HI588: Women, Power and Culture in Africa
|Instructor: Prof. Linda Heywood
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Printable version of this guide: WomenPowerandCulture
This guide provides course-specific research tips and resources
Beginning Your Research
- Select a topic that interests you.
- Start from what you know: your class reading and lectures, what you’ve read in the media or heard in other classes.
- Do some preliminary research on your topic to determine if you can find enough information. Not too broad, but not too narrow! It’s good to check your topic before it’s too late to change.
- Familiarize yourself with the context around the topic. Whether you are researching a particular woman in African history or a particular topic,take a moment to familiarize yourself with the African countries you are looking at.
- Resources may exist in the language of the colonial government and may dictate how names are written.For example, Njinga could be written as “Nzingha” or “Nzinga”.
Arm yourself with as much information as possible and all possible variations of a name as you conduct your research:
It is critical in the number of results you retrieve when using the library catalog, electronic databases, and the internet.
- Identify authors who are specialists in the field, search for other works they have written.
- Whom do those authors cite? Check the bibliographies of books on your topic in order to find additional resources.
- If the topic is extremely specific, for example, you want to find rites & traditions performed by the Masai when a child is born, try looking at a more general book such as an ethnography of the people. Search chapter headings and indexes for the information you need.
Finding Resources in the Library Catalog
Begin with a keyword search and try various combinations. How you search can determine the number of results:
For example: “Winnie Mandela”
Using and narrows the search: Winnie Mandela AND apartheid
Using or broadens the search: Winnie Mandela OR Nelson
The results provide a breakdown of books and articles on that topic and other similar subject headings you might want to investigate.
Online Library Resources:
These are just some of approximately 400 databases available via the library website:
Provides guides to selected internet sites about Africa on a variety of topics. Including a guide about Women, click here.
A list in progress of various digital collections on Africa that are openly accessible on the Internet. We will continue added resources as we are aware of them.
Searchable by region or country. AfricaBib indexes 33,000+ articles from over 280 periodicals that specialize in African Studies or consistently cover the African continent. Managed by Univ. of Leiden.
Fage, J.D. / A Guide to Original Sources for Precolonial Western Africa Published in European Languages for the Most Part in Book Form. African Studies Program, University of Wisconsin–Madision, 1994. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/AfricanStudies.Fage01
Digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and its partners. Online since 1997, it provides access to over 2 million documents. It is updated weekly with thousands of new materials. Areas include history, literature, science, philosophy, law, economics and political science in all types of media: print (books, periodicals and press), manuscripts, documents, sound, iconographic documents, maps and plans.
This guide lists about 270 influential African women leaders and provides a brief description of who they were. The list is chronological, spanning the 1620’s right up to 2012 and covers the entire continent.
Using the top search box will search text, audio and film. Many older books and ethnographies can be found digitized in this collection.
John Thornton’s translations of 17th century texts on Congo and Angola. According to Prof. Thornton, “This site is an attempt to create a paradigm for historical editing, annotating and translating written texts relating to African History”.
Historical Dictionary of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa / Kathleen Sheldon. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005.
Women Leaders in African History / David Sweetman. London ; Exeter, NH, USA : Heinemann, 1984
HQ 1787 .A3 S93 1984
Female Novelists of Modern Africa / Oladele Taiwo. New York : St. Martin’s Press, 1985, c1984.
PR 9344 .T34 1985
Some Examples of Primary Resources in the African Studies Library:
- Newspapers (print and microfilm)
- Memoirs and autobiographies
- Correspondence, letters
- Speeches, interviews
- Government records and reports
- Photographs, works of art
- Literature (ie. novels, poems)
- Audio and video recordings
Evaluating Your Sources
- How do you decide if an author knows what he’s talking about? Different people have different opinions and beliefs. What they write as fact may be influenced by those beliefs.
- Who is the author? What else has she written? What organizations does he represent? Can you find out his ethnic, religious, or philosophical background? Can you get clues from the publication?
- Who is the publisher? When was the work written? What kind of vocabulary appears in the text?
- What can you guess about a work that refers to “bloody Kaffirs”? About an author who describes events as evidence of “imperialist greed”?
Compiling a Bibliography
- Make sure to give credit where credit is due: quoting or paraphrasing without citing the source is plagiarism.
- The other reason for citing sources is so that your readers can find them. Be clear, be accurate.
- Build your bibliography and list of references as you do your research. Don’t assume you’ll remember where you read that perfect quote.
- Refworks is an online bibliographic tool available to you as a student here at BU and provides a fast, easy way to compile your bibliography. You will need to log in with your Kerberos password first and then set up a unique Refworks log-in to access this tool.