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AFAM 402: Research Seminar in African American Studies: Getting Started

What's a tertiary source?

Tertiary sources are excellent starting points!  They consist of information synthesized from primary and secondary sources.  Examples include:

  • Almanacs
  • Chronologies
  • Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
  • Directories
  • Fact books
  • Guidebooks
  • Indexes, abstracts, bibliographies used to locate primary and secondary sources
  • Manuals
  • Textbooks

These resources give you succinct overviews of your topic, explain scholarly arguments, point out interesting questions, and refer you to especially key sources. 

Oxford African American Studies Center

A good starting point for finding information in reference sources, including AfricanaEncyclopedia of African American History 1619-1895Encyclopedia of African American History 1896 to PresentBlack Women in AmericaAfrican American National BiographyConcise Oxford Companion to African American LiteratureOxford Companion to Black British History, and selected articles from other sources.

Recommended Starting Points: Subject Encyclopedias

Subject Encyclopedias are scholarly works written by experts on a variety of topics. The articles are typically longer and more detailed than general encyclopedias. The background information provides a good starting point as you begin the research process. Here are some of the ways a subject encyclopedia can help guide you:

  • Understand the scope of the topic
  • Suggest ideas for narrowing the topic
  • Identify key concepts, terms, dates,and names
  • List subject areas related to the topic
  • Recommend sources for further exploration

More Subject Encyclopedias

Multidisciplinary Encyclopedias