It’s that time again. Seven weeks of term have passed and the January deadlines are fast looming over us.
Personally, I find choosing an essay subject to generally be an excruciating task. For one thing, I usually end up with several ideas buzzing round my mind at once and can never make my mind up when pushed to choose just one. I guess this is inevitable when you love a art history this much!
But as much as I hate having to be decisive under these circumstances, I firmly believe that taking time to carefully choose an essay subject or question is the most important part of the entire process. So to help myself and anyone else who finds themselves in the same predicament, I have come up with a foolproof(?!) set of guidelines to aid the procedure. I hope you find it somewhat helpful!
1. First of all, make sure you have thoroughly read everything given to you by your tutors. Whether thats some kind of course document, or summaries of weekly topics, anything you can find. This is to give you a full understanding of what is expected of you and your work. If you come across something you don’t understand, then don’t suffer in silence! Go and see your tutors and ask them to explain it in more depth until you do.
2. Try to avoid picking something ‘easy’. Even if you find a certain course difficult, writing about the easiest or most obvious subject might prove to make the situation worse. Sometimes, the ‘easy’ subject can often be the hardest to write about! However, do not confuse ‘easy’ with ‘simple’: keeping it simple is extremely important!
3. The same goes for choosing a subject that you are completely obsessed with. By all means, pick something you are interested in and enjoy learning about, but don’t choose a topic where you won’t argue two sides. You have to be critical, even if you adore your selected painting, sculpture, church, etc. more than life itself!
4. Pick something that hasn’t been too well-documented. If something has be written about over and over again, then you won’t be saying anything new. So unless you can give a convincing argument that Michelangelo’s David is actually a woman or that Manet’s Olympia was painted upside down, then perhaps avoid these using objects as your primary essay subject. Yes, there’s always a chance that a less-documented subject might be that way for a reason, but at least try and find a happy medium between something written about frequently, and something less so. Think outside the box with your research; a less-documented subject in art historical terms might be well-documented in other fields!
5. And last, but certainly not least … do not, I repeat, do not, leave it till the last minute to pick a subject! If you start early, then you’ll have plenty of time to tweak and refine your chosen topic and, subsequently, your final title.
Feel free to message me if you have any questions or want any further advice!