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Research Guides

Architecture 385: Choosing a Topic

Global History of Architecture I

Selecting a Research Topic

Writing a successful research paper begins with selecting an appropriate research topic. Your topic should be broad enough that you can find scholarly information written about it by others, but narrow enough so that you are not overwhelmed by the amount of information available.

Ideally, you should have some ideas for topics through class readings and discussions, but if you need more inspiration try the following:

  • Browse the Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World, located on the second floor in Reference at call number Ref NA208.E53. Volume I contains sections including: Approaches and Concepts; Culture Traits and Attributes; Environment; Materials and Building Resources; Production; Services; Symbolism and Decoration; Typologies; and Uses and Functions. Volumes II & III are divided into sections by geographic region. This can be a great way to identify interesting themes and do some preliminary research in a scholarly work.


  • Browse the list of 50 books on reserve that have been selected specifically for your class. These books have been chosen with this assignment in mind, and are useful tools in generating ideas for papers.


  • Browse some of our other architecture reference books on the second floor. Try The Oxford Companion to Architecture at call number Ref NA31.O94, or the multi-volume A History of Architecture, located at call number Ref NA200.F63. You can browse online by using Grove/Oxford Art Online.


  • Browse ARTstor; use the "Advanced Search" feature to limit by year, and also by geographic region and classification (probably most useful will be the designations "Architecture and City Planning" or "Garden and Landscape"). If this is your first time using ARTstor, it's a good idea to use an on-campus computer to create an account so you can later access images and folders off-campus. Look for the "Register" button in the top right corner. 


Refining Your Topic

Once you have a topic idea, you will want to begin to refine it into a question that can be successfully researched.  You may need to do some reading or searching to gain enough basic knowledge about your topic to begin to refine it.  Here are links to some other tips for improving your topic.

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Rochelle Smith


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