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POLIT/AFCNA 234 Black Metropolis: From MLK to Obama: Planning For Your Research Project

Resources For Your Research Project

The Craft of Research will help with crafting an argument, evaluating sources, and other useful tips and tools for conducting research. 

Annotated Bibliography

Writing An Annotated Bibliography: This link offers information on how to construct an annotated bibliography from Cornell University. 

Annotated Bibliography Samples: This link includes annotated bibliography samples in Chicago Style, MLA, and APA from the Purdue Online Writing Lab.  

Writing An Abstract

Writing A Research Abstract: This link provides tips and tools on how to write a research abstract from the Undergraduate Research Center at UC Davis. 

Jump Start Your Research

City of Chicago: website for the city of Chicago including history of Chicago, facts and statistics, governmental resources, and information on programs and initiatives throughout the city.

City of Chicago Data Portal "...hosts over 600 datasets presented in easy-to-use formats about City departments, services, facilities and performance." 

Encyclopedia of Chicagoan online version of the historical resource book: Encyclopedia of Chicago that includes images, maps, essays, charts, and various entries that cover Chicago and the greater Chicago metropolitan area including community areas. There is also an entry on the Chicago Urban League written by Professor Preston Smith. 

Explore Chicago Collections is a consortium of libraries, museums, and various institutions containing a large collection of digital images and archives of community areas, culture, Chicagoans, surrounding suburbs and towns, and other facets of Chicago history. 

Black Metropolis Research Consortium"...a Chicago-based membership association of libraries, universities, and other archival institutions.Through consortial programs, the BMRC aids in expanding broad access to its members’ holdings of materials that document African American and African diasporic culture, history, and politics, with a specific focus on materials relating to Chicago."

Check Your Knowledge: The Importance of "WHERE" In Research

Different research sources are best accessed through various types of databases. For example, books are best located through the Five College Libraries Catalog and academic articles are best located in scholarly databases. 

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Searching in JSTOR, which is an interdisciplinary database, will only bring up articles in JSTOR, so you might be missing a good article in ProjectMuse (another database). These sources are not cross-searchable. Also, you can't search everything with one search box (even Google has limits---check out the deep web page to learn more) so utilizing various research tools will help you with locating the most suitable research materials.

LITS Tip: Where you search matters! Furthermore, don't stop at the search results on the first page. Explore several pages of search results to find the best possible resources. 


Check Your Knowledge: What Are Primary and Secondary Sources?

Primary sources provide first-hand testimony, direct evidence, or knowledge concerning a topic under investigation. Some examples: 

  • Original documents such as diaries, speeches, letters
  • Interviews, focus groups, transcripts, survey data
  • Creative works such as poetry, music, art 
  • Relics or artifacts such as pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings
  • Newspapers and popular press articles
  • Government documents 

Secondary sources interpret or conduct analysis on primary sources

  • Peer-reviewed scholarly articles
  • Peer-reviewed scholarly books
  • Creative non-fiction, novels, other literary works 
  • References Books such as atlases, encyclopedias, and dictionaries 
  • Periodicals such as magazines or newspapers that contain articles (that interpret or provided analysis i.e. literary and cultural criticism) 

LITS Tip: In the sciences, a primary source is the published result of experimental or observational research.

Determining Quality

Not all information resources are created equal! Be sure you think about what kind of information you are using. Some quick guidelines:

  • Authority - Can you tell who the author is? What are the author's credentials? Who is the publisher and what do you know about the publisher's credentials?
  • Currency - What is the publication date? This is especially important if you need current/up-to-date information.
  • Audience - Is it written/intended for an academic or a popular audience?
  • Bias - What is the author's point of view?
  • Relevance - Is the information relevant to your research question?
  • Accuracy - Does the author cite his/her/their sources? 

See the Penn State University Library's Evaluating Information page for more information about how to ask and answer the above questions, and their Evaluating Information Rubric for tips on what to look for in books, periodicals, and web sites.

NCSU Libraries also have a Peer Review in Three Minutes video that does an excellent job of explaining peer review.

Using Library Guides To Conduct Interdisciplinary Research


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"Black Metropolis: From MLK to Obama" is an interdisciplinary course that sits at the intersection of Africana studies and politics, however, we engage with various disciplines so it is beneficial to utilize course and/or subject guides to make those cross-discipline connections. For example, if you are interested in how environmental racism impacts Black Chicagoans in Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project on the South Side of Chicago, the environmental studies and the geography guide may be useful for locating information on those topics. Find the interdisciplinary synergies by accessing these additional guides: Africana studies, politics, sociology, and education

Credit: Environmental Justice Atlas 

Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Center (SAW)

 Located on the main level of Dwight in the Mediated Educational Work Space (MEWS), the SAW Center is a place where students work together with SAW Mentors who are trained to assist students with essays, lab reports, creative writing, presentations, speeches, senior theses, reflection responses, personal statements, analytical papers, and more. While SAW Center mentors help with speaking, arguing, and writing, LITS Liaisons help with locating research materials, citing and finding sources, using bibliographic software such as Zotero, and talking through your research ideas/topics. 

                 SAW Center Hours               Monday and Tuesday: 3pm - 9pm
Wednesday and Thursday: 9am -12pm and 3pm - 9pm
Friday: 9am -12pm 
Sunday: 12pm - 9pm

Schedule Your Appointment Online: 

To schedule a session with a SAW mentor, please make an appointment online.

Drop-In Hours | No Appointment Required
 Evenings | Sunday - Thursday: 7pm - 8pm 
 Mornings | Wednesday - Friday: 10am - 

LITS Tips: Writing Tools

MHC Accessibility Barriers Form