Spanish & Portugese Language & Literature

Why Use A Research Guide?

This guide has been developed to save time and help produce a better research paper. It will guide you through the library research process and inform you of the best resources for your topic. If you need assistance at any time, please ask for help at a Reference Desk.

A. Getting Started

  1. Select Your Topic
  2. Identify Terminology
  3. Locate Background Information
  4. Focus Your Topic and Form an Issue Question
  5. Organize Your Topic into Concepts

B. Finding Research Materials

  1. Finding Books Using the BYU Catalog
  2. Journal and Newspaper Articles
  3. Internet Resources
  4. Additional Resources
  5. Evaluate/Select/Cite Resources
  6. Prepare Your Paper

[If you are not affiliated with BYU, you may not have full access to some of the electronic
resources discussed.]

A. Getting Started:

  1. Select Your Topic

    Select a broad topic of interest to you. You will refine and narrow your topic as you go. The following lists will assist you in deciding on a beginning broad topic. These lists are available on the Subject Research Guides page.

    1. Library Research Guides- Broad subject categories, each with a step by step guide created for that subject.
    2. Background Study Guides - Each guide includes a tailored four-page worksheet using the library-research strategy.

  2. Identify Terminology

    It is essential to use the proper terms for your subject, especially as you search electronic resources. Begin a list of terminology which is used in the literature for your topic, adding to it as you go along. There are several good sources to look up terminology.

    1. Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) (Located at all Reference Desks).
    2. Thesausus of Hispanic American Periodical Index (Level 1 Social Science Ref AI 3 .H57x 1975).
    3. Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors (Level 1 Social Science Reference, or the ERIC database).

  3. Locate Background Information

    Do a brief background search using encyclopedias, general and specialized, and other reference sources to gain a basic understanding of your topic. Look for relevant terminology, how a subject is subdivided, and any useful bibliographies--names of important works/scholars in the field. Names that repeatedly appear in your articles are most likely authorities. Paying attention to their ideas will be very helpful. As you read, be alert to questions and issues being discussed and how you might begin to narrow your topic.

    The following are some of the best sources for background information in Spanish and Portuguese language and literature.

    • The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (10 vols. HumRef P29.e48 1994).
    • International Encyclopedia of Linguistics (4 vols. HumRef P29.I58).
    • Guide to Reference Works for the Study of the Spanish Language and Literature and Spanish American Literature (HumRef PC4071.X1W66).
    • Manual de literatura espanola (14 vols. HumRef PQ6032.P4).
    • Historia de la literatura espanola (6 vols. HumRef PQ6032.V3).
    • Hispanic Literature Criticism (2 vols. HumRef PQ6039.H57x 1994).
    • Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature (HumRefPQ7081.A1E53x).

    Other Specialized Sources will be located very near these. Check individual numbers for country sources. The Humanities Religion Reference Desk also has a helpful list of Reference resources.

  4. Focus the Topic and Form an Issue Question

    With background gleaned from the above reference sources, you should have an awareness of the various sub-divisions of your topic, and the issues of your topic that are being discussed and researched. You are now prepared to narrow the scope of your research and write an "issue question" which you can research.

    For example: "How has Pancho Villa been described in Mexican novels?"

  5. Organize Topic into Concepts

    Since many research resources are computerized, prepare to do an electronic search by, first, underlining the main or key words in your issue question.

    Example: "How has Pancho Villa been described in Mexican novels?"

    Using the following chart, place the keywords in separate concept boxes. Add additional synonymous terms from your terminology list within each concept box.

    Concept 1
    Concept 2
    Concept 3
    Pancho Villa

    How to phrase a "keyword" search:
    • Use the Boolean operator or between similar concepts. Use and to link different concepts, (see above).

    • Some root words can be truncated with a symbol ($ in the BYU Catalog, or * in most periodical databases) so that all endings of a root word can be searched at once. For example, Mexico, above, could be truncated: Mexic$ which would result in finding both Mexico and Mexican.

    • For more specific search directions, watch for the "tips" or "helps" buttons in each electronic database.

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B. Finding Research Materials

  1. Finding Books Using the BYU Library Catalog. To Perform a Basic Search
    1. Enter the subject or author in the Search Box.
      • If desired, select one library to limit your search by using the pull-down box labeled library.
      • Enter authorís last name first (omitting puncuation): Fuentes Carlos
      • Enter titles, omit the la, el, or los if it is the first word: La historia de Chile
      • Enter subjects without dashes: Art Brazil history (NOT Art-Brazil-History)
    2. Select the search type desired: Keyword or Alphabetical
      • Use Keyword to find records containing the word(s) entered.
      • Use Alphabetical to get an alphabetical list of records beginning with the first word entered.
    3. Select one of the seven light blue buttons indicating the category or field(s) avaiable to search. (Keyword Anywhere, Author, Title, Periodical Title, Series Title, Subject, Genre/Form)

    To Perform an Advanced Search
    1. Enter your keyword search in the search box(es). You can:
      • Truncate keywords by adding a $ to the end of root words (for multiple character truncation) or a ? (for single character wildcard).
      • Link words with Boolean Operators (AND,OR, XOR or NOT)
      • Link words with Positional Operators (SAME, WITH, ADJ, NEAR) SAME is the default between words.
    2. Select keyword anywhere, author, title, periodical title, series title, subject or genre/form from the left pull-down box.
    3. Select AND, OR, XOR, or NOT from the right pull-down box.
    4. Click on Search Catalog to execute the search.
    5. To limit your search, scroll down and select from the pull-down menus.

    To Perform a Call No. Search
    1. Type in the Call Number in the search box.
    2. Limit your search, if desired, by library, location, shelving scheme.
    3. Click on Browse Shelves to execute the search.

  2. Journal and Newspaper Articles

    The researcher uses articles published in current periodicals (magazines/journals) to get the most current research. A variety of periodical indexes (databases) are available. Select Spanish Language and Literature from the Specific Subjects box.

    If you have any questions, please check at the reference desk for assistance. The following periodical indexes are recommended for Spanish and Portuguese and are available through the library home page on the Spanish Language and Literature page:
    • Hispanic American Periodicals Index (HAPI) Indexes 500 periodicals from and about Latin America. Coverage from 1970 to the present. Available on-line and in paper copy.
    • Handbook of Latin American Studies Indexes books, book chapters, articles and conference reports from and about Latin America. Coverage from 1935 to the present. Available on-line and in paper copy.
    • MLA International Bibliography (ProQuest) Indexes books, book chapters, articles and conference reports on literature and languages in general. Coverage from 1963 to the present. Available on-line and in paper copy.

    There are also indexes listed under General & Multidisciplinary Periodical Indexes which may be helpful. These two, "ProQuest" and "EBSCO," have the advantage of having many articles available in full text.
  3. Internet Resources

    If Internet resources are needed/allowed, first use those recommended by the subject librarian under "Databases & Periodical Indexes - Selected Web Sites".

    One such web site for Latin America is UT-LANIC operated by the University of Texas Institute of Latin American Studies.

    You can also go directly to the home pages of Alta Vista , Yahoo or Google.

    Remember to watch the screens for search "tips" or "helps" or "Advanced Search" buttons which will use many of the Boolean concepts discussed. Sometimes thousands of hits will be found, but remember to use caution, as most will not be reliable or scholarly. As you evaluate Internet resources, you may find clues in the URL (address) which can alert you to the type of agency responsible for that site thus helping you assess its credibility.

    .edu or .gov (educational or government) are usually more factual, while .org or .com (organization or commercial) usually express more of an opinion or try to persuade the reader.
  4. Additional Resources

    There may be additional resources which could be used in your research.

    1. Bibliographies: When you find good material, pay attention to the bibliographic references listed in that item.
    2. Interlibrary Loan: If our library does not have the title, you can order it on Interlibrary Loan on Level 3. It will average 10 days but could take 3 weeks. The cost to receive articles is $.10/page and books are sent free of charge.
    3. Librarian Assisted Research Services: If you still need additional materials, you may also wish to check with the subject librarian who can guide you to appropriate resources.
  5. Evaluate/Select/Cite Resources

    Use the following criteria to evaluate your resources:

    • Reliability: Is the information scholarly and accurate? What clues are present to help you judge accuracy--footnotes, bibliography, credits, quotations?
    • Credibility: What are the author's qualifications? Is he/she affiliated with a university or other scholarly institute?
    • Perspective: Is the author objective, biased, or trying to sway the reader?
    • Timeliness: How recently was the information published?

  6. Prepare Your Paper

    Cite resources using the writing style manual recommended by your instructor. The main style manuals can be found at the General Reference Desk or on the Style Manuals page.

    You are now ready to write your paper.
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