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 specialized Encyclopedias and Dictionaries to get an overview of your topic or to find definitions of key terms and concepts.
- New encyclopedia of Africa
- A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa
- The handbook of civil society in Africa
- Africa Portal (resource for policy-related issues on Africa)
Do an initial search for academic sources:
Here is a Subject Guide to help you pick the right databases, search-engines and sources for your assignment.
Watch this video to help you with search strategies for various databases:
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').
Find books and journal articles using the Library's Search Tool OMNI
When searching, consider the following:
Once you have your results:
- To see only BOOKS click on Book
- To see only JOURNAL ARTICLES click on Articles and click on Peer-Reviewed Journals.
Because there will be many results, it is important to narrow your search.
- Resource Type
- Publication Date
More information available here.
More information regarding finding journal articles here.
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.
See our list of recommended databases on the African Studies subject guide, which includes:
- Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
- PAIS Index
- Communication and Mass Media Complete
- International Political Science Abstracts
- Africa Development Indicators
- Historical Abstracts
- Gale Literature
Do NOT limit yourself to these databases alone. See Databases by SUBJECT Page
- Africa Today
- Canadian journal of African studies
- African studies review
- Journal of African history
- Journal of modern African studies
- Journal of Southern African studies
- Review of African Political Economy
- Pambazuka News
- African Arguments
Get one-on-one help with your research assignments or access one of our many subject guides. Contact Margaret McLeod for a one-on-one session.
You can also CHAT with a librarian if you need help after hours.
You may find the following writing resource helpful as well:
- Writing the Research Paper Video
- Student research and report writing : from topic selection to the complete paper
- Grammar and style
For more assistance with citing please see Citing Your Sources.
What is an annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography gives an account of the research that has been done on a given topic. Like any bibliography, an annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of research sources. In addition to bibliographic data, an annotated bibliography provides a concise summary of each source and some assessment of its value or relevance.
Zinn, H. "A People's History of the United States". New York, NY: New Press, 1999.
In this book the history of the United States is seen from the viewpoint of people who were not necessarily beneficiaries of American democracy. The book concentrates on the experiences of slaves, American Indians, women, and other disenfranchised groups and how they were affected by the major events in American history. Zinn emphasizes in the introduction that his intent is not to demonize figures such as revolutionary leaders, but to portray them in a more realistic light, as people who, while contributing to the development of the United States, were influenced by the prejudices of their time.
Resources that may help you
Consult the help guide on writing an annotated bibliography
- Writing an Annotated Bibliography (University of Toronto)
- How to Write Annotated Bibliographies (Memorial University)
- Annotated Bibliography Purdue Online Writing Lab