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MFA Visual Art Research

A research guide created for students in the MFA program at Lesley University College of Art and Design.

How to Cite

Didn't find what you're looking for? Try Googling how to cite something, for example MLA cite video games and you might even find it on the official MLA website, like this.

Citation software

Keep track of your sources as you research! It will save you time when you go to write your Works Cited/Reference page.  You can store all your citations in one Word doc, in your sketchbook, or in one of these tools made specifically to help you cite!

Most of the Library article databases have an option to cite an article. Look for it, and save time. 

Why cite?

To cite means that you state where you found the information so that others can find the exact item again. In this way you build upon the ideas and knowledge of other people, not unlike what you do in other areas of your creative work. Using the ideas of others to create new ones is at the heart of scholarly and artistic practice.

Citing in a particular style (MLA, APA, etc.) -- and doing it consistently -- helps your audience easily understand where you got your information.

Sometimes you will come across sources that are missing some of the information you need for a citation. Do your best. It is better to err on the side of too much information than too little, but if you have any questions ask a librarian or your professor.

You don't have to cite basic information: the kind of facts you see in every textbook or encyclopedia entry. So...

  • You don't cite where you found Van Gogh's death date, because it's not a specific person's idea/argument
  • You do cite one art historian's thoughts on Van Gogh's mental state before he died

Annotated Bibliographies

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations including a brief (usually about 150 words, 4 – 6 sentences) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, called the annotation.  The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

Annotations may include some or all of the following information:

  • Main focus or purpose of the work
  • Intended audience for the work
  • Usefulness or relevance to your research topic (are you using it for background information, to support your thesis, or as an example of a contradicting point of view?)
  • Special features of the work that were unique or helpful
  • Background and credibility of the author
  • Conclusions or observations reached by the author
  • Conclusions or observations reached by you

How To
The smart librarians at Skidmore College developed this helpful annotated bibliography tutorial. Give it a try!

Check out these other How To guides:

Here's an example of an annotated bibliography summarizing and evaluating key literature on design and the social sector.  Written by Courtney Drake and Deirdre Cerminaro with William Drenttel; hosted by Design Observer