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African Studies: Beginning your research

A guide to UF Libraries' research and teaching resources in African Studies. Feel free to let us know what would be useful to have included.

Getting Started at the library

  1. Activate your Gator 1 card: The 14 digit number below the barcode serves as your library number. You can activate it at any library circulation desk.
  2. Set up the UF VPN: When you're off campus, use the UF VPN software to access electronic databases, journals and books.
  3. Search the library catalog for books or journal titles: Links to online books and journals are provided in the catalog.
  4. Search subject databases to find articles in journals: If you are trying to decide which database is appropriate for your research, look at the list of databases listed on the main Key Resources page.
  5. Check your account status or renew material. You can renew your books and check your library account online.
  6. Create an Interlibrary Loan account. This will allow you to place requests for books and journal articles not owned by the UF Libraries. The ILL office will contact our partner libraries to request your book or article. Journal articles are normally sent electronically and books can be picked up at Library West.

Thanks to Amy Buhler for these practical suggested steps for getting started.

Save time with a strategic approach to research

1) Keep a list of search terms (authors, titles, relevant keywords, subjects, themes and concepts) from reference sources (bibliographies, research guides, topical encyclopedias, etc.). Use Reference Universe as a guide (it indexes many reference sources, links to UF online subscriptions). Browse the relevant areas of the reference stacks. Browse in the Humanities & Social Sciences Reference area in Library West as well as the reference areas of other branches, depending on your topic.

When browsing reference sources, read several overviews relating to your research question. Issues and themes relating to your topic may be collected together in more general materials (i.e. world history, Third World or developing areas, indigenous peoples, etc.). Use more general search terms if searches yield too few results; narrow terms or filter results if searches yield too many. Check the further readings, references cited and bibliography sections. The preface and, if available, chronology sections can also be valuable starting points. Note alternate, related subject and keyword terms in your list of search terms as you peruse sources to help develop and maintain an effective search strategy for your research.

2) Use these results to target your search for books in the library catalog. Check the detailed view of any promising records to see subject headings and consider alternative search terms. Pay close attention to library locations, as materials may be located in various branch libraries. See the Just Getting Started pages or Overview of Collections & Services for a brief orientation.

3) You now should have a list of authors who work in your chosen area of research, along with some relevant terms and narrower topics that you'd like to pursue further. Use your developing list of leads to search for relevant scholarly articles in the journal index databases (see the research gateway and project starters for general suggestions). Like Reference Universe, Google Scholar integrates UF Libraries' electronic holdings and provides links back into resources available to UF faculty, students and staff. Continue to apply your developing list of leads iteratively, using new terms again in the research tools that you've already used with only your initial list.

A few more advanced tips: conducting research online

More advanced users may wish to use a few simple tools to assist with library research.

  • The library toolbar plugs into your Firefox web browser and allows searching of the Library's catalog from the browser without navigating to the UF Libraries page. It also adds the UF icon to WebPages with book identifiers (Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or other booksellers). From there you can click on the icon to instantly discover if UF holds the item. The toolbar allows you to search for Articles as well using Google Scholar and UF's Research Gateway.
  • RefWorks is a citation manager licensed by the UF Libraries to help you manage your bibliographical references. More information on citation management software is available.
  • When making Interlibrary Loan (ILL) requests, follow the RAPID ILL guidelines to get your materials as quickly as possible. Once you have what you need, logon to ILLiad to make your request online. Once you're logged into ILLiad, requests are auto-filled when you make them using the links in WorldCat database records.
  • When you're off campus, use the UF VPN software to access electronic databases, journals and books.
  • Several mobile applications are available, customized for UF Libraries' collections and services.

Guides for using many of these tools and more are available as short videos (see box to right).

Library tools & services

Library "how-to" videos

Student created, one-minute videos on using the UF Libraries.

Course & topical guides

Pathfinder resources, guides for classes and projects (also see suggested print & online sources for the four sub-fields and more).

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