Ars Gratia Artis
Art history uses the Chicago Style for citations and bibliographies. While proper citing can often seem daunting, full of obscure rules and exceptions, there are several resources that can make the job easier.
The Purdue Owl (Purdue Online Writing Lab) is a comprehensive resource for information on academic citations in general, with basic guidelines and detailed examples for several citation styles, including Chicago.
The College Art Association maintains an extensive set of guidelines relevant to art history publishing, including notes and examples of proper formatting, captioning, etc. The guide can be found here.
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.