Information Use in African American Studies Doctoral Dissertations at Pennsylvania State University, 2000-2007

Article excerpt


African American Studies or Black Studies emerged in the 60s in response to Black college students requesting curriculum changes to incorporate Black history and experience in the United States. Alkalimat (2007) notes that there is 311 degree granting institutions in the discipline of Black Studies in the U.S. The discipline continues to evolve with varying terms used to describe the discipline, including Black Studies, African American Studies, African and African American Studies, Afro-American Studies, Africana Studies, Pan African Studies, etc (Anderson 1993). According to Anderson, the varying titles mostly exist because of the geographical scope of each program or curriculum. For the purpose of this study, African American Studies will be used throughout this paper, synonymous with Black Studies, African and African American Studies, Afro-American Studies, Africana Studies, Africology, and Pan African Studies.

African American Studies examines, from numerous perspectives, the experience of people of African descent living in the United States, and encompasses history, politics, culture, literature, religion, sociology, and many other disciplines within the humanities and social sciences. Anderson (1993) noted "the field of study does not begin with the enslavement in America, but with their heritage and ancestral roots in Africa..., and their relationship with white America as well as with other racial-ethnic groups." (4). Walter (2002) summed-up Black Studies below:

   Despite all these problematics, I sense that African American
   Studies is about to experience a profound renaissance. The content
   of African American Studies explains and responds to much in our
   history and our present-day struggles to realize our democratic
   aspirations. While examining the cultural, social, economic, and
   political realities of the African American people, it
   simultaneously analyzes the black/white paradigm, the paradigm in
   which in the United States the racialization of other groups,
   domestic and international, is based. Thus, it provides a necessary
   touchstone in scholarship and pedagogy for similar study of all
   ethnic groups--most of whom have been racialized in opposition to
   whiteness at some point." (103)

The department of African and African American Studies at Pennsylvania State University integrates courses and research from the social sciences and humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with other academic areas throughout the university. Most students who graduate from the program move on to pursue graduate studies in the various disciplines with a focus on African American Studies. There are growing research needs in African American Studies; and knowing what doctoral students are citing in their research is critical for collection development and reference services. Therefore, citation analysis is of great value for African American Studies, as it can broaden or help focus the collection development. This study analyzes African American Studies dissertation bibliographies at Pennsylvania State University from 2000-2007 to see the types and age of materials used in their research. This can be attributed to the historical debate about African American Studies.

Founded in 1855, The Pennsylvania State University commonly known as Penn State University is a multi-campus public research university. The university has 24 campuses throughout the state of Pennsylvania, including world campuses. The enrollment at University Park Campus in State college is nearly 45,000 students with a total enrollment of over 87,000 across its 24 campuses. Pennsylvania State University defines its mission as one "that improves the lives of the people of Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world through integrated, high-quality programs in teaching, research, and service." The university offers more than 120 majors and administers a 1. …


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