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Africana Studies

Resources for doing research in Africana Studies


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Gemmicka Piper
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Africana Studies, formerly African American and African Diaspora Studies, encompasses many disciplines, including history, languages and literature, sociology, anthropology, religious studies, and others. Scholarly resources for the study of the African American and African Diaspora experience are many and diverse. The following guide to Africana Studies resources in the IUPUI University Library and other libraries is intended to help the researcher find the materials she needs to learn, grow, explore, and share new ideas.

Researchers seeking primary source materials with which to research African-American topics may find useful records in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives.  Here is a list of some collections in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives of special African-American Studies interest:

Research in African-American History in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives

Researchers seeking information on Africa may start with the following subject guide for African Studies:

African Studies


Before you dive into the first step of the research process, think for a moment about your research plan. Your instructor may have given you a worksheet to guide your pre-search process. If not, that's ok. Just take a few moments to think about the following: 

  1. What is the issue you are interested in?
  2. What about this issue do you find interesting? 
  3. Does your issue have sub-topics that you need to know more about? 
  4. Use these prompts to help you start thinking about your research question. Feel free to change the question to the future or past tense if that is more appropriate for your topic.

How does . . .

What procedures or actions . . .

What problems . . .

What happens when . . .

What is the role of . . . in . . .

What is the difference between . . .

What causes . . .

What are the effects or results of . . .

How or why did . . . decide to . . .

Who or what influenced . . . to . . .

What is the relationship between . . . and . . .

What are the competing sides . . .

How does. . . change . . .


Now, use the "Developing a Research  Question" infographic to ask some important questions about your issue.

Turning Concepts into Keywords (aka "Search Terms")

As you can see below in #2 on the infographic, this research question contains some nouns or noun phrases that are key to defining this topic. These key concepts will become powerful keywords or search terms when you begin your searching. Remember to avoid the "fluff words" or vague words that could appear anywhere; instead focus on those words that will appear in the articles or resources that you are targeting.

Now, think about your own topic, and pick out the main concepts. I've laid out space here for three, but you should typically have anywhere between two and five:

Concept A _______________________

Concept B _______________________

Concept C _______________________

When you've identified the key concepts in your topic, think of synonyms or related words for each concept. They don't have to be perfect synonyms, and, in fact, sometimes antonyms can be useful search terms. This idea is illustrated below with the "air quality" and pollution pairing. More later on why "air quality" appears in quotations...

Concept A _______________________ OR __synonym __ OR __narrower term__ OR __antonym__ OR __related word__

In my example below, I have listed some related words for climate change. As you know, greenhouse gas is not a synonym for climate change, but it is often cited as a contributing factor. It is a narrower term related to a subset of ideas within this topic that I can use when I begin to search.

Concept: "Climate Change"        OR "Global Warming"    OR "anthropogenic global warming"    OR "greenhouse effect"