HIS 3563 / AMS 3343: African American History to the Civil War

Research tips and resources for the study of African American history

Start with a Topic

Photo of students studyingHow to Create Your Topic and Identify Keywords

Expert Search Strategies 

  • Pre-Search to gather ideas: Start with a broad search.
  • Be a Detective! Look for clues and build a list of terms from the titles. abstracts (descriptions), and subject terms you find.
  • Generate a list of keywords: synonyms, related terms, broader or narrower concepts, and words found in the pre-searching process.
  • Refine and repeat! This may involve refining or narrowing your topic.
  • Do some reading of articles / book chapters that interest you. Pay attention to the important who's, what's, when's, where's, how's, and why's. What arguments have other historians made?
  • Follow the paper trail: Mine footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies to find more sources.
  • Words matter! Use language / terminology of the time period when searching for primary sources.

Narrow Your Topic

  • What specifically do you want to know about your topic?
  • Who are the important individuals / organizations / populations involved in your topic?
  • What specific point in history will you focus on?
  • What geographic locale (state, region, city) will you focus on?

Click on the link to learn more.

Exploring a Topic and Identifying Keywords

Watch this video to learn how to use Library Quick Search to explore a topic and identify keywords. Click "Watch in Panopto" for the best video quality.

Where to Start Your Search

Library Quick Search

Advanced Search
Library Quick Search is a good place to start to find both secondary sources and primary sources.


What Is Peer Review?

Watch this video to learn how to find peer reviewed articles. Click "Watch in Panopto" for the best video quality.

How to Search Library Quick Search


Watch this video to learn how to search for a book in Library Quick Search. Click "Watch in Panopto" for the best video quality.

Are You Looking for Primary or Secondary Sources?

Understanding Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources Photo of students looking at something


It is important to consider what kind of sources you are looking for. Are you looking for primary sources? or secondary sources?

Why does this matter?

Some search engines like Library Quick Search will help you find both. Some databases are best only for secondary sources. Others are best only for primary sources. 

What is the difference between a primary and a secondary source? 

Click on the link to learn more.