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Art History: A Preliminary Handbook

by Dr. Robert J. Belton

Academic Documentation in the Department of Fine Arts

a. What to Document

The department encourages the development of responsible independent thought, but it also expects that borrowed material in any form will be credited. PLAGIARISM - - DEFINED IN THE OUC CALENDAR AS "THE PRESENTATION OF ANOTHER PERSON'S WORK OR IDEAS WITHOUT ACKNOWLEDGMENT" -- IS NOT CONDONED. Here is a list of the types of materials which must be acknowledged:

1. Direct quotations. Regardless of the length, borrowed passages, phrases and words should be placed within quotation marks. If the quoted material is longer than about three lines, it should be indented without quotation marks:

Plagiarism is a form of stealing; as with other offenses against the law, ignorance is no excuse. The way to avoid it is to give credit where credit is due. If you are using some else's ideas, acknowledge it [sic], even if you have changed the wording or just summarized the main points (Northey 12).

There are several ways of noting the source, some of which are noted below.

2. Paraphrases. The department's position is that intellectual property must be acknowledged, even when reworded extensively. This section, for example, is itself a paraphrase (Norman 28).

3. Basic Lines of Argument. If you borrow someone's broad lines of interpretation but not the detail used to support it, you still need to give credit where credit is due. This is also true of methodology.

4. Facts Derived from Someone Else. Certain data are considered obviously familiar and need no documentation. These include matters of common knowledge (e.g., the Louvre is in Paris, or the fact that Michelangelo was also a poet) and traditional or proverbial information (e.g., "what's good for the goose is good for the gander," or common Biblical phrases). However, others which are less obvious but nonetheless factual should be noted. This is especially important in cases which are matters of debate or subject to periodic revision (e.g., an attribution to a particular artist or architect).

COMMON RATIONALIZATIONS FOR AVOIDING SCHOLARLY RESPONSIBILITY INCLUDE CARELESSNESS IN TAKING NOTES AND THE MISTAKEN IMPRESSION THAT IT IS ENOUGH TO LIST A SOURCE IN A BIBLIOGRAPHY WITHOUT SPECIFIC CITATION. LIKE IGNORANCE, NEITHER OF THESE IS A REAL EXCUSE.

b. i. How to Document

There are almost as many different ways to note a source as there are disciplines. This department is in favour of either the University of Chicago style -- the notes and bibliography format favoured in the traditional humanities -- or the economical system of citations advocated by the Modern Languages Association. Always check with your instructor to see which method is preferred. Both are explained at length in good style guides. I am personally in favour of the abbreviated MLA format, as follows.

b. ii. THE MLA (MODERN LANGUAGES ASSOCIATION) STYLE

Instead of numbered notes, most citations are included right in the body of the text. If you simply want to acknowledge that a phrase or idea belongs to someone else, it is sufficient to place the author's name and the page number(s) between parentheses at the end of the sentence, before the terminal punctuation. The following section is composed entirely in MLA style. You then must specify all such sources in a list entitled "Works Cited" at the end of your assignment. If you cite more than one source by the same author, you have several alternatives. The simplest of these is to state the name, an abbreviated version of the title and the page number(s). There are several advantages to this streamlined system: a reduction of tiresome page-turning to find the endnotes, a less "padded" bibliography, and a visually cleaner presentation.

b. iii. FOOTNOTES AND ENDNOTES

Properly, a footnote belongs at the foot of the page. This particular practice is becoming less common. In the traditional University of Chicago style, everything borrowed will have a note listed at the end (hence "endnote"). In the MLA style, most citations are dealt with in the text. Only very occasionally is it necessary to elaborate on some point which interrupts the flow of your thought. In such cases, a sparing use of endnotes is warranted. They are generally of three types:

b. iv. Content notes

Place here "comments, explanation, or information that the text cannot accommodate" without unduly intruding on your line of argument (Gibaldi 158). For example, if you quoted an artist's words reproduced in an exhibition review, you might note the original source as follows:

1. Smithson's entire text is reproduced in Holt 9-18.

b. v. Editorial notes

If you or your source is making an evaluation that is worth mentioning, note it. Don't overdo this, though. Many remarks that can't be worked into the text in some meaningful way are not worth keeping in any case. For example:

1. The most remarkable attempt to reframe the critical discourse around Van Gogh's Shoes is Derrida 256-382.

b. vi. Complex citations

On the very rare occasion that a number of authors treat the same issue or comment widely on one another, cite them in an endnote to keep the interruption of the text to a minimum. For example:

1. For a variety of approaches to the problems of academic notation, see Gibaldi 158, Norman 18-28, and Northey 53-69.

AT THE UNDERGRADUATE LEVEL, THE GREAT MAJORITY OF STUDENTS WILL HAVE NO NEED FOR NOTES AT ALL IF THE MLA SYSTEM IS USED PROPERLY.

b. vii. How to Prepare the Works Cited List

A comprehensive treatment is available in Gibaldi 79-104. A useful supplement peculiar to the visual arts is in Barnet 119-122. Short assignments need not divide the material by category. (It is done here simply to supply examples of common situations.) Just alphabetize by author or by title where no author can be found.

BOOKS, ONE AUTHOR

Rubert de Ventos, Xavier. Heresies of Modern Art. Trans. J. S. Bernstein. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

BOOKS, MORE THAN ONE AUTHOR

Held, Julius, and Donald Posner. Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Art. New York: Abrams, n.d.

BOOKS, ANONYMOUS AUTHOR

Dictionary of Ancient Greek Civilization. London: Methuen, 1966.

PERIODICALS

(Do not use "vol.," "pp.", etc.)

Wright, Gary. "Caravaggio's Entombment Considered In Situ." Art Bulletin 60 (1978): 35-42.

EXHIBITION CATALOGUES, AUTHOR KNOWN

(Be precise about dates.)

Celant, Germano. The European Iceberg: Creativity in Germany and Italy Today. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 8 February - 7 April 1985.

EXHIBITION CATALOGUES, AUTHOR UNKNOWN

L'Exposition internationale du surrealisme. Paris: Galerie Charles Ratton, 1925.

© Copyright 1996 Robert J. Belton

Last reviewed shim12/19/2012 11:14:07 PM