, articulate an argument; it should be easy for the reader to locate. Be sure that your argument is original and stimulating (not self evident).

As you explain the significance of your analysis, your introduction may also indicate, if relevant, the generally-accepted scholarly viewpoint on your topic. Your introduction will then clearly indicate how your analysis differs from this position; in other words, you will make clear your original contribution to the field of your topic.

Please note: typically one develops a thesis and crafts an introduction AFTER one has drafted the paper. The writing process is also a thinking one; you will develop your ideas as you write and no doubt end up somewhere you did not expect! As you revise, you will consciously develop your argument throughout your paper through clear organization and transitions.

As you organize your paper be sure that ALL of the discussion that follows your introduction develops the thesis. Either make your material support your thesis or toss it out if it doesn’t work. Explain to the reader how your analysis supports your argument by using “sign posts” that point out the material’s relevance to your thesis, often by explicitly referring to it again. However, be sure that your essay doesn’t simply “pile up” examples; it should logically build an argument through paragraphs that are carefully organized to DEVELOP, not just demonstrate, your point.

Finally, give your paper an interesting title that hooks the reader and reveals something about what your point is. Your title should not have quotation marks nor should it be underlined or italicized. Only published articles and books have quotation marks and are underlined or italicized.