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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 involving 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
    • It is important to clarify what you are interested in finding out about your topic; familiarize yourself with the key issues and context. What are the main concepts you wish to investigate?

      Begin by creating a research question. The research question may evolve and change over time. Sometimes using a format to phrase your question helps: I’m researching _____ to investigate _____ in order to understand _____. This structure gives you a way to keep your question narrow, identifying just the area that you are studying and helping your reader position the question within a field.

      Research question example: What were the contributions of the Black Panther Party during the fight for civil rights and the lasting effects/legacies of their work?

    • 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]

  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. What are the key words or phrases that others might use to describe the context?. 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 
  3. 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

  4. 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 brutality AND Black Panther Party (narrows your search, both terms 'police brutality' 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 brutality 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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Class Documents

Research Question Construction Example