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US-Mexican Border Studies: Beginning Your Research in US-Mexican Border Studies

Beginning Your Research on the US-Mexican Border

Information about the US-Mexican Border region can be found in a variety of formats and disciplines.   This guide is designed to direct you to major sources of information in a variety of areas.

A first step to searching for materials on your topic is to talk to experts who can suggest beginning sources to you: your professors and anyone else that they recommend.

There are three useful principles to remember and apply when searching any kind of electronic search tool (a library catalog, a digital library, a database, the internet, etc.)

1. A keyword search in any resource will point you to great initial resources, but you will not find all of the resources you need this way. 

2. It is really important that you follow up on your initial searching by:

a) looking at the complete records to identify subject headings or descriptors that you can use to search further

b) carrying out seed research: go to the initial sources and check the footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies to find further resources.  It is also helpful to walk around the shelves in the library where you find initial print sources, as other related sources will be shelved in this area.

3. Use reference sources to start your research as well.  There are great electronic and print reference tools (dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, and more) that can help you clarify and narrow down your topic and identify great starting resources.

A few excellent online reference packages include:

For places to search for books, click on the Finding Books tab.

To locate academic journal articles, use the various databases listed on the Finding Articles tab.

News Sources are listed on the News Sources tab. 

Primary sources are of particular importance in doing historical research or identifying first-hand perspectives on topics.

See also the Archives, Collections and Libraries in San Diego and Tijuana tab

Excellent Starting Points for Many US-Mexican Border Topics Include:

Country Studies on the United States and Mexico.  These will provide you with good introductions to the US and Mexico, including such brief historical chronologies/outlines, key statistics, information on the current government structure, and current hot issues.  See the Country Information and Reports tab on the Latin American Studies Guide. 

Sage Research Methods is an additional resource that may be very useful in developing your research project.  There are various ways to search for useful material and models for research and writing.

1) One option is to put keywords into the search box at the top

- the default order of the results will be by relevance; you can change this to title or publication date by using the drop down options from the Sort by: box

- you can also narrow your results using the faceting menu on the right: choose a particular format or kind of resource (books, reference materials, journal articles, datasets, case studies, video, etc.)

2) A second path is to choose one of the options below the search box (such as: find quick answers and definitions (reference); learn about quantitative methods; design a research project; learn from stories of real research)

- you can browse through the results, using the faceting menu on the left to narrow down further by method, discipline, or your level of education/research (undergraduate … etc.)

3) Sage Research Methods also includes a project planner, which provides you with a guide to the stages of carrying out a research project (finding topic, reviewing the literature (previously conducted research in this area), developing a researchable question, finding and gathering resources or data, writing, etc.)

Reference Tools Specific to the Border Region

Tools for more sophisticated searches (in addition to the tools presented in the box below)

Additional tools to do more sophisticated searching include using:

Boolean operators should be in ALL CAPS

"Quotation Marks" allow you to search for an exact phrase: "mental health"

(Parentheses) allow you to create complex search strings with various clauses within parentheses -- as with a math equation:

(trauma OR distress) AND (migrants or Refugees) AND Mexico

 

 

Search Strategies

  Boolean Operators   

Infographic that explains Boolean Operators and gives examples of their uses.

Truncation is a search technique that broadens your search to include various word endings. To truncate your search terms, replace the word ending with an asterik *.

politic* gets results for politics, politician, and political

 

Limits provide database-specific recommendations for narrowing a search. Applying limits will filter out results that don’t meet your search requirements. This will save you time because you won’t need to look through pages of search results that don’t include the information that you need Each database offers different limits. Be sure to check them out to see how they can help you with your search.

For example: In the database, Historical Abstracts, you can filter your search results for peer review, publication date, document type, language, subject, etc.

The image below illustrates how applying limits will help you to narrow
your search results.

For every limit applied the results get smaller

 

It's important to know that databases use subject headings to organize their articles. When you know the right subject headings for your topic, you can search more efficiently. Starting out on a new topic, you won't know the subject terminology. A simple way to find them is to start with a keyword search. When you find an article title that meets your needs, look for the subject headings assigned to that article. In most cases, those subject headings are hyperlinked and will take you to a list of articles with the same subject heading.

linked subject terms are within the articles details

abstracts will highlight key terms used to find the article

Scholarly articles often have extensive bibliographies, also called reference lists or works cited pages. Bibliographies include references to articles, books, and other relevant literature that were published before the article. Some databases provide links to the cited references so that you can look at those articles as well, which might provide more articles for you to use in your paper.

Cited References can help you find articles that are older than the one you are reading.

An Example:

bibliography articles were used to write an article and are older

Look at the example to the left. If you found a relevant article from 2003, you could look at the articles in the bibliography to see where your article got the information used to support their main points. These older articles can also be useful to your research, especially if you need to write a literature review.

You can use a similar method to find newer articles, by looking at the articles who have cited your 2003 article in their bibliographies. To find out more about this method, see the tab for Times Cited references.

 

 

Some databases, like Web of Science, include times cited references. Think of these as the opposite of a bibliography. Where bibliographies include references that are older than the article, times cited references are newer than the article.

Times Cited references can help you find articles that are more recent than the one you are reading.

An Example:

time cited articles are newer than the published article

Look at the example to the left. Let’s say your professor doesn’t let you include references in your paper that are older than 2005. You are finding articles about your topic, but they are all too old. Even the best article about your topic was published in 2003.

Using times cited references, you could see which articles have cited the 2003 article. Chances are you will find one published a more recently that you could use for your paper.

 

 

When you find an article that you think will be a good to use, you can take advantage of “related articles” to find similar articles. Databases have different formulas for determining how an article is “related,” but it usually is a combination of same keywords and descriptors.

You can usually find a list of related articles on the results screen of the database.

great article connected to related articles