African American Studies Library Resources

Collections, services, and assistance for African American Studies and interdisciplinary students and faculty




I'm new to research and I need someone to help me. Who can I ask? 

We are here to help! 

- Stop by the Research Assistance desk on the 2nd floor of Library West
- Send an email to a subject librarian to schedule a one-on-one appointment
- For more immediate assistance and quick questions, send us a chat or text 

My professor says my topic is too broad. What do I do? 

A great way to workshop your topic idea is to write down the different parts of your topic that you're interested in researching. Next, you'll want to create some parameters for your research that give your project scope. You can do this by asking yourself the questions below. 

- Who: What individuals or communities are involved in my topic: 
- What: What are the most important / significant actions, events, things you want to address: 
- When: What time period is your research relevant to? 
- Where: What geographic geographical area or regions do I want to focus on? 

Sample Topic and Scope: 

Topic: African Americans and the making of the West 
Who: Black cowboys, Nat Love, John Ware
What: Cattle drives, war service, rodeo 
When: Reconstruction and Jim crow eras 
Where: American West 

Your scoping may be adjusted as needed. It serves as a guidepost to help you stay focused while researching. Keep in mind that you only have a very limited time in which to research and only so many pages to write. Give yourself enough room to fully explore your topic by not cramming too many ideas into one paper. It is OK to say "I know this topic is really complex, but, for the purposes for this assignment, I am going to focus on X, Y, and Z." Put your other brilliant ideas in your back pocket and save them for a rainy day. 

A good benchmark for determining whether your topic is too broad is make a list of research questions. These should be questions you realistically can answer through your research. Can you reasonably answer all of these questions within the number of pages allotted in your assignment? If you only have 7-10 pages and you have 6 research questions, you probably should consider narrowing your scope. 

For more on topic development, check out the Getting Started tab. 

What are research questions? Why do I need them? 

Not to worry! Research questions are often a new concept for many undergraduate students. When engaging in scholarly research, it is good practice to start with questions that you would like to answer (for yourself or your audience) about your topic. We call this inquiry-based research and it is a great method for avoiding confirmation bias. If you have ever written the majority of your paper first and then went looking for sources to support your claims, then you have fallen victim to confirmation bias. 

However, if you start by asking questions, you will end up with a much stronger research paper. You'll probably be surprised as the new ideas you generate, too. 

A good research question is an open-ended question (not a yes/no question) that you can answer by identifying sources and data related to your topic. For a research paper, I recommend asking a few different research questions: firstly, your hypothesis question, followed by a series of sub-questions that dig deeper into your topic. By answer your sub-questions with your sources, you will be able to make claims that then help you answer your hypothesis question. Your hypothesis question then converts to your thesis statement, and the answers to your sub-questions form the framework for the body of your paper. 

For more on how to create a research question and specific examples, check out the Getting Started tab. 

Why can't I find any articles on my topic? 

There could be a few reasons why you are having trouble find articles or other sources for your topic. Here are a few common issues: 

1. You are using Google or Google Scholar as your primary method of research. Google can be good place to start learning about a topic, but ultimately that majority of scholarly information is maintained in databases that libraries have access to via subscriptions. Instead, try searching for articles using the UF Libraries' Primo search tool

2. You haven't clearly defined your research topic, scope and/or questions. For guidance on how to do this, check out the Getting Started tab or schedule a research consultation with a librarian

If I check out a book for my paper, do I have to read the entire thing? 

No! Read strategically and with purpose. Please do not avoid books for this reason. There are two quick ways to tell whether a book is relevant to your research topic: 1) skim the chapter index 2) read the introductory chapter. Your objective is to answer your research questions. If the source does not help you achieve this goal, then continue looking for more relevant sources. You can also choose to focus on the most related chapters or sections of a book or volume. 

Using the Library 

How do I access eBooks, articles, or streaming videos through the UF Libraries? 

If you are using UF campus WIFI, you can just click on the link to any eBook, article, or film through the UF Library website to access. If you are located off-campus, you will need to download and connect to the VPN in order to access these resources. 

For VPN help, contact the UF IT Help Desk

To access journal articles and databases, you much go through the UF Library website. You cannot access (for example) JSTOR or EBSCO via Google. 

How do I find a book in the library? 

There are generally two different types of library books: eBooks and print books. You can can find both by searching the library catalog. Each print book is assigned a call number made up of numbers and letters, which you can use to find the book's location in the library. 

Example: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (Call no. HV9950 .A437 2011). 

You can use the maps located around the library to find the HV section, then follow the numbers and letters to locate the book. If you have any trouble, don't hesitate to ask a library worker for help! 

How do I check out a book? 

You can check out books from the library by visiting the circulation desk. At the desk, a library worker will scan your book and your Gator 1 card, and they'll let you know when the book is due back to the library. You can also skip the line and visit a self-check-out kiosk. 

What if the book I want is lost or checked out, or I need full-text article to a journal UF doesn't have? 

Great news! You request to borrow materials through one of our interlibrary loan services: 

- ILLiad: Great for borrowing book chapters or articles from institutions around the world 

- UBorrow: Request print books from other academic libraries in Florida 

Pro-tip: When searching the library catalog, change the search bar setting from "UF Library Catalog" to "Statewide Catalog"  

How many books can i check out?

UF undergraduate students can borrow up to 100 books for 8 weeks.
UF Graduate students can borrow up to 250 books for 8 weeks. 
UF faculty and postdocs can borrow up to 350 books which are due on April 1st and October 1st. 

Writing & Project / Time Management 

I have several classes with multiple tests and papers. What I can do to manage it all? 

There are some great (FREE) tools to that you can use to help you manage projects and keep things organized. 

Librarian recommended tools: 

- Trello: a tool that allows you to organizes your projects into boards in a way that makes sense to you. You can create multiple boards for different classes, projects, assignments, non-school work, etc. You can attach files, add collaborators, and make it your own with fun backgrounds. Trello tells you what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process. 

- Citation management tools: Do you wait until the last minute before your paper is due to add your citations? Are you always scrambling through files or stacks of papers to find citation information? Have you played fast and loose with plagiarism because you haven't kept track of your citations? There's an easier way -- use a citation manager. Check out the citation manager guide to learn more about free tools like EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero. 

How do I integrate my sources into my paper? 

Your objective is to answer your research questions using the sources and data you've identified. After reading your sources and interpreting the data, you should be able to answer your question or - in other words - state a claim. Your claims become the basis of your paper -- you are generating ideas and finding your scholarly voices. You then support your ideas and claims with your sources. 

Claim it. Explain it. Cite it. 

I'm not sure if my paper is any good. Where can I go for help? 

If you want feedback on a rough draft, you can contact the UF Writing Studio for an online tutoring session. 

Citations stress me out. Help?! 

Work smarter, not harder! Try these helpful tips:

- Copy or export citations directly from the library website by clicking the "citation" button in a book or article record and selecting the citation style you need (e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago / Turabian). 

- Use a citation manager like Zotero, Endnote, or Mendeley. Learn more by visiting the Citation Management Guide

- For citing other types of sources, consult citation standards using Purdue Owl or an official style guide

University of Florida Home Page

This page uses Google Analytics - (Google Privacy Policy)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.