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SAMPLE OF EVALUATION OF A REFERENCE SOURCE
1. Provide an MLA citation for the dictionary:
The Oxford Dictionary of Art. Eds. Ian Chilvers and Harold Osborne. 2 nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
2. Scope (i.e., what type of dictionary is this, what topics are covered, who is the intended audience, etc. What is the purpose of this dictionary?)
This volume is not intended to be encyclopedic, but it is aimed at comprehensiveness. It joins its sister references Oxford Companion to Art and Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Art. These are all handy reference books on the arts, meant for the lay person who needs reliable information in an easy, accessible form. It is designed, also, to be a handy reference for art students and teachers. It is thoroughly up-to-date in a single volume. The aim of the dictionary is to provide an overview of Western art forms and individual artists from antiquity to our own day. Notice the Western emphasis. Oriental art is defined, but only as it relates to Western art. The scope includes painting, sculpture, graphic arts, and also, galleries, artist, and patrons.
3. Authority (Who is the author/editor and what are his/her credentials? Who is the publisher and what are their credentials, if any?) Oxford University Press, 1988 (Second Edition as paperback 2001).
Oxford University Press scholarship is a pretty good credential. Ian Chilvers and Harold Osborne are the editors and Dennis Farr is the consultant editor. Harold Osborne was as civil servant who founded the British Society of Aesthetics. Chilvers is a British art historian.
4. Arrangement and Entry (How is the dictionary arranged? Does it have a preface and introduction that explains how it should be used? Is the introductory material helpful? What other useful features does the dictionary include?
The dictionary has a forward, a table of contents, an introduction, a list of abbreviations, and then the entries are listed alphabetically, in dictionary form (last name firs, save rare cases, e.g. Da Vinci is cited under Leonardo. The introduction is interesting and presents its aim and scope as a handy reference for the lay person or student of art. At the end of the volume, there is a wonderful chronology of art, and Index of galleries and museums, complete with phone numbers and Web addresses, and a selection of Christian and Classical themes listed in painting and sculpture. An example of a listing: Ben Shahn (1898-1969). American painter, illustrator, photographer, designer, teacher, and writer, born at Kovno, Lithuania…he was assistant to Diego* Rivera…during the Second World War his work included designing posters for the Office of War Information. This citation shows the cross-reference system. Cross-references are listed by asterisk. It is very nice reading. The entries are enlivened with quotations from artists and critics. It is very readable. It is terse and succinct.
5. Review (Try to locate a review for this dictionary in either Choice, “Reference Books Bulletin” in Booklist, Introduction to Reference Work, Vol. 1 by Katz, or Guide to Reference Books, 11 th ed., edited by Robert Balay. Compare their review to your evaluation. You can search for both Choice and Booklist reviews in InfoTrac: Expanded Academic ASAP.) Did you find a review?
Yes. If yes, provide the review citation: Once again, I found several reviews in Bowker’s Books in Print Professional: Bunch, Craig. “Oxford Dictionary of Art.” Booklist. Nov. 2004. Books in Print Professional. Bowker. MCTC Library. Apr. 2005. This volume covers painting, sculpture, graphic arts, and design. Architecture is excluded. 3000 alphabetical entries range in length from one sentence to three to four columns (see Renaissance). No artists born after 1945 are included. There are no illustrations or bibliographic references. It is very readable and lastingly useful. This reviewer uses the term succinct, as well. Recommended for high-school, public and academic libraries. Brauch, P. “Oxford Dictionary of Art.” Choice. 1 Dec. 1988. Books in Print Professional. Bowker. MCTC Library. Apr. 2005. P. Brauch from Brooklyn College, CUNY, reviewed this dictionary. This reviewer calls it a handy ready-reference tool, keeping in mind the limitations of the originals. Recommended for college, school, and general libraries. Attractive layout and clear print make the volume easy to use. Scope includes patrons and galleries. Cross-references are accurate and helpful.
6. How does the review compare to your personal review of the dictionary? Does your observation agree with that of the reviewer? The reviews agreed with my review of the dictionary as a handy reference tool for lay people. I do not think it is detailed or specific enough for an art school, but it gives a clear and concise definition of Western art for the average reader. The gallery listing is very handy.