African Studies

During COVID-19 I am available by email as well as for virtual meetings. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you need assistance, or have any questions.  Margaret.

Pick a research topic

  • Read your assignment instructions carefully
  • Pick a topic that interests you and meets the criteria of the assignment
  • Identify key concepts of your research topic
  • Do some background reading on your topic using Wikipedia

Subject specific dictionaries and encyclopedias are useful for helping you figure out the jargon of a discipline and can give quick overviews of a topic to get you started. You can often pick up keywords to use in your search strategies from these sources: 

Note: Historical dictionaries exist for almost all of the African Nations. To find them, do a TITLE search in the OMNI

Developing a good search strategy is important

  • what is your assignment?
  • what is the main topic?
  • what aspect of the topic is of interest to you?
  • 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? climate, population, government, geography, etc.

Once you've decided which terms are the most useful for your search, combine them in a boolean search

For example: Africa* AND (poetry OR literature OR composition)

  • 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 those words, in that sequence, side by side such as "Human Rights"

Filters in the databases you probably want to apply include:  Scholarly/Peer Reviewed

Use this worksheet to write out your research topic and identify key ideas.

Start with the Omni search box to search across most of the library's databases. Use the main keywords from your research topic. As you retrieve results, use the filters on the left of the screen to narrow or broaden your search. Guide on finding articles in OMNI.

Covid 19 Updates: 

However,  OMNI doesn't search everything that the library owns or subscribes to so you will still need to search other resources, such as the subject related databases found below, to find everything that you need.

Read the section on developing a good search strategy and using boolean searching above. 

Key Subject related databases for Journal Articles​

Additional journal article databases found in the library: 

Other Databases found online:

  • Africa by ELDIS (Electronic Development and Environment Information System)

The best online database on topics related to development and the environment in Africa. Use the document search to find Africa relevant documents.

Tips for effective searching 

If you find one relevant article for your research it can lead to other relevant papers by the following:

  • using the databases, including OMNI, look to find all papers & books published by the author or co-authors.
  • Explore the bibliography in the paper for more sources.

Find background information about a specific African country in (Economist Intelligence Unit) which provides country reports and country profiles.

Fulltext eBook Collections:

Cambridge University Press eBooks
Columbia International Affairs Online
Oxford University Press eBooks
eBook Collection (EBSCOhost)
Canadian Publishers Collection
Wiley Online Journals


We house a major research collection of official publications for the study of Africa. This collection has been actively developed since 1970 and has received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Extensive coverage is given to documentation from: Countries which were former British colonies: Examples: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Government Portals 

For information on countries not listed below see the CIA World Fact Book and the US State Department's Bureau of African Affairs. See also the EIU.

Algeria Angola | Benin | Botswana | Burkina Faso | Burundi | Cameroon | Cape VerdeChad Djibouti | Egypt | Equatorial Guinea | Eswatini (formerly Zwaziland) | Ethiopia | Gabon Gambia | Ghana | Guinea-Bissau | Ivory Coast | Lesotho | Liberia | Madagascar | Malawi | Mali | Mauritania Mauritius | Morocco | Namibia |Niger Nigeria | Republic of South Sudan Rwanda | Senegal | Seychelles | Sierra Leone | Somalia | South Africa | Sudan |Tanzania Tunisia Uganda | TogoZambia | Zimbabwe |

African Union (AU) (formerly known as Organization of African Unity)

Historical documents may have been included in the Africa Contemporary record which we hold for 1968-1983.

African Development Bank

East African Community

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)​

Official journal of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 

United Cities and Local Governments of Africa

United Nations

Government offices and international agencies with an interest in Africa include:

What is the Difference Between Data and Statistics?

Data are the raw materials out of which statistics are produced, usually available as digital files for manipulation in statistical software. To find data resources available to Carleton faculty, staff and students see Find Data.  Statistics are facts or figures that tend to be aggregate counts, totals, sums, or averages.

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

African census reports


A portal for statistical data collected by the United Nations and its related international organizations containing over 55 million data points that cover a wide range of themes.  Found here is the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Databank.

World Bank Data Catalog

Links to a wide range of data resources including Africa Development Indicators freely available from the World Bank.  Find here Sub-Saharan Africa data

OECD Statistics portal

Access to selected free statistics via Stat.Extracts.  The Library also subscribes to the more comprehensive OECD i-Library.


Data about international economic development assistance.



International Historical Statistics: Africa, Asia & Oceania, 1750-1993

Jump to:  Primary Sources | News | Websites | Maps


Carleton Archives and Special Collections

Original documents can also be found by searching our archival collections or by contacting the Archives and Special Collections (ASC) staff for help.

Library and Archives Canada Collections

Other Archives

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Primary Sources

How to search for primary sources:

Search your topic (or historical person of interest) using the library's main search box to find primary sources (or reproductions) in our collection. Keyword searches that include the following terms will identify primary materials most of the time.

  • Diar* (for diary or diaries)
  • Correspondence
  • Letters
  • Memoir
  • Personal narrative
  • Recollections
  • Reminiscences
  • Journal
  • Sources

Other search tips:

Use bibliographies and footnotes of secondary sources on your topic to help identify primary source material.

Useful book: Reading primary sources: the interpretation of texts from 19th and 20th century history

Original documents can also be found by searching our archival collections or by contacting the Archives and Special Collections (ASC) staff for help. The library has many microform collections of primary sources as well. Please ask for assistance at the Research Help Desk.

Center for Research Libraries (CRL) 

Carleton University Library is a member of the CRL consortium. It regularly acquires and preserves newspapers, journals, documents, archives, and other traditional and digital resources for research and teaching and makes them available to member institutions through your RACER account.  Especially explore the Cooperative Africana Materials Project (CAMP) and other material found here.

Online Primary Sources

Freely accessible online scholarly resource focusing on the socio-political history of South Africa, particularly the struggle for freedom from 1950 to 1994.

Documents dealing primarily with the British Empire including Africa.

The Library of Congress's largest single collection is the NAACP papers. This exhibition shows documents from this collection which have been digitized.

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Consult the News Guide for details of news sources.

International news sources:

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Content last updated: January 26, 2021