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Interior Design: GHoD II


This LibGuide is the product of a collaboration between Professor Matt Cohen and Librarian Christy Zlatos to merge the GHoD II  assignments with library links that hopefully will make the task of finding sources easier and more fruitful.

Christy is available this semester during the time when students are perusing sources to influence their research paper topics. Make an appointment with her by emailing or calling (509) 335-4536. 

Additionally, reference librarians and trained graduate assistants provide assistance at the physical reference desk at Terrell Library as well as staff the 24/7 LibAnswers online module.  Feel free to ask us for assistance.   

Key Databases

Below are the most useful databases to explore the richness of the journal literature of such design subjects as architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, and construction design.

General Advice about Finding Sources

In order to investigate possible topics, have a look at some library resources.  The most obvious place to begin is the new Search It search engine here at WSU, which lists books and articles available at WSU and also globally through our Alliance membership (the holdings of over 30 academic library partners in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon) and Interlibrary Loan (access to the holdings of any library in the country).  Be aware that many of the sources you will (or should) find will not be located in the design sections in Owen Science and Engineering Library.  When you need sources, remember to give yourself enough time to locate them and for the sources to arrive.  Materials requested through the Alliance program take around six business days to arrive and items sent from other places could take two weeks.

Specific Tips on Finding Articles

Tip 1.  One way is to begin by hunting around on this site. On the upper left hand side of the page you will find links to Key Databases with a number of excellent databases for sources on Architecture and Interior Design.  

Tip 2.  Aside from the usual channels of search engines, periodical databases, and browsing the stacks of the library, be aware that many books are actually edited collections of separate essays or articles by different authors.  An article or essay in an edited book also counts as an article.  For your bibliography, make sure you list the author of the article and the editors of the book—not just one or the other.

Tip 3.  Another crucial tip is that many articles (and books) relevant to your topic will be listed in the bibliographies of books that you may have already obtained.  Anybody who writes a scholarly book will naturally include a bibliography of sources s/he used to help write the book in the first place.  Go check for those sources yourself.

Tip 4.  Remember that librarians can help you with sources.  Setting up an appointment with Christy Zlatos ( or stopping by the desks at the Owen or Terrell Library will connect you with someone who can help.  Reference librarians are trained in helping students with sources—even if they may not be familiar with your topic or are not built environment specialists.

GHoD II / Spring 2015 / Professor Matt Cohen / Assignment #1 / Research Paper Topic


Tuesday, January 13.


Tuesday, January 20, at the beginning of class. Initial your submission on the class roster in the presence of the professor or a TA.


Two sentences, typed, double-spaced, printed on 8.5" x 11" paper. Times New Roman 12-point font. Include your name.


Choose a paper topic pertaining to a work of design within the general time period of our course (c. 1700 CE to the present), and state your expected main argument. This assignment requires research. You do not need to list the sources you have examined yet, but in future assignments you will, so keep a running bibliography. Use scholarly sources, and use the library's online search functions. Ask a reference
librarian for assistance (you may have to make an appointment). Librarians are highly educated, usually possessing master's degrees in library science, and highly underutilized resources. You should do more than just Googling around and reading Wikipedia, although these resources can be perfectly legitimate starting points to generate ideas and potential bibliographical references. It will be obvious to us if you have not gone beyond superficial web surfing, and you will be asked to redo the assignment. You are going to be living with this topic all semester, so choose one of genuine personal interest to you.


This assignment is short, but worth three percent of your overall semester grade. We will return it to you as soon as possible. If we find your topic or argument to be infeasible we will ask you to revise it within a few days with no grade penalty.


"Vigorous writing is concise" (Strunk and White, 23). "Few people realize how badly they write" (Zinsser, 18). Read the book excerpts  provided with this assignment, and take great care in crafting your writing style in addition to your argument. Contrary to what you may have learned in other classes, in this class we encourage you to write in the first person singular, or, "I" (Zinsser, 21-24). You still need to be concise, however. State your topic and expected main argument, take responsibility for them by using "I," but do not take us on a verbose, personal voyage of discovery—i.e., "...and then I did this...and then I realized that...." You are the author, not the subject of this paper.

Choosing a topic

Your paper topic must be about design (considered broadly) within the time period noted above. It may address any part of the built environment anywhere in the world (i.e., works of unknown authorship such as factories, gardens, salons, bridges, plazas, roads, barns, defensive structures, neighborhoods, or entire cities; as well as individual works by known designers). You may also choose design theories, or
theoretical works that were never built. For ideas you can peruse the lecture titles and readings in the syllabus, other general textbooks in the library, and other sources. You can choose a topic you are already familiar with and about which you would like to know more, or a topic that is entirely new to you.

Choose an appropriately narrow topic:

You are choosing a topic for a six- to eight page paper. In that amount of space you cannot write about the whole history of world design since 1700, nor can you write about the whole history of Ottoman Architecture. Develop a research question within a broader topic of interest, and propose an argument that you will support with evidence.


Do not propose to argue that a particular work of design is beautiful, magnificent, or spectacular; or even why it might be so. Such proposals are subjective, and would be topics for a class in philosophy or aesthetic theory, not history. Do not argue that a work is "successful" unless you define your criteria and methods for measuring success. Do not provide a merely descriptive argument. Rather, place the topic within the social, cultural, political, and/or economic conditions of the time. Thus, you may write about the transmission of certain design influences through time, such as the uses of the classical orders, but your argument must address the preceding themes in addition to physical characteristics of design. Similarly, papers that focus too much on the biographical aspects of a designer’s life will not be acceptable. Design and designers have meaning only in relation to context.

Make sure sources are available:

If you would like to choose a recent work of design, be sure scholarly sources about them are available. In fact, a good strategy for approaching recent topics would be to look in appropriate journals and books to see what is being written about, and to craft a topic based on available source material. If you cannot come up with an argument about your topic because you cannot find appropriate
sources, you might consider choosing a different topic.

Remain in the past:

You will be analyzing design within the time period of our course. Your argument should not be a work of advocacy, nor should you be looking to the past for solutions to present-day problems. Only focus on the physical condition of your chosen site, and contemporary preservation issues pertaining to it insofar as such matters help you to understand your historical topic.

Choose one topic:

Please do not list two or more possible topics and ask us to choose. If you are having trouble deciding, please see us during office hours.

Possible sample two-sentence responses for this assignment:

1. Elsie de Wolfe was, according to (author of one of your sources, no need for citation yet), the first professional interior designer. I will argue that her status within upper class New York society in the early-twentieth century permitted her to establish interior design as a profession.
2. I would like to investigate EPCOT at Disneyworld. My thesis will be that Walt Disney, rather than creating an "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" as the acronym contends, instead stereotyped global cultures in ways that favored the rich and powerful, and hired his “Imagineers” to create, among other attractions, degraded imitations of the most recognizable world monuments.
3. I plan to analyze Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute of Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. This complex—though usually celebrated for its water channel, sense of serenity, and modernist clarity—is fundamentally representative of Kahn’s desire to imagine design as a communal, almost monastic, enterprise, thus tying him more closely to ancient cultures than modernism.


Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 5th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1999. Pages 2-5 and 28-40.
Strunk Jr., William and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. 3d ed. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1979. Pages xi-xvii and 1-33.
Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. 6th ed. New York: Harper Perennial, 1998. Pages 3-33.

Peer review:

Please arrange to have one other student in the class peer review your paper for content (the appropriateness and strength of the proposal) and language (grammar, syntax, and style). At the bottom of the paper include the words: "Peer reviewed by," and enter the peer reviewer's name. While it may seem awkward at first to let someone else read your writing, since writing seems so personal, most writing is in fact both personal and public. Except for writings in a diary, writing is meant to convey your personal thoughts to a reading public, which is the very word at the root of the word "publish." Every work I have ever published has been peer reviewed by multiple reviewers, and every peer review has improved my writing. Often we are our own worst critics because we do not hear our own linguistic errors, and we may not see gaps in our own logic. Allow enough time to make revisions after your peer review. Peer reviewers: don't worry, your grade will not be affected by someone else's writing, however, by allowing your name to be placed on a peer's paper you are affirming that you have made a serious effort to help that person improve his or her writing. The purpose of this requirement is to create a system of cooperative mutual assistance to raise the overall level of writing in the class. No matter how good you are as a writer, there is always room for improvement.


A long text to explain a two-sentence assignment? Yes. The shorter a piece of writing needs to be, the more difficult it is to write. Those two sentences need to contain a lot of thought, and be able to guide a semester's worth of research. Craft them carefully. You might start by writing too much and then gradually shaving off unnecessary words until you arrive at two concise—though not necessarily short—sentences.

Good Sources to Use / Sources to Avoid

Good Sources to Use

  • Books published by university presses.
  • Articles in scholarly or “refereed” journals (i.e. Journal of Interior Design, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Journal of Landscape Architecture, IDEA Journal, The Art Bulletin, Landscape Journal, Journal of Urban History, Architectural History, Burlington Magazine, Winterthur Portfolio, Journal of Architectural Education, Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, Buildings and Landscapes, Ars Orientalis, American Antiquity). If you download an article from a refereed journal, make sure you list the journal title name, its volume and number, and page numbers—not the URL from which you obtained the source. Otherwise, it may read to us as an non-scholarly, non-refereed, internet source. 
  • Books/articles that go beyond a biography of the particular designer or space (i.e., sources on the specific time period in which your building, space, landscape, or designer worked). In other words, if your topic is Central Park, then general books on New York City, on the history of park design, or American cities in the mid-nineteenth-century might be helpful. Often, sources where the focus is not design but politics, economics, art, or culture can be useful in providing crucial contextual information that you bring to bear upon the design. Do not restrict your search for sources to the Owen Science and Engineering Library.  Many useful sources for your work may be in the Terrell Library.

Sources to Avoid

  • Internet/Web sources (this doesn’t include scholarly articles that you can download from the web).  While sometimes offering basics that can help you determine dates, locations, and names of designers associated with your topic, internet sources rarely provide critical analysis.  Few web sources are scholarly, and most include cribbed articles from popular magazines or tourist brochures to the site—the kinds many of you analyzed in your second assignment for GHoD I (on non-western design).  Occasionally, web sources take abbreviated information from articles or books already published elsewhere. You should obtain the published books or articles themselves—not the web version. If you use a website, you must provide the full URL. If we are not able to check your source for validity, it will be discounted.
  • Wikipedia. While Wikipedia has improved immeasurably over the past few years, it still has problems (if you are unclear on what those problems may be, please come talk to the instructor or teaching assistants).  Certainly, you may use Wikipedia for background and to find further sources listed in the bibliography or references section at the bottom, but do not attempt to list Wikipedia as one of your sources.  Be careful, too:  many of the sources listed in Wikipedia bibliographies are also non-scholarly.
  • Old books or old articles. Generally, books and articles published or written prior to 1960 (or so) offer old-fashioned, usually dry, frequently celebratory, and occasionally racist or ethnocentric accounts about the built environment. Unless you are making a point about how the scholarship on your building or has changed over the years, using old (and old-fashioned) sources is frequently problematic.
  • Coffee-table books (i.e. books with titles like Mysteries of the Taj Mahal or Masterpieces of Modern Design), where the focus is typically on pictures, captions, and travel—not content and analysis.
  • General interest magazines (i.e. National Geographic, Archaeology, Preservation, Architectural Digest, Smithsonian Magazine, Metropolitan Home, Sunset, Historic Traveler).
  • Non-scholarly journals (History Today, Library Journal, Choice, UNESCO Courier).  If you’re unclear if your journal is scholarly, please come speak with us in office hours.   
  • Book reviews.  These can be useful to give you a brief synopsis of a book that deals with your topic, but they will not count as scholarly sources.  After all, they are typically short (1-3 pages).  More importantly, since they are usually reviewing a book (or a couple of books), you should make the effort to get the book itself. 
  • Newspaper articles.  Since newspaper articles are written by journalists who rarely have any specialized training or knowledge of the subject they cover, they typically provide only the broadest outline of any subject. 
  • Glossy design magazines (i.e. Interior Design Magazine, Architectural Record, Architecture, Architectural Review, Azure, Dwell, El Croquis, Interiors Magazine, Progressive Architecture, Metropolis, A+U, Domus, Japan Architect, Detail).  While occasionally analytical or interesting, these magazines are not scholarly and rarely include information about design prior to the twentieth century.  The articles are also typically short.
  • General surveys (i.e. enormous books on the “History of Design,” the “History of Art,” or the “History of the World”—they’re much too broad and will probably only touch upon your topic briefly, if at all).  Even slightly more specialized surveys may also be problematic (i.e. “History of Japanese Design”) since it may have limited information on your specific building or space.  Be aware of their limitations.
  • Encyclopedias (this includes design-related encyclopedias as well as general ones, either on the web or in print).
  • Multiple sources by the same author (i.e. a book and an article by the same author on your topic).  Even if two or more sources by the same author are scholarly, chances are the author does not advance considerably different ideas from one source to the next—especially if s/he is writing on the same subject.  Often, an author works out a thesis carefully in an article; the book uses a similar thesis, but offers more examples.
  • Your textbooks: Buildings Across Time, Architecture and Interior Design, or Landscape Design.  Or, for that matter, any textbook, unless you are using the textbook strategically to provide a counterpoint for your argument (similar to the GHoD I assignment on non-western design).  If the latter is the case, you must make this very explicit in your annotated bibliography.  It’s not that your textbooks are not useful sources, but attempting to include them as one of your five scholarly sources does not show that you have made much of a research effort for this assignment.  You should, however, feel free to use textbooks for bibliographies that may lead you to other scholarly sources.  However, a textbook will not count towards your five required sources.
  • Television specials or documentaries (i.e. History Channel episodes, Engineering Marvels, A & E specials).  While often containing useful information and new interpretations in an engaging manner, any scholarly information in a TV special will have been published elsewhere first.  Fast forward to the credits at the end and find the names of scholars or sources from which the producers or directors obtained their information.  Then hunt for those sources.
  • Guidebooks (i.e. Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Rick Steves, Michelin Guides, Blue Guides, Moon Handbooks, DK Eyewitness Guides, etc.). These may contain useful detail, but they are typically non-scholarly and rarely analytical—just a series of facts.  Much information contained in them is exactly what you are likely to discover on-line.
  • Any article that is really short.  Chances are it’s not scholarly.
  • Lecture.  While information in lecture may spark ideas and ultimately may provide support for your thesis or argument—and could be included in your bibliography when you turn in your final paper—it will not count as one of your five scholarly sources. 

Alvar Aalto, Mt. Angel Abbey Library, Mt. Angel, Oregon, 1970

Alvar Aalto

Photo by Phil Gruen, 2008

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Christy Zlatos
Terrell Library, Room 120L
(509) 335-4536
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