Majors Research Skills
All majors in Afro-American Studies are expected to be capable of doing research in three major areas—literature, history, and social science—as well as to bring those and other methodologies together in interdisciplinary efforts. By the time they graduate, all majors should understand how scholars of Afro-American Studies conduct research and how they communicate the results of their work to colleagues. One way of describing this understanding is “information literacy” – i.e. the ability to conceptualize what information is needed combined with the skills necessary to locate, evaluate, and effectively and ethically use this information.
Writing Intensive Classes
Before entering upon work in their major, students should take at least one writing intensive class. Students who have taken writing intensive classes should have learned the following skills:
These skills may be regarded by all students as a base for further study. Help is available through the Neilson Library Reference Department's Ask a Librarian options.
Any student contemplating Afro-American Studies as a major is encouraged to take the department's writing intensive course, FYS 148: Migration Stories: Border Crossing and Becoming in African-American Literature.
Beginning Afro-American Studies Majors
Two of the four required courses for the major are introductory, and both provide a chance to learn particular research skills. In AAS 111: Introduction to Black Culture, students will:
In AAS 117: The History of Afro-American People to 1954, students will learn to:
In both courses, students will also learn to:
Basic sources for Afro-American studies majors
Intermediate-Level Study in the Major
The primary course at the intermediate level is AAS 201: Methods of Inquiry. The course is designed to introduce a student to the history and practices of various disciplinary methods used in Afro-American studies. A student in 201 will learn how to propose a research question, as well as how to pursue it to completion. This course is the gateway to further research practice in the major.
Because Afro-American Studies is an interdisciplinary major, students must become familiar with the research practices of at least three disciplines. At the intermediate level, students learn to hone specific disciplinary skills in history, literature and social science, while extending the introduction they had to interdisciplinary work in AAS 111. This is also where students are introduced to doing presentations. In these courses, students will learn to:
Some of our intermediate courses are grounded firmly in interdisciplinary methods that emphasize intersectional analysis; in these courses, students will:
MLA International Bibliography (1926+)
Ethnic NewsWatch (1960+)
At this level, students will also become familiar both with discipline-specific scholarly journals and more general publications that nonetheless publish articles on Afro-American topics:
At the advanced level, Afro-American studies students are expected to be expert in doing research in at least one discipline, familiar with the other areas, and able to engage interdisciplinary projects. Students are expected to be strong writers, to be familiar with using library databases to find scholarly and popular references, and to be able to critique and cross-reference sources.
These research skills are highlighted in the capstone seminar, which will be selected and designated annually from among the seminars being offered by the department. This course is intended to encourage students to study a particular topic, era, or figure in depth and with a greater attention to research excellence. In this course, a student will be asked to engage a research project of some length, using the tools of a particular method of study, or of interdisciplinarity. The expectation in this course, as in all seminars, is a finer and deeper exploration of ideas based on strong research skills. Finally, in all seminars, students are expected to give presentations.
At this level, students will:
Afro-American Studies courses assess students’ attainment of information literacy in various ways, appropriate to the level of the course. Class discussions, examinations, and papers call upon students to demonstrate interpretive skills appropriate to the course topic and level. Their performance in these areas may directly or indirectly determine their grades. Through formal grading and informal feedback during office hours, instructors and librarians help students develop critical awareness of their own abilities.
Assignments requiring students to demonstrate and take advantage of information literacy vary depending on the skills involved. In general, introductory courses devote more explicit attention to acquiring, developing and testing basic skills; while more advanced courses assume students have reached a basic level of competency and can deploy information literacy skills independently. As students develop, they will be expected to recognize and execute both descriptive scholarly writing and analysis organized through the provision of a thesis or argument. In all cases, library staff is available to assist students and faculty members in devising, completing, and assessing such work.
Plagiarism is a serious violation of the College’s Honor Code. When using someone else’s words, ideas, or arguments, students must acknowledge their sources. It is important to identify and attribute all sources of new ideas, except for commonly shared knowledge, such as dates and facts found in encyclopedias and dictionaries. For more information on the College Honor Code, look here:
February 13, 2013