African & African American Studies: A Guide to Resources: Home

Introduction

This guide will help you find resources in African American Studies. Click on the tabs above to find information on reference materials, books, journal articles, and more.

However, because African American Studies is an interdisciplinary subject, you may need to consult resources from many different disciplines. See http://libraries.ou.edu/eresources/ for a list of disciplines and http://guides.ou.edu for a list of research guides. 

A Note About Keywords

Before you do any searching in the catalog or a database, brainstorm a list of keywords that describe your topic.

  • Consider synonyms

    • woman vs. female

  • Consider alternate spellings

    • labor vs. labour

    • 16th century vs. sixteenth century

  • Consider broader and narrower terms

    • Great Britain vs. England

Reference materials may help you identify keywords. See the tab above.


Be aware of problems you may encounter:

  • Homonyms. Remember databases and catalogs match characters, not concepts.

    • For example, the word "China": is it a country or a set of dishes? The computer can't tell!

  • Sometimes there is no universally agreed up term or phrase for a concept.

    • For example, middle ages vs. medieval, Native American vs. Indian, motion picture vs. movie vs. film

  • Avoid searching for long phrases or sentences. Extract key concepts instead.

    • For example, avoid searching "How to design and implement alcoholism treatment programs"  |  Try instead the keywords: alcoholism and treatment
       
  • Keep in mind that older works may use language that is considered offensive today.


The database (or catalog) you are searching may help you choose keywords, because many of them systematically assign subject headings to all works listed within them. Look for the "subject terms" or "descriptors" in the record of a book or an article. These tell you what the preferred term is in a database/catalog and can sometimes help you choose other words to search.

For example, this is a screen shot from Discover Local (the library's catalog). The words in the red circle are the subject terms assigned to this book. If you clicked on the highlighted subject term, Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945, you would find more works on the same topic.