Monday, January 28, 2013

Meet the Reference Books: Black Women in America

Meet the Reference Books introduces noteworthy encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference materials in Carmichael Library's print and digital collections.  Blog posts are contributed by student library employees as part of our Homegrown Book Reviews initiative.  This post is written by Astin Cole, a History and Political Science major.  Black Women in America is available in both print and digital formats.  

Astin Cole

Black Women in America is a scholarly reference that cites concise information on biographical figures and events. The purpose of the encyclopedia is to heighten awareness of individuals, contributions, and cultural struggles that made the advancement of African American women possible.

Research Tips from Astin:

1. Pick a seemingly broad topic and investigate the literature cited in the article.

Pretty straightforward; just as you would take a chunk of coal and compress it into a diamond, refine your research into a clear-cut thesis once you’ve grasped the general subject. As it pertains to refining research from an encyclopedia the fastest way is to branch your search from sources used to make the reference article. For example, by looking up the Abolition Movement and scanning the text you discover the primary source “The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave.” Using this piece in conjunction with the general topic of abolition provides a deeper understanding.

2. Make a chain of topics by linking smaller subjects and categorizing them into a larger concept.

To make a chain of topics, go through the table of contents and write down titles that interest you. After about three or so topics, beginning reading parts of them, linking together the topics that are related in terms of time period, trend, or chronology.

For example, if you looked up Affirmative Action, Aviation, and the Civil Rights Movement, you could link all three topics under the trend of equal rights and opportunities. Once you’ve established a relationship between the topics, identify how a pattern is portrayed in a specific context; in this case: black women in the military after the Civil Rights Movement and in the midst of Affirmative Action. In order to provide scholarly depth, focus on analysis, identify keys signs of progress through black women’s involvement in aviation, then decide whether this group of people is represented properly or is otherwise marginalized.

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