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African Studies Portal - UW-Madison Libraries : General Research Resources

General Research Resources

Click on the tabs to the left to access a selection of the UW-Madison Libraries' resources relevant to African Studies research.


Databases - A database is an online catalog that holds information about published items. It's a collection of sources that may include books, films, government documents, articles, etc. Databases are searchable and some specialize in a certain subject, like literature or sociology. The UW-Madison Libraries acquire subscriptions to numerous restricted access databases (i.e. JSTOR, International African Bibliography Online, and African Writers Series), which you can access through the libraries website with your NetID. 

Journals - Also referred to as a periodical or a serial, a journal is a printed or digital publication that comes out in issues on a regular basis (i.e. four times a year). An issue of a journal contains individual articles, which is what you'll often find as results of your database searches. The UW-Madison Libraries hold numerous print versions of Journals spanning over a hundred years, but most currently published journals can be accessed online, for example Présence africaineMuziki: Journal of Music Research in Africa, and African yearbook of rhetoric.

Books - The UW-Madison libraries holds hundreds of thousands of Africa-related printed volumes in its collection. The most effective way to discover these invaluable monographs, anthologies, and other print material is to use the libraries' catalog search function and seek them out on the shelves in the library. Who knows what else you may find amongst the stacks!

Digital and Digitized Works - Digital and Digitized works are resources that have been made available online through a digitization process in order to make them accessible and manipulable in new ways. These resources could be music recordings, photographs, video interviews, scanned images of ancient texts, etc. Besides the hundreds of thousands of printed works that the UW-Madison Libraries offer, their digital collections may provide a different perspective for your research. Search the collections provided on this guide to discover what digitalized materials we have to offer.

Reference Works - Reference works are print or online resources that contain useful facts and information, for example The Encyclopedia of African History, The Dictionary of African Filmmakers, and An African Biographical Dictionary. These resources are typically sought out for particular pieces of information using indices, rather than read beginning to end. Reference books are for in-library use only while online reference resources that the UW-Madison libraries provide can be access through the libraries website using your NetID. 

For tips on how to use these different resources, visit our Library Research Tutorials.

About the UW-Madison Libraries' African Studies Collection

Naturally, coverage of Africa through time and space is not uniform, but speaks to curricular and research emphases over time. Owing to the interests fostered by our African Studies Program, there has been particular emphases on history and political science, as well art and music, and in particular, literature, mirroring the fact the UW-Madison has the only separate teaching Department of African languages and literatures. In addition, UW-Madison libraries have the strongest holdings in the country relating to west-central Africa—Republic of the Congo, Angola, and neighboring countries. The collection is also strong for English- and French-speaking west Africa. In terms of disciplines while all are represented to one degree or another, history in certainly the strongest, followed by political science, anthropology, and vernacular African literatures.

In quantitative terms, we estimate that the total of Africana materials throughout the Madison campus libraries—including all fields, all formats, all disciplines, and all campus libraries—aggregates to about 277,000 monographs plus serials, or around 320,000 Africa-related volumes. Of these, some 115,000 are in languages other than English. In turn, as the locus of the Department of African Languages and Literatures, UW-Madison’s libraries have long maintained an interest in acquiring materials in the very numerous vernaculars of Africa. As of 2011 we have over 9,500 titles representing 86 African languages, principally Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, Lingala, and Xhosa. It should be noted that an untold number of other materials contain data on Africa as part of their content.

As already noted, our holdings for the ex-Belgian Congo/Zaire/Congo are exceptionally strong. Not only have we most of the books and serials relating to this area, from the beginning, but we—alone among U.S. libraries—have long runs of annual reports, official bulletins, and other government publications during the colonial period.

Link to African Collection site

Area Studies Librarian

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Kimberly Rooney
Memorial Library 278F
728 State St.
Madison, WI