Reference materials are a valuable resource when doing research.
Use dictionaries to help with terminology. Encyclopedias provide background information, an overview of topics and issues and often lead you to further readings.
- Use a dictionary or encyclopedia to find definitions and explanations of terms and concepts.
Online resources like Google and Wikipedia, while not always accurate, are a great way to orient yourself in a topic, since they usually give a basic overview with a brief history and any key points. Reminder: you cannot use Wikipedia as a source in your bibliography!
Do an initial search for academic sources:
Here is the African Studies Subject Guide to help you pick the right databases, search-engines and sources for your assignment.
Develop a search strategy to help you find books and journal articles:
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 a thesaurus, dictionary, or encyclopedias 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 is on the library homepage and lets you do just one search to find books, newspaper articles, journal articles, and other types of resources.
Use the Step-by-Step Guide to Building your Search above to create your search string.
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
- Communication and Mass Media Complete
- Columbia International Affairs Online
- International Political Science Abstracts
- PAIS Index (Political Science / International Affairs)
- Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
- GEOBASE (for Urban Studies)
- Africa Development Indicators
- Africa Knowledge Project
- Historical Abstracts
- JSTOR (multidisciplinary)
- Google Scholar
- Berg Fashion Library
- Gale Literature
- Literature Resource Center
- MLA International Bibliography (literature)
- Music Index Online
- RILM Abstracts of Music Literature
- FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals Database
- Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text
- Sociological 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.
ALSO NOTE: Do not limit yourself to these databases. See full list of Databases By Subject.
Your annotation should include:
- A brief summary of the source
- The source’s strengths and weaknesses
- Its conclusions
- Why the source is relevant in your field of study
- Its relationships to other studies in the field
- An evaluation of the research methodology (if applicable)
- Information about the author’s background
- Your personal conclusions about the source
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
Citing your sources
Referencing your sources is an important part of academic writing. Why?
- it lets you acknowledge the ideas or words of others if you use them in your work
- it helps you to avoid plagiarism
- it demonstrates that you are using the scholarly record and that you can provide authority for statements you make in your term paper
- it enables readers to find the source information
- you don't have to cite common knowledge
Tips to avoid plagiarism
- Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing.
- This is an excellent video on paraphrasing which can be a little tricky.
TAKE NOTES: writing down page numbers and references throughout your research is a good way to save time when you need to quote and cite sources
NEVER copy and paste material unless you cite it properly.
At the end of each paper/report you must CITE ALL SOURCES you have used, whether you quote them directly or paraphrase the ideas.
When in doubt, ask for help!