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SPAN S313: Writing Spanish

Background Information & Books

Before you can start any research on your topic, you must have a background knowledge of it. Books and websites can provide you with that knowledge.

This is important because:

  1. Background sources give you the language that people are using to discuss your topic. You will use this language when you start to search databases for scholarly articles and resources on the topic.
  2. This "pre-research" gives you a sense if your topic is focused enough. If your initial searches bring back so many results you can't even figure out what the language is, then you should consider narrowing your topic.

Remember, background information is always a starting point for research, not an ending point.

Go Beyond Wikipedia

Now that you have come up with a research question, the next step is to explore the topic. This step is important because it will build your knowledge, you'll discover possible new avenues for your research, you'll pick up the jargon of the discipline(s) you are working with and start to gather keywords and other search terms.

This is important because:

  1. Background sources give you the language that people are using to discuss your topic. You will use this language when you start to search databases for scholarly articles and resources on the topic.

  2. This "pre-research" gives you a sense if your topic is focused enough. If your initial searches bring back so many results you can't even figure out what the language is, then you should consider narrowing your topic.

The library has a Reference section on Level 2 that you can browse. However, since Latino Studies-related materials are scattered throughout the library, you may prefer to start with our electronic reference databases. "Reference" is library jargon for materials like encyclopedias that have quick answers. Think of Wikipedia, for example. 

Remember, background information is always a starting point for research, not an ending point.

Academic Reference Databases

Similar to the reference databases, the topic overivew databases will give you background reading on your topics. They may contain reference information as well as scholarly articles. Typically these are "starting places" for research, so I would encourage you to look in other places too--both those places I suggest in this guide and elsewhere.

Topical Overview Databases

Websites

You can also use Wikipedia to gather information. As the graphic below shows, you can use it as a starting place, but don't end up there; your professors typically prefer that you do not cite Wikipedia as a source.