Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Chicana & Chicano Studies (CHIC) -- Immigration Focus: Select and define your topic (immigration focus)

Research resources for those with an immigration focused topic in Chicana & Chicano Studies

Select and define your topic (immigration focus)

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 --

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

  • How many undocumented immigrants are in the United States?
  • Most undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles come from the Mexican state of Jalisco.
  • Should states issue drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants?
  • Undocumented immigrants have a positive effect on the American economy.

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

  • Undocumented immigrants, statistics, United States
  • Illegal aliens, Jalisco, Los Angeles
  • Illegal immigrants, drivers licenses
  • Undocumented workers, American economy, effect

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.)

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

Advanced Searching Tips --
Use Boolean search terms to link or exclude concepts related to your topic.boolean

  • 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: migrants w/s diabetes
    • in the same paragraph, Example: migrants w/p diabetes
    • within two intervening terms, or within five intervening terms, Example: migrants w/5 diabetes

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.