- Select a topic that interests you.
- Start from what you know: your class reading and lectures, what you’ve read in the media or heard in other classes.
- Do some preliminary research on your topic to determine if you can find enough information. Not too broad, but not too narrow! It’s good to check your topic before it’s too late to change.
- Familiarize yourself with the context around the topic. Whether you are researching a particular woman in African history or a particular topic,take a moment to familiarize yourself with the African countries you are looking at.
- Place and people names may vary in their spellings according to the era and the language they were written in. Some examples: Masai vs. Maasai people or Timbuctoo vs.Timbuktu
- Many places have changed names over the years; keep this in mind particularly when searching for historical materials. Ethiopia was at one time known as Abyssinia, Zimbabwe was Rhodesia, Malawi was Nyasaland, etc.
Arm yourself with as much information as possible and all possible variations of a name as you conduct your research:
It is critical in the number of results you retrieve when using the library catalog, electronic databases, and the internet.
- Identify authors who are specialists in the field, search for other works they have written.
- Whom do those authors cite? Check the bibliographies of books on your topic in order to find additional resources.
- If the topic is extremely specific, you may need to consult a variety of materials. For example, if you were researching the construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile, you would want to search beyond books and journal articles to government documents, reports, maps, etc. When consulting books, be sure to search chapter headings and indexes to help find the information you need.