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African American Poets and Poetry

Resources for learning more about African American poetry.

Search Strategies

The STLCC Library Catalog is your gateway to finding all items, including books, which the College Libraries own. 

The two basic methods for searching the catalog are by keyword and by LC subject heading.  Because most library users are not familiar with the official Library of Congress (LC) subject headings, it's often a good idea to begin with a keyword search. Results of a keyword search can lead to appropriate subject headings.  Ask a reference librarian for help with subject searching.

Useful keywords for this subject include, African American Literature, African American poems, African American poet, Black poet, Harlem Renaissance

Keyword Searching

Every item owned by an STLCC library is listed in the College's Library Catalog.  Each listing is called a record.  A powerful way to search for books on a particular topic is to perform a keyword search, which looks for records containing the words you use in your search.

 Example keyword search: Harlem Renaissance

  • This search will find all records in the STLCC catalog which somewhere contains the words Harlem and Renaissance.  
  • Records normally include a book's title and author, as well as descriptions of its subject matter. In addition, a record may include a book's chapter headings or a summary of its contents. 
  • Therefore this search will retrieve all records with Harlem or Renaissance in any of these areas
  • Searching the term "Harlem Renaissance" with quotation marks will return all records with this phrase.

 Narrowing your search with and.  Example keyword search: "Harlem Renaissance" AND poetry

  • This search will find all records in the STLCC catalog which somewhere contain both the word poetry and the phrase "Harlem Renaissance."
  • By using and between keywords, you've specified that all of your keywords must be present in the record for it to appear in your results.  
  • One major reason to use and is that it lets you narrow broad searches (Harlem Renaissance) to more specific topics (for instance, books on poetry related to or created during the Harlem Renaissance.)

Using truncation.  Example keyword search: poe* and African-American

  • Using an asterisk at the end of a keyword is called truncation, and lets you search for word variations.
  • This example search will find all records in the STLCC catalog which somewhere contain both the word root, poe and any words beginning with poe, such as poem, poems,  poetry, poet, poets, etc.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Library of Congress (LC) subject headings are special, standardized words and phrases which describe the primary subject(s) on which a book focuses.  Searching by subject heading rather than by keyword often allows you to look for books on a particular topic more efficiently. 

Since LC subject headings are included in a book's catalog record, looking at the records you get from a keyword search can help you identify appropriate subject headings.  Ask A Librarian for help with LC subject searching.

Below are just a few examples of subject headings you will find in the STLCC Catalog:

American poetry--African American authors

African American poets

African American--Poetry

African American women--Poetry

African American women poets

African American men--Poetry

Steps in Research

  1. Identify and define your topic. Put your research topic into a question such as, "What is the debate surrounding vaccination refusal?" Now you can identify the main concepts and keywords, including alternate terms, for your topic.

  2. Background reading will deepen your understanding and vocabulary around the topic, which will help you identify search terms and develop an effective research question. Subject encyclopedias (in print or in Credo Reference) are excellent resources. 

  3. Use Search It! or the library classic catalog to find books. Use your keywords to perform both keyword and subject searches. 

  4. Use Search It! or individual databases to find journal articles. Be sure to choose appropriate databases for your topic.

  5. Search for reliable and authoritative website resources. Try the librarian recommended websites on this guide.

  6. Always evaluate what you find. Consider timeliness, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.

  7. Cite your sources. Citing gives proper credit to the authors of materials you use and allows your professors to verify your conclusions. 

Search Limits and Advanced Searching

Search Limits

Search Limits allow you to narrow your searches either to availability of articles or article type or date of publication. Search limits can be found beneath the search boxes on both Basic and Advanced Searches, though Advanced Searches may give you more limits to work with.

  • The Full-text limit is very useful, as selecting it ensures that you will only see articles on your result page which have the complete text of the article included. Unless you are required to find everything out there is published on a given subject, this limit should be applied every time you search.
  • Date limits may also be useful if your instructor has asked that articles to be no older than a certain date, though databases generally start with showing the most recent articles and work backwards anyway.
  • The Scholarly Journals or Peer-Reviewed Journals limit may be useful too, if those are the only type of articles you wish to see. Gale databases, though, generally though categorize articles according to type (see the tabs at the top of results pages on Gale Databases).

Advanced Searching

Advanced Searching is an excellent option to switch to before even beginning a search. In an advanced search, generally, the database provides several search boxes already connected with the word "AND" and often presents even more limit options.

Evaluate Information

Evaluating the information you find, whether in print or digital format, is an essential aspect of doing research.

Learn to think critically about the source of information and the information within each source by using the Evaluate Your Sources guide (linked below). Once acquired, the habit of critical analysis will serve you in everything you read. 

Getting Books from outside STLCC

  • MOBIUS
    Search for and request books from other academic libraries in Missouri.
  • WorldCat
    World-wide catalog of books.

St. Louis Community College Libraries

Florissant Valley Campus Library
3400 Pershall Rd.
Ferguson, MO 63135-1408
Phone: 314-513-4514

Forest Park Campus Library
5600 Oakland
St. Louis, MO 63110-1316
Phone: 314-644-9210

Meramec Campus Library
11333 Big Bend Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-5720
Phone: 314-984-7797

Wildwood Campus Library
2645 Generations Drive
Wildwood, MO 63040-1168
Phone: 636-422-2000