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Art History: A Preliminary Handbook

by Dr. Robert J. Belton

Ten Final Questions to Ask Yourself Before Submission

(Directly based on Barnet, inside front cover, and used with his permission. The page references are to the fourth edition of Sylvan Barnet's Short Guide to Writing About Art, which I strongly recommend acquiring for its clear and much more comprehensive account of what is only briefly sketched in this online form.) See also an instructive lesson re plagiarism.


1. Have I studied the object with sufficient care that I understand what qualities in it caused my initial response, and have I deepened or otherwise changed that response through further study and reflection on the circumstances surrounding the work?

2. Is the title of my essay interesting, or at least informative? (p. 16)

3. Do I state my main point (thesis) soon enough -- perhaps even in the title -- and keep it in view? Does the introductory paragraph encourage the reader to read on? (pp. 136-7, 188)

4. Is every paragraph united by a strong topic sentence or idea? Does each paragraph lead logically to the next? (pp. 8-9, 111, 126-33, 188-9)

5. Are generalizations and assertions about personal responses supported by concrete details in the work? (pp. 21-2)

6. Is the prose style clear, concise, and vigorous? Do I generally use the active not the passive voice? Are needless words and inflated language excised? (pp. 117-25)

7. Does the essay have a clear beginning, middle and end? Is the conclusion effective without being simply repetitive? (pp. 137-8)

8. Are all dates, matters of fact, and quotations accurately recorded? Are citations provided where necessary? Are photocopies of works of art included and properly captioned? Is the essay in the required format and conventional style? (For example, are titles in italics or underlined?) (pp. 140-1, 147-52)

9. Have I corrected all typographical, spelling and punctuation mistakes? (pp. 139-40, 142-3)

10. Finally, is the tone of the essay appropriate, given its presumed audience and subject matter? (p. 2)

© Copyright 1996 Robert J. Belton

Last reviewed shim12/19/2012 11:14:26 PM