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Tips for Writing an Essay from an Art History Assignment

  • Audience: You must know your audience. The audience is someone you want to inform about a particular subject.

  • Language: Express your ideas in a simple and straightforward manner, and choose words carefully. Do not use jargon-sounding technical terms unless you're absolutely certain of meaning and use. Make certain that each word is the best possible choice for expressing the thought. Use (but don't overuse) your thesaurus.

  • Topic Sentence: You should begin an essay with a sentence that states what your paper is going to discuss and why (argument).

  • Checklists: You should ask yourself the following questions when writing a paper:
    • First Draft Checklist:
    • Do I have an argument? Have I asserted specific points about form, technique, and display?
    • Do my sentences make these points as clearly and specifically as possible?
    • Do the sentences follow one another in a logical progression?
    • Am I providing my reader sufficient ‘glue’ to tie my ideas together and give my argument shape and direction?
    • Have I expressed my thoughts clearly enough so that the reader will be able to understand my meaning without being able to read my mind? (Do not assume that your reader knows anything about the work you are discussing.)
    • When I read my essay aloud, what do I notice?

    • Second Draft Checklist:
    • Is my topic sentence clear and strong?
    • Have I provided sufficient transitions between paragraphs?
    • Have I condensed my writing? Does every word contribute to the points I want to get across?
    • Have I used strong verbs as much as possible and eliminated passive voice?
    • Are there errors of spelling, punctuation, or word choice?

  • Writing Center: After you're satisfied with a first draft, make a second. If you need help, contact the Writing Center (Robinson A116; telephone 3-1200; http://writingcenter.gmu.edu. Do this early, as the Writing Center is very popular.

Tips on What NOT To Do When the Assignment is an Analysis of Original Artwork

  • An analysis of an original artwork is not a research paper: do not read what others have said about the object and repeat that, or copy museum handouts, or information from the Micro-gallery or website, or what the guards have to say. You should trust Yourself to observe and record your own observations.

  • Do not waste space in your few pages discussing the artist's biography, philosophy, childhood, love life, or whatever. There is no need for a biographical introduction: cut right to the analysis.