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Art History: A Preliminary Handbook

by Dr. Robert J. Belton

Some Particular Pitfalls to Avoid

1. Too descriptive: simply telling what you see -- a catalogue or experience. Children can do that. You, on the other hand, must not only describe but analyze and interpret.

2. Too subjective: personal interpretations not closely backed by objective observations. This is a pervasive and pernicious popular misconception.

3. Too arty: this ranges from hokey poetics and purple prose to slick journalism and bar-room philosophy. For example, do not fall into pseudo- psychological or pseudo-philosophical remarks or discussions just because it's fashionable or the work seems easily to call for it. (Psychology and philosophy are legitimate critical modes, but they require a great deal of research and expertise.)

4. Too shallow: saying that something is "good" or "bad". This doesn't tell a thing and is absolutely meaningless in terms of analysis. (Hitler, AIDS, and tobacco smoke aren't studied because they're "good" but because they are "important," and the researchers of such things don't seem to suffer from the delusion that they need to "like" something before it becomes worthy of their attention. Why should you?)

5. Incomplete: taking a limited view of the work, either singling out only a few points or failing to take into account other possibilities of interpretation.

Upon completing a first draft, you should begin to have a clear idea of the developmental scheme of your paper. Now check it for spelling, sentence structure, paragraphing, and general clarity. If you have difficulty with any of your composition (and who doesn't?), strive to overcome this weakness. Get that style guide working for you.

© Copyright 1996 Robert J. Belton

Last reviewed shim12/19/2012 11:13:41 PM