Contemporary Art: Find information

Where to search

Knowing where to search is just as important as knowing how to search.  The following video will help you to understand why and when to use different search tools.

 Video Length: 2 minutes 14 seconds

  • Knowing where to search is just as important as knowing how to search.
  • Not all search tools will give you access to the same information.
  • Understanding why and when to use different search tools will save you time.
  • The Library Collection:
    • is a good place to search for scholarly material.
    • provides free access to a variety of resources types across a range of subject areas.
  • Databases:
    • help focus your search and have more advanced searching options.
  • Google Scholar:
    • provides access to a wide range of resources, but not all of it is scholarly. 
    • use the Google Scholar link from the Library website for best access to full-text references.
  • Some types of specific information are best found using a search engine or specific website.
  • All resources need to be evaluated before using them.

The library collection


The Library Collection is a good place to start your search for scholarly material. You can use it to find eBooks, journal articles, reports, videos and more.

Using the "refine my results" menu, you can refine your search to find exactly what you need.

Want to know more?

Watch this short video about using the Library Collection  (1:48)
Practise searching the Library Collection with our Interactive Tutorial  (15 min.)

Key databases

Databases are online collections of resources including articles, papers, book chapters and reports. Databases have advanced search options, helping to focus your search and find relevant and scholarly references quickly.

undefined  Art Databases

For a complete list of art databases that the library subscribes to, click on the database tab located at the top of the library collection. 


Want to know more?

Read: How to Save Time Searching Databases (PDF)

Specific artists

Finding information about artists is crucial in visual arts, for many reasons including inspiration, contextualisation of your work and understanding of art movements.

Possible sources for material on artists include:

Search tips:

  • Is the person known under any other names? e.g. Brenda Croft, Brenda L Croft
  • Could a book on a particular group/theme/movement/style contain a section on this artist?
  • Are there multiple people with the same name? You may find irrelevant references when searching search tools like the catalogue. If this happens, try combining the artists' name with other terms such as their medium, geographical location, exhibitions, works, awards etc.
  • The catalogue does not include all journal records. Try searching other visual arts databases such as ARTbibliographies Modern.

Artists' books are artworks that use the form or  concept of a book, and are intended to be viewed as works of art.

The Library holds several hundred artists' books in the collection. Many are available on the main shelves, others have been placed in the Special Collection - usually because of the potential for damage or loss of parts.

To find artists' books and books about them:undefined

  • Type "artists' books" into the Library Collection.
  • Refine by physical items, or by Collection – City West.

More about artists' books

Google Scholar

Google Scholar searches only within academic or scholarly sites, rather than the whole internet. By accessing Google Scholar from within the library website, you will be able to link directly to articles that the library has access to by clicking on the Full-text at UniSA link.

Want to know more?

Visit the library's Searching for your Literature Review Guide for videos and tips.
Practise using Google Scholar with our Interactive Tutorial (10 min.)

Find more information

undefined    Special collections @ UniSA

Many art books have been placed in the Special Collection rather than on the open shelves. They have been separated from the main collection for a variety of reasons:

  • Rare
  • Valuable
  • Limited edition
  • Fragile
  • May be considered offensive

These books are kept on Level 2 of the Jeffrey Smart Building. Items can be found in the library collection and identified by the prefix SP as part of the call number, e.g.


UniSA staff and students can access the collection by contacting Ask the Library. Usage is only available for 4 hour in-library use.

   Find exhibition catalogues

The Library holds thousands of exhibition catalogues in the collection. For less well known artists, these catalogues may be one of the few sources of information available about their work. These can include:​

  • Artists' statements
  • Images of the artists' work
  • Essays about the artists' work
  • Artists' biographies including exhibition and award history

Finding exhibition catalogues:

Type exhibitions into the library catalogue, and limit to 'Format: Books'.

You can combine the term with others, for example:

undefined   Find images

Image databases

For a complete list of art image databases that the library subscribes to, see the Art Images database tab.

  • ARTstor - Provides access to over one million high resolution images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and social sciences. 

  • Oxford Art Online - Access the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available. Enter keywords into the search box, then refine your results to Format: Image

  • TROVE - Search across online content contributed by over 70 cultural agencies (galleries, museums, archives and libraries) for images covering all aspects of Australiana.

Want to know more?

 Watch Copyright: Finding images licenced for reuse (1:44)
   SAGE Research Methods

Sage Research Methods is a comprehensive online collection of resources which you can access through the Library. You can explore methodological concepts to help you design your research project, understand a particular research method or identify a new method, and write up your research. 

Select appropriate references

While you are finding references, you need to think about whether they are appropriate to use in your assignment.  You may be asked to use scholarly or peer-reviewed material to support your arguments. 

You should evaluate all resources  before including them in your assignment - even if you found them through the Library Collection or Databases.