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Art History

Ars Gratia Artis


Citation and Style Guides

Typically, scholars in art, art history and related design fields use the Chicago Manual of Style.  It is recommended by the College Art Association in their Publication Style Guide, and has become the standard for these disciplines.

The library maintains an online subscription to the Chicago Manual of Style, as well as a printed copy at the Art Library Service Desk.  See the  very brief handout below for simple citations in Chicago Style.  For anything more complex you should consult the manual. 

Captioning Art Images

None of the style guides provide good guidance for captioning art works, see the College Art Association's Publication Style Guide.  The section on captions gives detailed guidance, and a number of examples.  You may also want to consult the handout below, which gives a very basic overview of how to put a caption for an art image together.

Other sources for Writing and Citation

Two Northwestern University Library research guides may offer additional assistance:

  • Writing Resources for Students offers information about writing guides, style guides, dictionaries, and grammar.
  • Start your Research has a tab titled Cite your Sources, which covers the various citation management or bibliographic software available to you.  Bibliographic software can take a lot of the labor out of writing proper citations, though, it should be mentioned that citations produced need to be proofed!

The Purdue Owl (Purdue University Online Writing Lab) offers a useful overview of the two documentation styles offered by Chicago: the notes/blbliography style, used by authors in the arts and humanities, and the author/date style, used primarily by authors in the social sciences.  To be sure of the right style to use in your pager, ask your instructor or TA..

Most importantly, everyone needs some personal help sometimes!

  • The Writing Place offers students students individual consultations on any kind of writing you may be doing, from formulating ideas to getting your citations right.  During fall 2020, they will be consulting online, using Zoom and google docs.
  • You are also welcome to consult with one of the librarians in the Art Library. 
    Cara List:
    Perry Nigro:



Citation Managers

The task of managing citations is almost as difficult as formatting them correctly. The problem becomes even more acute as your writing develops and your research requirements increase in number and complexity. Citation Managers are software applications that organize your citations, keeping track of necessary data and formatting it correctly according to a chosen citation style. They work as either standalone programs or browser plug-ins, and some can integrate with popular word processing software to mange, insert, and format citations and bibliographies as you write. Popular examples include:

Because they all offer the same basic functionality, the choice is often a matter of personal preference based on ease of use, extensabilty, or specific features. The library offers workshops for each one, which can provide a basic introduction and help you choose which is right for your individual needs.

In addition, there are dedicated LibGuides for Endnote and Zotero.


Your writing will naturally build on the work of others, while simultaneously adding your own voice to the academic conversation. That conversation requires, however, that you acknowledge the contributions of the authors and artists whose words and ideas you use. Failing to do so is plagiarism, a serious academic offense that consists of submitting work that is not the author's own, without acknowledging the sources on which it relies.

As you begin your time at Northwestern, take a moment to read the University statements on academic integrity and plagiarism, including information relevant to your individual school.