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Chicana & Chicano Studies (CHIC): Starting your research

Subject guide for Chicana and Chicano Studies (CHIC)

Getting started with your research

Suggestions for getting started with your research in Chicana and Chicano StudiesMaya Scribe

Before you select a topic be sure that you:

  • Understand the Assignment--
    • What kind of resources can/should you use?  

      • Example: Only use peer-reviewed journal articles

      • Example: Use scholarly/academic sources

    • Are there any publication date limitations?

      • Example: Limit to resources published since 2000
      • Example: Resources should be no more than 10 years old
    • ‚ÄčIs there a minimum number of resources and/or resource types needed?What citation style is required: APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, Other?
      • Example: Your work cited list must contain a minimum of 2 scholarly books, 3 peer-reviewed journal articles, and no more that 2 web sites.
      • Example: Your reference list must contain at least 10 scholarly resources
  • When is the final product due? 
    • Are there any benchmark or component dates such as topic selection; initial bibliography, first draft or a presentation date?
  • Ask your instructor right away if you do not understand something. They created the assignment and they will grade it, so it is her/his definitions that will count.
  • Your time is precious. You do not want to waste time doing something you do not need to do.
  • Do not wait until the last minute-- One or more of the following items will happen:
    • Machines will break down
    • Access to the INTERNET will go down
    • A database will be offline
    • You might not be able to get in touch with your professor
    • The materials you need will be checked out, missing, or not owned by the library
    • If you give us enough time, we can get a hold of things that are checked out, that we don't own or that are missing from the library via resource sharing (CSU + or Interlibrary Loan).

Learn how to get started with your research. These tips should work in most of our databases.

Contents of this Section:
Define your topic | Research question | Main concepts 
Narrow your topic | Broaden your topic | Advanced Searching tips


Define your topic --

  • Consult Reference Books for ideas
    • check out the list of online reference databases located under "Find background information on your topic"
    • consult our print reference collection, a good place to startis with the call numbers:
      • E184.M5 
      • E184.S75 
  • Contact your Professor
  • Visit the Chicana & Chicano Resource Center (CRC)
  • Make an appointment with me using the any of the contact methods listed to the right.

State your topic as a research question or as a research hypothesis--
For example, if you are interested in Chicanos in higher education: You might ask questions or pose hypotheses such as:

  • How many Chicanos are enrolled in colleges and universities?
  • What is the ratio of Chicano to Chicana students? or
  • What are the most popular subject majors for Chicanas and Chicanos?
  • Chicanos enroll in colleges and universities closest to their homes.
  • More Chicanas than Chicanos enroll in higher education because they are less likely to drop out of high school.
  • Chicanas are more likely to major in the feminized professions of teaching and nursing.

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Identify the main concepts in your question [see also note on Chicano terminology] --
In the above questions the main concepts are:

  • Chicanos, enrollment, and colleges or universities
  • Chicano Students, Chicana Students, enrollment ratio
  • Chicanos or Chicanas, subject majors
  • Chicanos, enrollment, local colleges or local universities
  • Chicanas, higher education, high school, dropouts
  • Chicanas, feminized professions or teaching or nursing

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Too many records found? Narrow your topic:

  • Add additional concept terms
    • While you are searching, always be on the look out for other useful terms or synonyms that could be used to describe your search concepts including the subject index terms assigned to an article record. These subject index terms are often called descriptors or subject headings.
    • Many databases will provide you with suggestions for related terms and synonyms somewhere on the search results page.
    • There may also be a thesaurus or subject terms file that you can explore.
  • Use more specific terms. For example, ask: Ask how many are enrolled in the CSU system, or even more narrowly, how many are enrolled at CSUF.
  • Narrow the range of years covered.
  • Put quotes around "concept terms" that are phrases. (some databases may use paratheses to denote phrases.)

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Not enough or no records found? Broaden your topic:

  • Truncate your search terms. (See below)
  • Broaden the range of years covered.
  • Construct a new search using synonyms or related terms for your topic.
  • See discussion below about Chicano terminology

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Advanced Searching Tips --
Diagram of Boolean Search Operators

Use Boolean search terms to link or exclude concepts related to your topic. 

  • Separate your search terms with the words AND, OR, or NOT
    • AND means both terms must be included somewhere in the text
    • OR means either term must be included
    • NOT means one term must be included but exclude the other.

Proximity operators let you define the distance between two search terms appearing in a text.

  • Terms that occur near each other have greater relationship to each other than those that are distantly scattered through out a document.
  • Choose terms that occur:
    • in the same sentence, Example: Chican* w/s dropout*
    • in the same paragraph, Example: Chican* w/p dropout*
    • within two intervening terms, or within five intervening terms, Example: Chican* w/5 dropout*

Truncation lets you search more than one term with the same root word.

  • Truncation can help you to find out which form of a word is used most often. Sometimes the only thing keeping you from finding resources is the presence or lack of an "s".
  • econom* will retrieve economy, economics, economies, economists, econometrics, etc.
  • Do not truncate common terms such as America*
  • Do not shorten a word too drastically: Example: search family OR families; rather than famil*.

Set building is a useful search strategy when you have a complicated search with more than one concept. Often we put too many terms into a seach and get no results or unsatisfactory results and it is impossible to tell what the problem is.

  • Search each concept in your topic separately, you can determine the different ways to express that concept.
  • Then combine the concepts using the databases search history.
  • You will be able to see the number of times an individual term or phase appears in the database.
  • If there are only a small number of occurrences, combining that term with other terms will probably not find any results at all, so it is necessary to find another term that works better, or find a different database to search.

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A Note about the terminology used for Chicanas/Chicanos/Chicanx/Chicane

You will encounter variation in the use terms "Chicano(s)", "Chicana(s)", "Chicanx" or "Chicane", "Latino(s)", "Latina(s)", "Latinx", or "Latine" "Hispanic(s)" or "Hispanic American(s)" and "Mexican American(s)" in different websites, online catalogs and databases.

Regardless of how you self-identify, you need to:

  • Familiarize yourself with the historical context of each term
  • There may be some terms that are specific to local geographies (Hispano in New Mexico)
  • It may be necessary for you to try all of them to find the resources you need for your research
  • A key word search can help to determine which terms have been used in the database you are trying to use
  • The term you use in your writing should reflect the context and era that you're writing about, as well as your preference in consultation with your professor
  • When quoting, you cannot change the term used

In those databases with a controlled list of vocabulary, "Chicano", "Chicana", "Chicanx", or "Chicane" will rarely be the term selected. Instead "Mexican American" or even "Hispanic American" will probably be the preferred term, but sometimes Latino and Latina is used. See example below that shows how to deal with all these word endings.

U.S. government websites have traditionally used the term "Hispanic American" in their reporting, but recently, the Census Bureau allowed people to self select the terms used to identity their ethnicity in the 2000 and Censuses. Most government agencies have begun to use some of these other terms.

Here is one of the searches I put together that attempts to cover many possibilities:

Chican* OR Latin* OR "Mexican American*" OR Hispan*   -- Note the use of the * for truncation purposes and the use of "" for phrases.