Skip to main content

*African-American Studies: Secondary Sources: Articles

What Is a Literature Review?

See the GSU Library's research guide Literature Reviews for detailed information about researching and writing a literature review.

Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Caro Wallis

What Does a Secondary Source Do?

  • Provides background and context
  • Points you toward other relevant secondary sources
  • Serves as the basis for your literature review
  • Points you toward primary sources: intellectual honesty requires scholars to "show their work" and cite primary sources used
  • Can serve as model for your own writing and other class projects

What Does "Peer-Reviewed" Mean?

"Peer reviewed" means that an article has been reviewed by other scholars in the field -- the author's "peers" -- before being approved for publication. It is meant to ensure the integrity of the scholarship. 

Not everything that is published in a journal is peer-reviewed. Book reviews and editorials are typically not peer-reviewed. Magazine articles and newspaper articles also are not peer-reviewed. (There may be cases where these kinds of publications are still relevant to your research! Ask your professor if you are unsure).

Most article databases have an Advanced Search option that will let you limit your search to peer-reviewed articles. 

Looking for Empirical Articles?

Looking for articles based on empirical research? Check out this research guide to get started.

Using Find It @GSU

Many databases give you only a citation telling you where to find the article, not the article itself.

There's often a shortcut to the full article text in another database -- this button:

Click the Find It @GSU button to open a window with links to the article you need.

If the article is not available, you will see an option to request the article from another library using the Interlibrary Loan service (it's free!). Follow the prompts to place an ILL request for the article. 

Lost? Stuck? Too many options? Ask a Librarian for help!

Search Tips

To limit your searches to topics focusing specifically on African-Americans, African-American culture, etc., use a database's Advanced Search option. Use the search boxes for keywords/search terms based on your topic. In one of the boxes, include a search (called a "search string") like this one:

african-american* OR black* OR negr*


  • The asterisk (*) is a truncation symbol. It means you're searching for that term and any other terms with that term as a stem. So, "black*" will turn up both "black" and "blacks," and "negro" will turn up "negro" or "negroes" (note also that if you were searching for négritude as well, you could also truncate to negr*)
  • Depending on their time period and the topics covered, an article, a book, or a database may use "black" and "African-American" interchangeably. Or not: in the library's online book catalog, "Black" refers to people of African origin but not necessarily identifying as Americans.
  • If you are working on a historical topic, older articles may use the term "negro" or "negroes." The Journal of African American History changed its name from Journal of Negro History in 2002. Also, if you are searching in historical newspaper databases like the New York Times or the Atlanta Daily World, for example, you'll need to use the words that would have been used at the time, both for searching headlines and for searching full-text.

A search string like this one covers all of those bases. The OR between terms means that you are searching for results including EITHER of the terms in that list. If you used AND instead of OR in that search string, you would only turn up results that used ALL THREE of those terms, which will be a much smaller results list).

If you wanted to limit your results to "women" (or "men" or "children" or "nurses," and so on), you can add another search box (look for a plus sign by the search boxes or an "Add a Row" option) and type that term into an additional search box.

Using OR, AND, and even NOT if you really want NO results involving a particular term is called Boolean searching. For more information about Boolean searching, check out this video:

Interdisciplinary Article Databases available @ GSU

African American Studies is interdisciplinary!

Don't forget to check related research guides to find additional databases for your topic. To see all of our databases, use our A-Z list.

Start with Race Relations Abstracts!

Subject Article Databases Available @ GSU

These databases focus on specific social-science disciplines. To search more broadly, try the databases in the "Interdisciplinary Articles Databases" box.

You can also use the dropdown "Find by Subject" box in the Articles / Databases tab to identify relevant databases by subject.

Subject-specific research guides can also help you find more databases for your topic.