Write a literature review on your topic. A literature review is a summary of published secondary sources on a particular topic. The review should describe the scholarly conversations that are taking place regarding your specific topic, identifying the most important sources on your subject. A literature review basically answers the following questions: What have scholars said about my topic? What approaches and methodologies have these scholars taken towards the subject? What haven’t they considered yet? What questions are left unanswered?

Your literature review should have a thesis statement. A thesis for a literature review should summarize your opinion about the preexisting literature and tell the reader where you think the conversation should go next. For example, if your topic is about an Aztec work of art purchased by Hearst, your thesis statement might be something like “In previous scholarship on this Aztec manuscript, scholars focused on dating and analysis of the style of the manuscript. In my research, however, I hope to place this manuscript within the larger context of Hearst’s collecting habits and discuss how Aztec art was viewed by Hearst and his contemporaries at the time this manuscript was acquired. I also will discuss the ethical implications surrounding Hearst’s acquisition of this object, examining whether or not this should be considered a looted object.”

Your literature review should consider at least three sources, all of them must be written by trained art historians/historians/other types of scholars who teach at universities or work in museums. If you need to mention more than three sources in order to fully describe the state of research on your topic and support your thesis, please do so. Your literature review should be at least two pages double spaced with normal margins and font sizes. You should use footnotes to cite your sources completely (Chicago Manual of Style ).

On an additional page, please include a heading that says “Research Questions” and list at least five questions that you will be pursuing as you do your research. These questions should be informed by the review of literature you have done and will likely be similar to your discussion of the questions left unanswered in current scholarship. It’s fine if you are just restating what you said earlier in the literature review. For example, for the example I gave above, the second page would include questions such as:

  • What other Aztec artworks did Hearst acquire? Where did he display them?
  • What books/articles had been written about Aztec art at the time that Hearst was collecting? How were scholars approaching Aztec art at the time?
  • Would international law have considered Hearst’s acquisition at the time to be looting? What about current international law?

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