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Span 115 (Martin-Rodriguez): Welcome!

Session Outcomes

You will be able to:

  • identify possible keywords and use them to construct searches
  • access full-text of resources
  • use relevant databases
  • use RefWorks

Accessing Full-Text

Full-text may be immediately available via a pdf or html page.  If not, use the UCeLinks button to reach a request page.  You can Interlibrary Loan the item using your UCMnetID. 

Possible Databases

Stages of the Research Process

stages of research process

Finding the Right Scope for Your Topic

Narrow Your Topic or Research Question

It's very common to select a topic or formulate a question that starts out too broad

Question 1:  How is family represented in The House on Mango Street? (broad)

When the scope of your topic is too big, it's hard to write a paper with any depth. 

Most scholarly research examines fairly narrow topics and looks at relationships between concepts.  For example, family is a pretty broad topic, but looking at how parent/child relationships are depicted makes this topic more manageable.

Possible Search Terms

1. Think about the main concepts of your topic.  Extract these. e.g. stereotypes, religion, masculinity, narrative time, etc.

2. Then think about the specific terms that describe your main concepts.  When you have a term such as religion, what other words or phrases might describe it or be examples of it?  e.g. God, Catholic, parochial, Islam, etc.

Search Strategies

Once you have some keywords associated with your topic AND you have found appropriate search tools/databases, you are ready to begin searching.  Here are some basic search strategies to consider.

1. Look for a phrase by using quotation marks.  This will make your search more specific.  e.g. "gender identity"

2. Generate more results by joining synonyms or closely related terms together with OR.  Remember OR means mORe.
Example: chican* OR "mexican-american"

3. Narrow results by adding dissimilar terms with AND.
Example: masculinity AND stereotype

4. Use the asterisk (in many search tools) to truncate a term. This will look for different endings of the same word. e.g. chican* will search for chicano, chicana, chicanos, etc.

5. Once completing a search, scan the results for other terms or phrases you may not have initially discovered.  e.g. Searching for behavior principles may bring up cultural sensitivity.

6. View Subjects if available.  These may also be called descriptors.  These subjects are assigned to describe the citation/article. For example a descriptor in Academic Search Complete is Latin American Authors.

Activity Spreadsheet

Try a search in a database that looks interesting and record what you were able to find on the spreadsheet.

What to include:

  • your search strategy (e.g., "house on mango street" AND parent*)
  • what database you used (e.g., JSTOR, Melvyl, Academic Search Complete, Chicano Database, etc)
  • did you find anything interesting?

Spreadsheet Link

Use Melvyl to Find Books & More


Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco

KL 275 Kolligian Library

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Writing Center

Are you ...

  • developing a thesis?
  • organizing your ideas?
  • incorporating evidence?

Visit the Writing Center for an individual consultation with a peer.




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