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Course & Subject Guides

Art History - Greensburg Campus

This guide will assist you in your research for Dr. McAlister's Art History courses. It will also provide you with links to helpful sites and people.

Evaluating Book Resources

One of the most difficult parts about conducting research in art history is the abundance of "coffee table" books written about art that are intended to be read by the general public, but which do not necessarily constitute a scholarly resource.  The chart below can help you try to distinguish between these two types of books.  (Note: These characteristics apply to other types of publications as well, including articles from periodicals.)


Ask Yourself:

Book Intended for the General Public

Book Intended for a Scholarly Audience

WHO is the author?

Author may be a journalist, photographer, or researcher writing for the general public.

Often lack credentials such as advanced degrees or experience with the subject matter.

Author is a reliable scholar in a particular field

Credentials are listed, such as degrees, experience, previous scholarly publications; or affiliation with a scholarly institution, such as a university.

WHO is the intended audience? Anyone interested in this topic Students, researchers, other scholars
WHO is the publisher? Usually a commercial publisher or other popular source Often the publisher is associated with an academic institution (such as Oxford University Press), or known for producing scholarly materials (such as Greehnaven Press or Routledge).

WHAT is the content?

WHY was this book written?

Content is meant to entertain or inform on a very general level; mostly pictures, may not be as much text, and the text that is there is more informative than scholarly or critical.

May also include the author's own personal/firsthand accounts of events discussed in the book.

Focuses on a certain field or area of study, often very specific.

If opinions are presented, they are backed up with empirical data/research that the author has conducted.

WHERE is the evidence?

Limited or no bibliography/references

Lack of data (charts, graphs, research studies) to back up opinions presented

Extensive bibliography and/or footnotes which show research to back up the scholar's assertions

Suggestions for further reading for additional information on the subject