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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.
  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.

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.). Browse in the Reference books area in Library West or reference areas in 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 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 Libraries at a glance 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 project starters for general suggestions). If you're logged in to the UF network or remotely with VPN, then Google Scholar will integrate 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.

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