1. What went well? Or, what did you learn from this session?
2. What are you still unsure about? Or, what would you improve?
All feedback will be anonymous and will only be used for professional development.
Pick a research topic:
- Read your syllabus (assignment instructions).
- Pick a topic that interests you and meets the assignment instructions.
- Narrow or broaden the scope of your topic so that it is "doable."
What's scope? Scope refers to the "people, places and things" or "who, what, when and where" that you are studying. For example, Canada or another country? Children or adults? Education or child protection services?
Identify key concepts:
- Use an online thesaurus.
Use these to get an overview of your topic or to find definitions of key terms and concepts:
- New encyclopedia of Africa
- Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies
- EIU.com (Country information)
- Regional Atlas on West Africa
Find Government Information
Use our customized search engine for Government Information and filter your search by geographic area.
Database searching is NOT like Google! Most do not support natural language searching. You have to be precise in the words that you select.
Developing a good search strategy is important
Answer the following questions:
- what is your assignment?
- what is the main topic?
- who has an interest in that topic?
- what other language might they be using to talk about that topic? do they spell it differently?
- when was it relevant? is it a new idea, or a long standing issue?
- what other factors play into your issue? geography, government, people, etc.
Once you've decided which terms are the most useful for your search, combine them in a boolean search.
Use keywords only, DO NOT search using a full sentence.
|For example: (writ* OR literature) AND Africa* AND "slave trade"|
- the brackets keep synonyms together
- the * will look for alternate endings
- AND/OR will modify a component to narrow or expand your results (the capitalization of AND/OR varies from database to database, it is better to get in the habit of capitalizing them)
- if you had a multi-word phrase, putting quotes around it will search specifically for that phrase, in that sequence, side by side such as "Human Rights".
Another way to look at this is:
Step 1: Write your topic out in sentence or question form
- How is African slavery portrayed in African writing?
Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords
- Africa, slavery, writing
Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept
- writing - literature
Tip: Use dictionaries, encyclopedias, or a thesaurus to find alternate words.
Step 4: Add "Boolean operators" (AND, OR) to make a complete search statement
- Use AND to limit or narrow your search to results that mention all of your keywords.
- Use OR to broaden your search to include synonyms.
- Africa AND slavery AND writing
- Africa AND slavery AND (writing OR literature) - Note: OR terms must be bracketed.
Step 5: Add wildcards to search for all possible word endings
A wildcard is usually represented by a *. This is also called truncation.
- (writ* OR literature) AND Africa* AND slave*
Step 6: Consider Key Phrase searching
Some databases search each word separately. To ensure that your words are evaluated as a key phrase, enclose them in double quotation marks.
- "human rights"
Step 7: Evaluate your results
If you are finding too many or too few results, try these tricks:
To broaden your search (find more):
- Find synonym for each keyword.
- Search for a broader concept ('dog' instead of 'poodle').
- Use wildcards/truncation.
To narrow your search (find fewer):
- Add another concept or idea to your search with AND
- Use more specific words ('poodle' instead of 'dog').
The library's search tool OMNI lets you do just one search to find books, journal articles newspaper articles, and other types of resources.
Covid 19 Updates:
- Use keywords only, do not search using a full sentence.
- Combine keywords for different ideas with AND
- Search by keyword for specific topics: "birth control" AND women
- Or by country: Globalization AND Nigeria
- Combine synonyms or similar words for an idea with OR
- Capitalize your AND and OR terms in OMNI
- Use the * at the end of the root of a word to find all the forms of that word
- Use " " quotation marks to find a phrase such as "human rights"
- Resource Type
- Publication Date
You can also limit your search to many other sources, such as: e-books, newspapers, magazines or trade publications, videos, dissertations or conference proceedings. While many sources are published in different formats and written for specific audiences, they do not all have solid authority as with the scholarly, peer reviewed literature.
You have two choices to begin searching for journal articles:
1. Use the OMNI box to easily find journal articles or books on any essay topic.
To obtain high quality, academic literature, use the filters to refine your search by selecting the following options:
- scholarly & peer-review
- journal article content type
2. You should also select other Databases by Subject. Click on African Studies to view a list.
Recommended databases for your assignments are:
- Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
- Columbia International Affairs Online
- Communication and Mass Media Complete
- PAIS Index
- International Political Science Abstracts
- Africa Development Indicators
- Africa Knowledge Project
- Anthropology Plus
- Historical Abstracts
TIP: Click on "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" box if the option appears. This way you will only see those articles are that appropriate for your research.
Do not limit yourself to these databases alone. Check Databases by Subject page to see where there may be more databases that suit your research.
Why use journal articles?
- They are more up-to-date than most books.
- They are “peer reviewed” by other scholars in the field who check for academic integrity.
- Every article will contain cited references that appear as footnotes and/or bibliographies.
- Print journals cannot be signed out of the Library but many of them are now available in e-format.
Know the difference between Academic Journals vs. Popular Magazines and Newspapers since many databases will index all content