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Research Guides

AFRAM 334: Civil Rights & Black Power: Search Strategy Tips

Examines the politics and culture of the modern African American freedom struggle - Brukab Sisay Instructor

Design Search Strategy

Your assignment:
Develop a research paper focusing on issues of civil rights and Black power.

One of the more important processes in conducting research is designing a search strategy. You should use your search strategy when using library search tools/databases.  The following are things to consider in designing your strategy:

  1. Analyze your topic
    • You may need to find information in different kinds of sources
      [ Books | Journals | Newspapers | Magazines | Media (images, video, sound recordings)]
    • You may need to use more than one library tool (database, etc.)
      [ Some examples: Sociological Abstract | Academic Search Complete | America: History & Life ]
    • You may need to explore a subject over a period of time
      [ For example: 5 years | 20 years | 1960s | 19th Century | 20th Century ]

      It is important to clarify what you are interested in finding out about your topic; familiarize yourself with the key issues and context.  Begin by creating a research question. For example, what were the contributions of the Black Panther Party during the fight for civil rights and the lasting effects/legacies of their work?

  2. Select Keywords
    • Create a list of Related Terms. Another way to express this, is to create a list of synonyms for the important concepts in or associated with your topic. Example topic question: what were the contributions of the Black Panther Party during the fight for civil rights and the lasting effects/legacies of their work?

    • Narrower terms: (Good for limiting your search, excluding irrelevant information, or adding focus to your search)

      Free Breakfast for School Children Program, black nationalism, marxism, MalcolmX, SNCC, Stoley Carmichael, dialectical materialism, Ten-Point Program, economic empowerment
      • Population -gender (men, women), age (children/teens, adults, elderly), groups (artist, educators, clergy, ethnic/racial groups, etc.): Black Panther Party, Black Nationalists, Black Separatists, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Elaine Brown, Eldridge Cleaver
      • Geography - towns, cities, states, countries, regions: Oakland, Chicago, Seattle, Party Chapter Locations
      • Time Period - current, decade, 20th Century, ancient: 1960 - 79

    • Broader terms: (Allow you to explore the broader context of your topic. Good if you're having difficulty finding sources)
      Civil Rights, Human Rights, Black Power, Nationalism, Separatism

  3. Create a Search Query

    Many of our databases or search tools require that you use AND or OR to combine multiple terms/keywords in a search.

    See examples below:

    • police oppression AND Black Panther Party (narrows your search, both terms 'police oppression' and 'Black Panther Party' must appear)
    • blacks OR African-Americans (broadens your search, one of the terms must appear. Good for use with synonyms.)
    • police oppression AND (African-Americans OR blacks) (combines connectors AND/OR together in a search)
    • Use a technique called truncation with the * symbol to search additional forms of a word when using a search tool or database.

      Example: politic* will also find politic, political, politically, politician, politicians, politics.

      oppression AND politic*

      Be aware that the truncation symbol may vary depending on the database (*,#,?,!) are the most common.


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Harry Murphy

Odegaard Undergraduate Library
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