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Africana Studies: Core Skills

This is a guide to resources for Africana Studies.

Developing a Search Strategy

Key to what you get out of the computer is what you put into the computer. Catalogs and databases organize material into subject areas using controlled vocabularies so your word choice is very important. These systems prefer nouns.    

  1. Distill your topic to its key concepts then develop a list of synonyms
  2. Start with a keyword search
  3. Use Boolean Operators to focus (and) or expand (or) your search

Check out the link below for help developing a search strategy:


Below is a sampling of some of the subject headings you may want to use in your search.  As most subjects (like historical figures or events) have their own subject headings, there are hundreds more.  


Some special notes to keep in mind when searching in this area...

  • Library databases use the term "Blacks" to represent that group internationally and "African Americans" to represent that group within the United States.
  • The terms like "Afro-Americans," "Negroes" and "Colored" were used historically.  These were removed from official subject headings; however, they will still appear in titles, abstracts and full text articles.  Incorporting them into a keyword search may help expand and increase results.
  • Using a * will truncate a word and help increase results (ex. Afric* will retrieve African, Africans,  African-American, etc.)
  • If you are looking for primary sources, there are special search techniques that can help.


  • Africa

    African Americans / African American + noun

    Blacks / Black + noun

    Africans / Africans + noun (example African Authors)

    African Diaspora

    Black Arts Movement

    Black militant organizations

    Civil rights workers United States

    Garvey, Marcus, 1887-1940

    Gospel music

    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

    Poor People's Campaign

    Race discrimination


    Selma-Montgomery Rights March, 1965

Quick Tip

When you've located a good title...

  • Try looking at the bibliography at the end of chapters or articles for a list of additional sources.
  • On the shelf, look at the nearby books to see if they are related to your topic.