Finding resources for your research

To do a literature review and/or collect background information related to a research could be tedious work. Probably the first resources to turn to are the various scientific databases, Google Scholar, websites of book and journal publishers, and your research institution’s library. In my case, the library of the University of Helsinki had/has an excellent online interface (https://www2.helsinki.fi/en/helsinki-university-library) to quickly and efficiently search for both printed and digital resources.

The second stop could be websites such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu, which are dedicated networking sites for scientists and researchers, where research projects and publications can be easily shared and discussed. In many cases, a publication can be simply downloaded or easily requested from the author(s).

I would say, the above options are the most common resources. However, there are plenty more that can provide valuable data or background information. For example, I was pleasantly surprised when I found the website Internet Archive, a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, etc. I found it especially helpful to find older books, that are out of print now, but available in a digital format through the website. The search with the phrase “San people” gives quite an interesting list (https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22San%20(African%20people)%22), full of resources that I have later used in my research.

There are also other digital archives, some of those describing a researcher’s work with one specific ethnic group, or the work of a whole research group. One resource that was particularly helpful for my research with the Khwe San is the Oswin Köhler Archive, which contains the complete academic legacy of Oswin R. A. Köhler (1911–1996) – as well as parts of the academic legacies of other scholars of African languages. The archive is available at http://oka.uni-frankfurt.de/ and contains illustrations, photos, and photos of artefacts. Another one is Yale’s HRAF Collection of Ethnography, which has an online version called “eHRAF World Cultures” available under https://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/ehrafe/. I visited “real archives” too, which exists outside of the digital space. The Namibian National Archives (https://nan.gov.na/) in Windhoek and the archive of the Basler Africa Biblographien (https://baslerafrika.ch/) in Basel, Switzerland. Both provided me with Namibian focused research materials and gray literature.

The next stop is the websites of the various International Organizations (UN, Unicef, World Bank, OECD, ILO, etc), National Governments and Ministries, and various NGOs. Their reports, datasets, policy documents can be extremely useful. To give you an example, the IWGIA – International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs – is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. The Indigenous World is a one-of-a-kind documentation tool by IWGIA that offers a comprehensive yearly overview of the developments Indigenous Peoples experience around the world (more under https://www.iwgia.org/en/resources/publications.html).

Conference websites and proceedings also provide an excellent source of information, especially when conference abstracts are easily available. Conference proceedings are also a great way to get to know who is working on the same/similar topics as you do. Two very topical conferences for my research interests have been the bi-annual Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE) and the similarly bi-annual Conference of the International Society for Hunter Gatherer Research (ISHGR), the Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHAGS).

Local newspapers and their digital archives could provide also useful data or background information to any given research. I tend to follow the news on two Namibian newspapers, and often search their archives: https://www.namibian.com.na/The-Namibian/Archive and https://www.namibiansun.com/. Also, the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation’s website provides a search option: https://nbc.na/search/node.