Africa: Getting Started with Research
This guide is intended to provide you with some resources and methods for beginning your research on Africa. Visit the African Studies Library virtually or in person. Check out current African newspapers, talk to library staff with long experience in the study of Africa, and get started in the right direction.
Here are some resources to help you get started…
Africa- Specific Databases
Africa yearbook (Online) Access: BU students, faculty, and staff (on or off campus)
Description: The Africa Yearbook covers major domestic political developments, the foreign policy and socio-economic trends in sub-Sahara Africa all related to developments in one calendar year. The Yearbook contains articles on all sub-Saharan states, each of the four sub-regions (West, Central, Eastern, Southern Africa) focusing on major cross-border developments and subregional organizations as well as one article on continental developments and one on European-African relations. While the articles have thorough academic quality, the Yearbook is mainly oriented to the requirements of a large range of target groups: students, politicians, diplomats, administrators, journalists, teachers, practitioners in the fi eld of development aid as well as business people.
African newspapers from the World newspaper archive.
Description: Searchable collection of historical African newspapers. Includes newspapers published between 1800 and 1922 in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Titles include: East African Standard, Mombasa Times and Uganda Argus (Kenya), Leselinyana la Lesutho (Lesotho), O Africano (Mozambique), Lagos Standard (Nigeria), Cape Town Gazette and African Advertiser (South Africa), Ilanga lase Natal (South Africa), and Buluwayo Chronicle (Zimbabwe).
The African studies companion a guide to information sources Access: BU students, faculty, and staff (on or off campus)
Description: The African Studies Companion seeks to bring together a wide range of sources of information in the African studies field covering both print and electronic resources. It is published in a print and electronic edition. This information source builds on three previous editions of the African Studies Companion and the new fourth edition, like its predecessor, is again published both in print and in electronic formats.
Description: Indexes articles and essays on anthropology and archaeology, including art history, demography, economics, linguistics, psychology, and religious studies. Covered are articles, reports, commentaries, and obituaries two or more pages long in periodicals and monographic series published in English and other European languages from the late 19th century to the present. The indexed publications are held in Harvard University’s Tozzer Library.
The Economist Intelligence Unit
Description: The EIU database provides access to the Economist Intelligence Unit Publications such as the Country Reports. Each country page in the database provides forecast updates and featured analysis on economic and political events as well as content pertaining to market opportunities, government regulations and the financial services sector.
Note: The Country Reports and Country Data provide up-to-date economic and business information, along with analyses of how political and social events influence economic conditions. All African countries are covered. This resource can be searched for specific queries, but usually works best as an introduction by reading through the Reports and Profiles.
A carefully selected and very thorough collection of links to useful web sites for information on a wide variety of topics for all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Can be browsed by country or by topic.
The catalog of the African Studies Center Library at the University of Leiden (Holland) is your entry to a database of articles in journals as well as books. Full text is not available, but many of the journals cited are in the BU Libraries’ collection. Check the catalog and the ejournals locator.
Also check out their Web Dossiers. These are informative essays with excellent bibliographies on topics such as Darfur, poverty reduction and African cinema.
This database is probably the best one to use for most African topics. It does not provide full-text, but most of the journals cited are in the BU Libraries’ collection. Check the catalog and the ejournals locator. Besides the bibliography, this site also provides links to other useful sites.
Online version of the SIL International’s 16th edition of Ethnologue: Languages of the World Bibliography. The online bibliography contains a subset of over 29,000 citations from the more than 40,000 publications representing 75 years of SIL International’s language research in over 2,700 languages. The Country Index and Language Name Index searches are particularly useful.
The Country Studies Series (Library of Congress) presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world. Not all African countries are covered. For some countries, a briefer but useful Country Profile is also available.
For each country, this gateway provides links to scholarly and authoritative web sites on history, health, culture, and more.
The peoples of Africa an ethnohistorical dictionary James Stuart Olson; ebrary, Inc. ; Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press ; 1996 (Also in print: GN645 .O47 1996)
A political and economic dictionary of Africa ; 1st ed.. David Seddon; Daniel Seddon-Daines; ebrary, Inc. ; London : Routledge ; 2006, c2005.
Africa South of the Sahara (AFR ST DT 351 F71)
A yearbook that gives a comprehensive, accurate, and readable overview on each country in sub-Saharan Africa. It covers history, politics and economics, gives a bibliography of suggested additional reading, current statistics. An essential first step. (Location: African Studies Library)
Dictionary of African Biography (AFR ST CT1920 .D52 2012)
This 6 volume set, published in 2011, is a key resource in African Studies. It spans the entire African continent and contains approximately 2,100 biographical entries, each with its own bibliography. (Location: African Studies Library)
Use the BU Libraries search to find historical dictionaries. To find dictionaries by country, try searching “Historical dictionary of [insert country name]“; there are often a couple editions). Here are some examples of country and topical historical dictionaries:
Historical dictionary of Angola ; New ed. W. James ; Susan H Broadhead (Susan Herlin), 1939- ; Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press ; 2004 DT1264 .J36 2004
Historical dictionary of pre-colonial Africa. Robert O. Collins 1933- ; Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press ; c2001
DT17 .C65 2001
Historical dictionary of United States-Africa relations. Robert Anthony Waters 1960- ; Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press; 2009 DT38 .W385 2009
Historical dictionary of civil wars in Africa. Guy Arnold ; Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press ; 1999 DT21.5 .A76 1999
Historical dictionary of women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kathleen E. Sheldon 1952- ; Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press ; 2005 HQ1787 .S44 2005
Looking for books: use the BU Libraries Search or check out other African Studies Collections held by universities worldwide, or to cast a broader net for your search, go to