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Your dissertation: research and writing: Secondary sources, inc. SIA dissertations

Key information for completing your MA dissertation


man reading on a bench
Source: Ed Yourdon, Flickr. Licence.


For your dissertation, you will probably need to read more books and articles discussing and analysing art and the art world (secondary sources) than for your assignments earlier in the year. 

Advice on writing a literature review is provided by the University of Toronto (and many other schools, elsewhere online).

Now may be the time to sharpen your skills in finding secondary sources.  These guides will help you make the most of our search engine Summon:


You should also go beyond Summon. Firstly, see the guide listing databases not available via Summon.  

You may want to run supplementary searches in these databases:


Even when a database is indexed by Summon - e.g. JSTOR - it may be worth searching it separately in addition to your Summon search. There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, a few articles may be randomly missing from Summon.  Secondly, you will be viewing your search results in a different order on a different interface - so your eye may pick up things you missed in Summon. You can go to our databases guide and scan through the descriptions of each to see which databases look worth a searching separately.

To stay up to date with the latest literature, you can set up alerts for the most relevant scholarly journals via the Journal TOCs service. Note: the links in the alerts you receive will not take you to the article. Instead you will need to access the journal using the search box above, and find the relevant article.

Whenever you look at a book or article on your topic, check its bibliography. See the guide to using bibliographies.

See also our info about finding more works by a particular author, as well as works which discuss that author's work.


Dissertations by previous SIA students

You may already have looked at dissertations by past SIA students. If not, now is the time to start. They are a rich source of original research, often include useful bibliographies, and will show you what is expected of an MA dissertation at the Institute.

It may be worth your while browsing through all the dissertation titles available in the library for your programme and related programmes, by following the appropriate link below:


Dissertations relevant to you may also have been completed by students on other programmes at SIA.  To find these, run a search for your topic in Summon. Then filter by Dissertation/Thesis and London Library, as shown below:


If you cannot immediately see the Dissertation/Thesis option, scroll down to see the full range of Content Type options.


Finally, check for New York dissertations in the New York online collection

More info about dissertations is available in the guide to looking at SIA dissertations.

Dissertations and theses from other colleges and universities, at both master's and doctoral level, are also worth checking. Some are found by Summon, but many are not.  You can find out how to search for and access these on the other dissertations guide.