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African American Research Starter: Search tips

Help with your research

On this page you will find tips and suggestions for accessing resources within our African American studies collection. Scroll down the page for information tailored specifically to researching African American studies topics. In the Example searches box you will also find a list of searches that have already been performed, giving you access to scholarly search results on a variety of topics.

You can use the skills and tips presented here to access our African American studies collection.


Need a refresher on how to search within a database?  

Suggested subject terms

A subject term is a standardized word or phrase that describes a main idea in the article.

When an article is added to a database, the database will assign subject terms to the article from the database's list of subjects. Most articles will have from 3 to 12 subject terms.

Each database has its own set list of subject terms. Subject terms may use technical jargon and odd punctuation. This means you won't be able to easily guess or intuit subject terms on your own. You will have to identify the subject terms in the database, and then use them in a search.

If you want to see all the subject terms used in a particular database, you can search the Subject Index to discover subject terms.

Note: Language regarding African Americans has changed over recent decades. The following list suggests subject terms for research on African American population. Terms that are no longer current are marked historical.

There are many social movements and institutions that are closely related to the African American population. Consider using the names of these movements and institutions as search terms. Some examples include:

Some of the following terms might also prove helpful when conducting research on African American culture or issues.

Video: Subject Terms Search

(1 min 37 sec) Recorded Feb 2016

Use example searches

You can adapt any of the preset example searches by adding your own search terms.

If you wished to focus on a health condition in a particular population, you would add your term for the health condition to a separate search box, while leaving the example population search terms in place. This is an example search for a preset population and diabetes:

  1. Click on a preset example search from the list.
  2. On the results page, locate the search boxes at the top of the page. Leave the example search terms in place in the first search box, in this case the population terms African Americans OR Blacks OR Black Americans.
  3. Enter your search term(s) in an empty search box. In this case, enter diabetes in the second search box.

  4.  Once you've added your search term(s), click the Search button and review the new results.

You can continue to add other search terms, apply limiters, and shape the search as often as needed to obtain new results.