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SPA 461 — Lecturas Mexicanas y Chicanas

ATTENTION: This research guide was last modified on February 02, 2011, before the January 2012 redesign of the library's home page. Information on how to access journal articles, databases, and other library resources may be inaccurate or outdated.

For up-to-date instructions on accessing materials, please visit our tutorial pages instead.


Carol Dales


Basic Library Information

Useful Books and eBooks


Off Campus Access

Useful journal article databases

How do I find an article in a specific journal?

Finding Journal Articles

General Search Tips and Suggestions

Selected Internet Resources


How to Write a Book Review

MLA Search Tips

Basic Library Information

Useful Books and eBooks

The Library has many books on Mexican and Chicana authors. Try the following search in the library's online catalog and you will see a list of books.

  • Go to the library's online catalog
  • In the drop-down menu to the left, select "Subject - Subject Words"
  • In the text area to the right, type in Mexican Fiction.
  • For a list of other similar subjects, you can scroll through the list this search returns.
  • For a list of general-purpose books, try searching Latin American Literature as a Subject.
  • Once you have a list of books on the screen, you can sort your results with the drop-down menu at the right.
  • Select "Sort by year - newest to oldest" to see a list of books with the most recent books first.

The library also has several collections of ebooks: books that have been scanned in and that you can access from home using the library website. You will often see links to these books when you view the results of a Subject Search.

Here are a few ebooks that may be of interest:


DATABASE: An organized collection of electronic information, such as photographs, addresses, or journal articles.

ONLINE JOURNAL INDEX: A database that contains magazine, newspaper and journal articles, e.g: Academic Search Premier. AKA Subscription Database.

SCHOLARLY JOURNAL: Also called academic or refereed journal. Articles usually reviewed by experts in the field before publication, published for a research audience, narrow focus, e.g.; International Journal of Advertising.

MAGAZINE: Publication of general interest: popular interest and broad subjects (e.g: Sky & Telescope)

SUBJECT HEADINGS : Also called descriptors. Official terms used to classify items in a database.

ABSTRACT: a brief summary of the main content of an article

CITATION: The basic information you need to find the full text of an article. It includes the title of the article, the author, the name of the publication, the date, the volume and issue number and the page numbers.

Off Campus Access

If you are  on campus, you can access all of our online databases and ebooks without any further steps. Just click on the database name in the Database List or ebook title and you will be sent immediately to the search screen.

If you are off campus, you will need to log in using your MyCSUDH Username and Password (the same thing you use to log in to Blackboard, MyCSUDH, and student e-mail). When you click on a database name from off-campus, you will see a screen asking you for this information.

After you enter your login information, you should be able to access any of our electronic databases and ebooks just like you would on campus.  If you have problems, try resetting your password.  If that doesn't work either, give the reference desk a call at (310) 243-3586 and we will help you troubleshoot.

Useful journal article databases
  • MLA International Bibliography produced by the Modern Language Association, this database consists of records pertaining to literature, language, linguistics and folklore and includes coverage as far back as the 1920's. It contains over 2.3 million citations from more than 4,400 scholarly journals & series and 1,000 book publishers. It also covers relevant monographs, working papers, proceedings, bibliographies, and other formats.
  • Project Muse offers over 400 quality journal titles from over 100 scholarly publishers. It covers the fields of literature and criticism, history, the visual and performing arts, cultural studies, gender studies, and many others.
  • JSTOR: indexing and full text of back issues of over 200 frequently used language and literature journals, e.g.:  Latin American Literary Review, 1972--2007.
  • Digital Dissertations: citations, abstracts, 24 page previews as well as full text of many theses and dissertations from 1,000 grad schools and universities. Full text of recent CSUDH theses is at CSUDH Digital Masters Theses.
  • Google Scholar Advanced Search: good place to try out a concept or combination of keywords that turned up nothing in MLA Bibliography or other databases; gives you an idea of "what might be out there" on a topic or approach that does not want to be nailed down in databases.

How do I find an article in a specific journal?
Type small bits of information about the article into the database search boxes.

e.g.: Find an article in the Winter, 2003, issue of Papers on Language and Literature entitled: Performance Anxieties by Tim Conley.

  • type Papers on Language and Literature in the top search box.
  • type Performance Anxieties in search box on the second line
  • type Conley in the Find box on the third line (note last name only is needed.
  • click the Search button.  

If that doesnt locate the article, click "Journals We Have" on the LH side of the Library home page  and type the title of the journal into the search box to see whether other databases have the journal that contains your article.

Finding Journal Articles

Clicking the Journal Articles & Electronic Resources link under the "Find Journal Articles Now" heading. Then click the heading that sounds the most like your situation:

Once you are in a database, you can start to search for your article. All databases' search options are slightly different, but they usually include several search boxes where you can type keywords that describe what you need.

Most databases will also let you search only for peer-reviewed or scholarly journals. For your research papers, be sure you check this option!

Articles which you can read in that database will have a link to the PDF full text or the HTML full text. Click on that text link to read the article. Some databases also let you e-mail yourself the files by clicking on an e-mail link.

Some articles will have a red and white "Find it @CSUDH Lib" button instead of a link to the full text. This means the text of that article is not in the database you are searching. Click the button to see a list of databases that do have the full text. If there are no databases containing the article you want, you can request it via Inter-Library Loan.

General Search Tips and Suggestions
  • Most databases work essentially the same way and have similar features.
  • Keywords - creating an effective search:
    • Take your research question and circle the "important words".
    • Think of two or three synonyms for each important word.
    • Use these words in various combinations to get a good result (between 15-40 results is best) .
  • Find subject terms attached to useful article citations (usually right after the abstract)- repeat your search with these "Official Database Subject Terms".
  • If you can't find anything: don't assume that there's nothing on your topic and give up!
    Instead, ask a reference librarian for help.

Combining Keywords:

  • AND requires all words appear in every result: Honda AND marketing
  • OR allows one or more words to appear in every result: Honda OR Toyota
  • NOT eliminates results with the word: Honda NOT automobiles
  • Phrase searching--use  " " to hold a phrase together as you search: "Nike Sportswear of America"


  • Selected Internet Resources
    • MLA Formatting and Style Guide: created and maintained by Purdue University, an exhaustive and authoritative guide to MLA format!
    • Feminist Literary Criticism and Theory: includes information on different literary genres, specific historical periods, literature, and literary theory.
    • Voice of the Shuttle: renowned, gigantic, searchable database of humanities websites; look under contents for categories (Literatures other than English--Spanish & Portuguese including Mexico) and Literary Theory.


    What is plagiarism? - Plagiarism is "The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft." (OED)

    In essence, when you quote or paraphrase from somebody else's work without citing it, you are plagiarizing their work. Plagiarism is a serious matter, and could result in a lower or failing grade and even in your expulsion from university. Just rewording your work isn't enough to avoid plagiarism. Since you are still borrowing information heavily from another writer, you still need to include a citation.

    But I didn't know! - Ignorance of the law is unfortunately no excuse. You can commit plagiarism without meaning to, and it's just as serious a problem if you do.

    How can I avoid it? - You can avoid plagiarism by always citing your sources. Whenever you put a quotation or borrow information heavily from a source, be sure you include a citation in the proper APA style. This will let your professor know you aren't trying to pass the idea off as your own. Taking detailed notes on where you get your information helps a lot with this, since it prevents you from forgetting which is your own work and which is borrowed from others.

    For more information, see your student handbook and this handout by Sheela Pawar at CSUDH

    How to Write a Book Review

    A book review should both describe and evaluate a book.
    It should focus on the book's purpose, contents, and authority.

    Look over the Book's Cover and Introductory Pages:

    Before you begin to read, consider the following:

    1. Title - What does it suggest?
    2. Preface - Provides important information on the author's purpose in writing the book and helps you determine whether she/he succeeded.
    3. Table of Contents - Tells you how the book is organized and will help you determine the author's main ideas and how they are developed - chronologically, topically, etc.

    Read the Text:

    Make notes on your impressions as you read and mark effective sentences or paragraphes to quote in your review.

    Ask yourself these questions:

    1. What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it? (Use outside sources to familiarize yourself with the field, if necessary.)
    2. From what point of view is the work written?
    3. What is the author's style? Is it formal or informal? Does it suit the intended audience? If a work of fiction, what literary devices does the author use?
    4. Are concepts clearly defined? How well are the author's ideas developed? What areas are covered/not covered? Why? This helps to establish the book's authority.
    5. If the book is a work of fiction, make notes on such elements as character, plot, and setting, and how they relate to the theme of the book. How does the author delineate his characters? How do they develop? What is the plot structure?
    6. How accurate is the information in the book? Check outside sources if necessary.
    7. If relevant, make note of the book's format - layout, binding, typography, etc. Are there maps, illustrations? Do they aid understanding?
    8. Check the back matter. Is the index accurate? What sources did the author use - primary or secondary? How does he make use of them? Make note of important omissions.
    9. Finally, what has the book accomplished? Is further work needed? Compare the book to others by this author or by others.

    Consult Additional Sources:

    Try to find further information about the author - his/her reputation, qualifications, influences, etc. - any information that is relevant to the book being reviewed and that would help to establish the author's authority. Knowledge of the literary period and of critical theories can also be helpful to your review. Your professor and/or reference librarian may be able to suggest sources to use.

    Prepare an Outline:

    Review your notes and attempt to unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose or thesis of your review. Then, outline the arguments that support your thesis. Your arguments should develop the thesis in a logical manner.

    Write the Draft:

    Read over your notes again; then, using the outline as a guide and referring to notes when necessary, begin writing. Your book review should include the following:

    1. Preliminary Information - the complete bibliographic citation for the work: title in full, author, place, publisher, date of publication, edition statement, pages, price and ISBN.
      Angeles Mastretta
      Maridos: Cuentos
      New York: Rayo/Planeta, 2007
      259pp. $14.95
    2. Introduction -  should state your central thesis, and set the tone of the review.
    3. Development - Develop your thesis using supporting arguments as set out in your outline. Use description, evaluation, and if possible explanation of why the author wrote as he/she did. Use quotations to illustrate important points or peculiarities.
    4. Conclusion - If your thesis has been well argued, the conclusion should follow naturally. It can include a final assessment or simply restate your thesis. Do not introduce new material at this point.

    Revise the Draft:

    1. Allow some time to elapse before going over your review, to gain perspective.
    2. Carefully read through the text, looking for clarity and coherence.
    3. Correct grammar and spelling.
    4. Verify quotes for proper foot-notes.

    For Further Writing Assistance:

    To learn more about book reviews, look at examples of ones in The New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement to see how professional writers review books.


    (Adapted, with thanks, from Queen"s University Stauffer Humanities and Social Sciences Library website: http://library.queensu.ca/research/guide/book-reviews/how-write)

    MLA Search Tips
    • Do an Article Search:
      •  Write down the most important key word or words that describe your topic. 
         Use the resulting words and /or phrases as your search terms. 
      •  In the top search box, type a word or phrase to describe what you are looking  for: e.g.: Boullosa Carmen (most article databases are not case sensitive).
      • The simplest search gets you the largest number of results. Start with one term or phrase and add others as needed to get a smaller set of results.
    • Get fewer results (narrow your search):
    • Type another word or phrase into the second Find box:  e.g.: body
       (Leave the small dropdown box to the left of your search set to AND)Your search then becomes: Boullosa AND body
      This narrows your search (fewer results) because both words or phrases you enter must be present in all of your results (works in any search that contains multiple concepts).
    • Limit your results, as needed, to a date range or to full text, or to a particular language, by clicking in the boxes below your search (click “Search Options” to get to boxes after searching).
    • Use the connector word NOT to exclude unwanted terms.
      NOT narrows or limits your search (fewer results) because the excluded word
      must not appear in results, e.g., venus NOT de milo

     ·         Get More Results:

    §    Use truncation symbols

    §     Use wild card symbols:

          e.g.: child* retrieves records with child, child’s, children, etc.
          e.g.: wom?n retrieves woman or women

    §      Add synonyms to your search with OR:

           e.g.:  cinema OR theatre OR film OR motion picture
           (type all related OR terms on one line)
           This broadens the search (more results) because any one (but 
           possibly more than one, or all) of the words or phrases you
           search may be present in results.

    §         Check search terms for correct and alternate spellings and typos.

    §         Reduce the number of concepts, e.g.: if you were searching for 3 concepts, try searching for 2.

    ·         View the Results of a Search:

    §         After entering your search terms and parameters, click the Search button.
    The Result List will appear in table format listed by date with the most recent first.

    §         (Optional but very useful) You can click on the yellow Add to folder icon at the end of each record to collect all of the best results for viewing/saving/printing in a folder.
    Click on “Sign in to My EBSCOhost” to set up a free storage area for selected results.

    §         Each record in the Result List shows search terms highlighted in bold italicized type.

    §         Two possible options for getting the full text:


    1.       PDF Full Text OR Linked Full Text --direct link to full text of article.

    2.       “Find it @ CSUDH” appears after articles for which the database itself includes only a citation. However, the full text MAY appear in a completely different database OR in hard copy somewhere in the CSUDH Library.

    Click to find out!

    ·          Save, Print And / Or E-mail Search Results: 

    You can print, e-mail and save most individual articles, abstracts, and folders. Instead of clicking the menu File/Save, use the Print/Email/Save links on the screen, or, for .pdf articles, use the print/save icons on the Acrobat Reader screen.