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Guide to the Bibliography

Subject coverage

This bibliography records publications on Africa, principally in the social and environmental sciences, development studies, humanities and arts. Some items from the medical, biological and natural sciences are included.

African government publications and works of creative literature are not normally listed.

Criteria for inclusion

The criterion used is potential relevance to a reader from a social sciences, arts, humanities or policy background.

Each annual printed volume, and subsequent updates to the online bibliography, cover material published in the respective calendar year, together with items from earlier years not previously listed.

Geographical coverage

The whole continent and associated islands are covered but the African diaspora, only very selectively.

Language coverage

The bibliography predominantly lists works published in English. However, key works in a number of other languages, particularly French, but also Portuguese, Italian, German, Swahili, Spanish and Afrikaans are included. Foreign language journals indexed in the bibliography can be viewed as part of the full list of journals accessible through the ‘Browse journals’ function.


Data have been garnered from other bibliographies, both print and online, from COPAC, the online union catalogue of the UK’s major research libraries, and AJOL (African Journals OnLine - ), which provides invaluable access to periodicals published in Africa, Email alerts and online tables of contents are regularly consulted. Much of the material has been personally examined by the compiler, drawing especially on the holdings of Cambridge University Library, the African Studies Centre, Cambridge, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the Afrika Studiecentrum Leiden and material received by the International African Institute.

Entry types

The bibliography contains three types of entry: journal or periodical articles, books and pamphlets, and book chapters. Book entries give author, title, place, publisher and pagination. Entries for chapters in books, largely not on African topics, give full bibliographic information for the volume concerned. However, when a book contains many relevant chapters, it is listed separately and the chapter entry includes only a short version of the title and the name(s) of the editor(s).


The online bibliography is arranged using the following fields:

Author/Editor Surname - all Author/Editor names included in the bibliography are expressed as surname and initial e.g. Smith, J. and Brown, A.

Title of Item - each entry has a defined title; depending on the content type this will be a book title, an article title or a chapter title.

Keyword - the compiler adds keywords when an item is not sufficiently described by its title or subject category. Keyword searches will look for entries with matching keywords added by the compiler, but will also search within the title and subject category fields as these categories may also produce useful results.

Journal Title - the bibliography covers a list of c.1,200 journals; search queries must match the title as stored and an auto-complete function is provided on the ‘Full Search’ screen to assist with this.

Region - the bibliography is split into ten geographical regions including one ‘Africa (General)’ region for entries covering Africa in general.

Country - the bibliography covers fifty-nine countries or regional classifications (such as Sahel or Maghreb), or adds a ‘Non-specific’ tag to entries that are not limited to a single country.

Subject - each entry is tagged as belonging to one or two of sixty-eight subject categories or is given a ‘General’ tag if covering a wide range of subjects.

Content Type - the bibliography includes entries categorised as books, journal articles or chapters within books.

Year of Publication - this field provides the year in which the entry was published, or a range of years should the entry be a series.

Quick search

The Quick Search screen consists of a single search box through which users may run a free ‘Google-style’ search across all fields. All bibliographic entries that contain all or part of the search query will be returned. Enclosing the search query within quotation marks "" will define the search query as an exact phrase and only exact matches will be returned.

Results may be improved by defining a single field in which to search, e.g. Author/Editor Surname. Search fields may be selected using the drop-down box to the right of the search box.

Boolean operators (AND/OR/AND NOT) and wildcard characters (*) may not be used in this free-text search box. It is recommended that the ‘Full Search’ function be used for more advanced or specific searches as it provides a much greater level of functionality including full Boolean searching and drop-down list of journals, subjects and regions covered in the database, expressed exactly as they are stored.

Boolean operators - are the AND / OR / AND NOT elements used to build an advance search query.

Full search

The Full Search allows users to build a Boolean search query using the ‘AND’, ‘OR’ and ‘AND NOT’ operators.

The screen is split into three sections:

The first section consists of free-text boxes through which the user may enter search queries related to the ‘Author/Editor Surname’, ‘Title of Item’ and ‘Keyword’ fields.
The field can be defined by selecting it from the drop-down box to the left of each text box. Multiple search criteria may be linked together using the ‘AND’, ‘OR’ and ‘AND NOT’ operators to the right of each text box. The ‘Journal Title’ field may also be queried in this section; if this field is selected the corresponding text-box will auto-complete with journal titles covered by the bibliography.

The second section allows users to restrict their search to a single ‘Region’, ‘Country’ or ‘Subject’. Multiple categories may be selected and linked by Boolean operators. Some bibliographic entries are listed in multiple subject categories.

The third section allows users to restrict their search to a range of publication years. The selection is inclusive i.e. selecting ‘from 2007 to 2009’ will return all bibliographic entries listed as having been published in 2007, 2008 or 2009.

By default there is an implied ‘AND’ operator acting between each of the three sections.

When any text box within any section is left blank that box will not be included in the search query.


Searching for Author/Editor:Searching for Author/Editor: Clark AND Title: Sahara - will find all entries that contain the word ‘Sahara’ in their titles that are authored or edited by Clark.

Searching for Author/Editor: Clark OR Title: Sahara - will find all entries that contain the word ‘Sahara’ in their titles and all articles authored or edited by Clark.

Searching for Author/Editor: Clark AND NOT Title: Sahara - will find all entries authored or edited by Clark but exclude those that contain the word ‘Sahara’ in their title.

Running any of the searches above with an added restriction from section two will produce a query using an implied ‘AND’ operator between the sections, as in the following:

(Author/Editor: "Clark" AND Title: "Sahara") AND (Region: Southern Africa) - will find all entries that contain the word ‘Sahara’ in their titles that are authored or edited by Clark, but only those that are listed in the Southern Africa regional category.

For more complicated searches it is recommended the users set their own brackets by clicking on the ‘Set Brackets’ button which will provide boxes in which brackets can be entered. The two examples below show how entering the same search query but changing the positioning of the brackets will significantly influence the search results:

If the user wishes to find all entries with the word ‘conservation’ in their title, authored or edited by "Hughes" or by "Dobson" they would need to enter the following search query:

(Open Brackets (
Author/Editor Surname: Hughes
Author/Editor Surname: Dodson
Close Brackets )
Title of Item: Conservation

This would create the search query:
(Author: "Hughes" OR Author: "Dodson") AND Title of Item: "Conservation"
and produce a list of results matching the criteria required [4 at time of writing].

If, on the other hand, the user wishes to find all entries edited or authored by "Hughes" on any subject, and anything authored or edited by "Dodson" with the word "Conservation" in its titles they could enter the following search query:
Author/Editor Surname: Hughes
Open Brackets (
Author/Editor Surname: Dodson
Title of Item: Conservation
Close Brackets )

This would create the search query:
Author: "Hughes" OR (Author: "Dodson" AND Title of Item: "Conservation")
and produce a list of results matching the criteria required [28 at time of writing].

An equal number of open and closed brackets must be added to form a complete query. An error message will appear if this is not the case.

Quotation marks "" may be used to define the query as an exact phrase.

Filtering search results

Once a search has been launched and a results page is displayed, the user is able to further filter those results using the filter lists to the right of the results list (known commonly as ‘faceted searching’). These lists, one for each field of the bibliography, will be populated with data related to the current search results. Switching the filter ‘on’, by clicking the relevant word, will narrow the search results according to that filter.

A record of filters that are switched ‘on’ will be provided at the top of the column and each may be removed by clicking the ‘remove’ text alongside each one. If more than one filter is switched ‘on’ a ‘Remove All’ button will appear which, when clicked, will return the results list to a state reflecting the original search query.

It is always possible to return to the original search query from a search results page by clicking the orange "Full Search" of "Quick Search" tab at the top of the page. This will drop-down a series of search boxes pre-populated with the original search query; the query may be edited or launched again without change.

The filter lists will each present the five most popular results for their respective field and, if necessary, also present a ‘more’ link at the bottom of the list. When clicked, the ‘more’ link will produce a pop-up box which contains a complete list of potential filters for that field ordered in respect to the number of times they occur in the search results. Clicking anywhere outside of the pop-up box will return the user to the results screen without switching ‘on’ a filter.


The Browse screen allows users to view an index of all the individual authors listed in the bibliography or all the individual journal titles included.

Entering the first characters of an author’s surname and clicking the ‘Browse’ button will produce an index of all authors/editors whose names begin with those characters. Entering a single letter, e.g. A, will produce an index of all authors/editors whose names begin with that letter. Entering ‘Au’ will produce a browseable list of all authors and editor in the database with a surname beginning with ‘Au’.

Journal Title:
Selecting a letter from the drop down menu and clicking the ‘Browse’ button will produce a list of journals that have titles beginning with that letter. A letter must be selected before the ‘Browse’ button becomes active.

Each journal title or author name that appears on a browse page will, when clicked, produce a list of all entries related to that name or title.

Subject categories










Christian Missions

Current Affairs



Economic and Social History


Economics – Development


Education – Higher







Gay and Lesbian Studies


Gender – Masculinity




History, C18th

History, C19th

History, C20th

History, C6-18th

History, early

History, South African War, 1899-1902

Human Rights


Information and Communications Technology

International Economic Relations

International Relations


Languages and Linguistics






Medicine & Health

Medicine & Health – HIV/AIDS



Psychology and Psychiatry



Religion – African Traditional

Religion – Christianity

Religion – Hinduism

Religion – Islam

Religion – Judaism

Rural Economy

Science and Technology

Social Welfare



Urban Studies


Regional categories

Africa (General)

Central Africa

East Africa

Horn of Africa


Lusophone Africa

North Africa

Southern Africa

West Africa

West Central Africa

A number of small regions are listed under the "‘country"’ category, reflecting the structure of the original print bibliography.

Francophone West Africa



‘Google Scholar’

Clicking this button will send a query to Google Scholar requesting a list of all publications which match one or more bibliographic element (such as author or title) of the relevant entry in the Africa Bibliography. Results will be displayed in a new browser window and the user will have access to many of the additional tools available through Google Scholar including related articles lists, citation data, full-text PDF location and local library searches. Results appearing in these lists are provided by Google.

‘Open URL Query’

OpenURL is a standardised format for the expression of a bibliographic entry which can enable users to determine whether their institutional library subscribes to the publications listed in the Africa Bibliography. Clicking this button will provide the user with a version of the bibliographic entry expressed in a form compatible with their library's OpenURL link resolver and, provided we have a record of it, a link to the OpenURL link resolver of the library registered to the IP address of that user. The following steps should then be followed:

Step 1: Follow the link to the library's link resolver or, if not listed, establish the address of the library's link resolver using the catalogue maintained by WorldCat.

Step 2: Construct an OpenURL query using the library's link resolver address, followed by a question mark, followed by the text string provided by the Africa Bibliography.

Step 3: Paste the fully constructed URL into a browser's address bar and press enter.

A results page provided by the library will appear showing whether the library subscribes to the publication and explaining through which library channels full-text access can be gained.


The full-text button uses DOIs (digital object identifiers) to form a link directly to the online full-text content of the relevant article. Clicking the button will link the user to the abstract or full-text content on the publisher's website. Currently this functionality is only available for journal articles and specifically those journals articles which are hosted online by members of CrossRef (including most major publishers).