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.
[If you are not affiliated with BYU, you may not have full access to some of the electronic
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.
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.
Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors (Level 1 Social Science Reference, or the ERIC database).
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
The researcher uses articles published in current periodicals (magazines/journals) to get the most current research. A variety of periodical indexes (databases) are available through the library catalog by selecting Article Indexes. Select Latin America from the Specific Subjects box (or a related topic of your choice). For more resources on this same subject, click "More Resources" at the top of the page.
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 Catalog on the Latin America 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.
- Latin America Data Base Online news service in English on Latin American politics, economics and society. Includes weekly bulletins and a searchable archive of over 23,000 articles. It is updated weekly. Coverage from 1983 to the present. Only available online.
- Chicano Database (EBSCO) Indexes periodical articles about the Latino experience in the United States. Coverage is from 1967 to the present. Available on-line and in paper copy.
There are also General & Multidisciplinary Periodical Indexes which may be helpful. Two of them, "ProQuest" and "EBSCO," have the advantage of having many articles available in full text.
If Internet resources are needed/allowed, first use those recommended by the subject librarian under "Selected Web Sources".
One such web site for Latin America is UT-LANIC operated by the University of Texas Institute of Latin American Studies.
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.
There may be additional resources which could be used in your research.
Use the following criteria to evaluate your resources:
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:
Dr. Mark L. Grover