Guide to find “Book Reviews” in African Studies Journals

“Book reviews” are very useful to make academic research more efficient: They save time in choosing the right books to consult. They allow a quick overview about new publications without having to read them all in detail. They do give an impression about strengths and weaknesses of a book. Often they ask new questions, not answered by the reviewed book. Even if they are not of high quality, at least they offer a summary of the main arguments. So this Guide will introduce some tools helping to locate book reviews in African Studies journals (i.e. special databases) and on the web. Some of the mentioned search techniques are applicable also for databases indexing journal articles not mentioned here in detail.

Database containing “book reviews” only: IBR-Online

IBR

IBR

  • Internationale Bibliographie der Rezensionen geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlicher Literatur = International Bibliography of Book Reviews of Schorlarly Literature in the Humanities and Social Sciences (de Gruyter) [toll access]
  • The IBR as an interdisciplinary, international bibliography of reviews contains entries on over 1.3 million book reviews of literature dealing primarily with the humanities and social sciences published in 6,820 scholarly journals (mainly European). Reviews of more than 570,000 scholarly works are listed. IBR is updated on a monthly basis, the annual addition to the database is approx. 50.000 entries. All articles contain German and English subject classifications. Every entry contains also the following information: On the work reviewed: author, title; On the review: reviewer, periodical (year, edition, page, ISSN), language, publisher.
  • The journals indexed include e.g. Africa Bibliography, Africa Spectrum, Africa Today, Africa, African Affairs, African Philosophy, African Research and Documentation, African Studies Review, Afrika und Übersee, Cahiers d’études africaines, Canadian Journal of African Studies, History in Africa, Journal of African Languages and Linguistics and many more.
  • Use the search field “Review of:” to look for the full titles and bibliographical details of the reviewed works. “Author:” is the author of the reviewed book in the form “last name, first name”. Other search fields are Reviewer, Periodical, Subject headings and Classification. All search fields offer an autocomplete functionality.
  • Access via the publisher de Gruyter or via DBIS in Germany. See one example here.

Journal Article Databases including “book reviews”

Most of the databases indexing journal articles are useful tools to locate book reviews. Only a very few have special indexes and search fields for the title/author of the reviewed work. However, many offer the possibility to refine searches according to the document or publication type. Some of the most important databases in this context are:

JSTOR (Journal Storage – The Scholarly Journal Archive) [toll access]

  • The JSTOR archival collections contain the back issues of more than 1,500 scholarly journals across 50 disciplines that span 500 years. 60 African Studies journals are indexed, e.g. Journal of the Royal African Society 1901-1944, The African Archaeological Review 1983-2009, African Arts 1967-2007,  Botswana Notes and Records 1968-2008, Journal of African Cultural Studies 1998-2007, The Journal of Modern African Studies 1963-2007, Journal of Religion in Africa 1967-2007 and more. Access to the individual journals depend on the Archival Collection licensed by your local library.
  • Book reviews on JSTOR can be retrieved either in the advanced search with “Narrow by:” the “Item Type:” “Reviews”. Additionally, the search can be further limited with “Narrow by discipline” to the African Studies.
  • The more sophisticated possibility is to use the JSTOR Field Abbreviationsrt:” for the title of the reviewed work and “ra:” for the author of the reviewed work:JSTORfieldAbbr Read more of this post

Guide on “African fiction in local languages of non-European origin”

Herbert Chimhundu: Chakwesha, Harare: College Press, 1997 (1991). A novel in Shona on the journey from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.

Several libraries collect material in local African languages of non-European origin. This guide gives a few hints on how to find novels in Swahili, poetry in Ndebele or plays in Xhosa. Libraries do use certain methods of subject indexing and classification helping to locate literature in African languages in the library catalogues.

Some of the approaches do also apply for the local literature in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. However, the main focus of this guide is on local African languages of non-European origin.

Frankfurt University Library, Germany

The DFG-funded special subject collection on Africa South of the Sahara uses keywords according to the German authority file GND and the RWSK-rules. Additionally, we also name the language and the genre of the fictional text.

The pattern is:

Country, e.g. “Simbabwe”
Language, e.g. “Ndebele-Sprache, Simbabwe”
Genre, e.g. “Roman” (novel)
text/anthology

With this type of keyword search Zimbabwean novels in Ndebele can be found.

Other examples are:

For the purpose of classification an “Eppelsheimer”-inhouse solution is applied. This allows to answer some broader questions: All novels from Africa in Frankfurt University library can be retrieved e.g. with “3!! M 0059 k*“.

The pattern to index fictional text looks like this:

334 = e.g is the country code for Kenya
M 0059 = is a fictional text
k = novel, h =drama, e = poems, m = short story etc.

The code for local African languages is:

A combination of both is possible, some examples:

Read more of this post

Guide on “Writing in African Studies Journals”

This guide puts together some information of ECAS panels called “Writing in African Studies Journals: what, how, and where?” taking place 2013 in Lisbon and 2011 in Uppsala (see Credits below, last major update of this guide on 1st July 2013).

Main points of requirements

  • originality = based on originaly data, fieldwork or offering at least a new view on a country
  • clear structure = making one argument
  • significance = relevance of the contribution
  • (a research article should be around 8.000 words sticking to the author guidelines of the respective journal)

How to write an exiting article

  • make people want to read your article = tell something interesting
  • gap filling is not enough, it should be an original contribution with empiric data  and a fresh way of using the data
  • give readers a nice journey, make it readable in style and structure; transitions between chapters should be smooth, guide the reader through
  • a literature review is not enough, wait until your work is done
  • avoid too much of disciplinary jargon, other people must can understand it as well
  • one article should present only one idea/argument (not two or three)
  • cite only literature which is used and is necessary for the argument (not too much)
  • not too much quotes, even if they are exiting, and any quote has to be interpreted
  • the exiting argument should not be presented at the end of the article

How to choose the right journal

  • consider the covered region
  • consider the covered disciplines
  • consider the general focus
  • consider the to publish in a disciplinary journal, not an African Studies journal
  • consider the turnover time between submission and publishing
  • have a look at the journals website, its mission statement and to some of the already published articles to get a feeling of the targeted audiences, the style, the way arguments are made and the profile

Some examples (with links to their guidelines for authors)

  • African Affairs: focus on contemporary Africa, political events; social sciences; case studies have to have wide implications; no special issues; attached to ASA UK
  • Africa (IAI): all regions and disciplines covered; articles need a broad “ethnographic approach”, with experience on the ground, must affect people; have a new strand publishing articles from ‘African local intellectuals’; articles can be submitted in French and Portuguese as well but will be published in English
  • Africa Spectrum: Open Access; focus on social sciences, but all disciplines are covered; all English policy
  • Afrika Focus: Open Access; multidisciplinary; special issues; promote young African scholars; have also reports; publish in English and French; all submitted content (e.g. photos) should be available for open access.
  • The Journal of African History: eminent on all periods of history
  • Critical African Studies: no regional or disciplinary boundaries; keen on critical debate and theoretical innovations; for younger scholars;
  • Journal of Modern African Studies:  bias to politics but focus on longer term perspectives (not current affairs); papers should contribute to the understanding of modern Africa and be of interest in five years still; papers should be understandable by non-specialists
  • Journal of Southern African Studies: focus on long term impact; boundaries of “Southern Africa” are flexible; 4 issues with 11-15 articles (big); less keen on economics; each paper is discussed with the advisory board; sponsors conferences; work with authors very much (could this become a good paper?)
  • Nordic Journal of African Studies: Open Access, purely online; focus on language; will have a new editorial board soon
  • Politique Africaine: focus on the contemporary Africa and sociopolitical studies from below; mainly in French but also in English (papers can be submitted in other languages as well); has always a special issues (dossier); calls for papers on these special issues are announced on the website regularly
  • Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE): interdisciplinary, focus on radical perspectives/materialist analysis/struggles from below (against inequality, oppression, …)
  • African Studies Review: US based, closely related to ASA US; interdisciplinary

How the selection process works

  • After a paper is submitted to a journal, the editor will do an initial check: does the paper fits to the journal, to the basic standards (length, …) and has it the potential to become a good paper?
  • Then it is send to two plus x reviewers (can be from the board or external). They send in comments.
  • The editor makes a synthesis and send it to the author with a clear advice. A process of revision starts and at the end the article is published.
  • Note: 99% of the articles have to be revised according to the comments made by the reviewers.

Open Access & Self-archiving

  • Most of the journals are offering some Opess Access model,
    some like Africa Spectrum and Afrika Focus are Open Access without an author’s fee,
    others like JSAS offer the possibility to make articles Open Access paying an author’s fee once.
  • Most of the publishers allow the authors to make the article or a simpler text-version available on institutional repositories after a delay (e.g. African Affairs: 24 months after first online publication in the journal). See the  SHERPA/RoMEO list to find out, what the individual journal publishers conditions are.

Writing Workshops

  • Often writing workshops are offered at the conferences of African Studies Associations. E.g. at ECAS 2013 in Lisbon a workshop with the title “How to write, review and publish a scientific paper” was held by the editor of the Nordic Journal of African Studies.

More journals to think of

  • Beside the journals mentioned above exist a lot of more journals on African Studies world wide:
    see the list of African Studies Journals at ilissAfrica.

Credits

Guide to new acquisitions lists of library collections on Africa

Many libraries specialised on Africa provide lists of the books and journals they acquired recently. These lists include the newly produced books from and about Africa. Therefore, they give insights in the development of the local book markets as well as the book production in other countries on Africa. Additionally, they serve as tools to monitor trends in recent research.

Some examples:

Please, do add other lists of new acquisitions and make comments!

Last revision 14th Jan 2013 thanks to comments by Reto Ulrich, Marlene van Doorn and Sonia Abun-Nasr.

Survey of Library Guides to African Studies

Recently many libraries switched to a software called LibGuide (Springshare).  Here are some noteworthy examples for these “Guides to resources for African Studies research”:

Some further Guides (not with LibGuide):

Finally, some Guides from Germany in German:

Open Access Guides for Africa

See two recent Open Access Guides especially for Africa:

  • Special Africa” on the website “Open Access to scientifique communication”. Hans DILLAERTS and Hélène BOSC want to present, select and organize current information about Open Access.  (In French)
  • Open Access Guide for researchers based in Africa: Cheap or free Access to Databases and E-Journals” – a list provided by the internet library sub-saharan Africa (ilissAfrica) (In French)

And two recent examples for “best practice”:

  • Journal of African Economies – OUP offers academic, research and educational institutions within developing countries free (or greatly reduced) online access to JAE (further details)
  • HSRC Press is South Africa’s open access publisher committed to the dissemination of high quality social science research based publications, in print and electronic form. The Press publishes the research output of the Human Science Research Council and externally authored works.
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